Porsche 911 dials from 993 to 991: mixing oil and water

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The Porsche 911’s five-dial instrument binnacle is part of the model’s DNA. Losing this would be like fiddling with the headlamps or changing the shape of the windows.

Or moving the engine.

It’s a staple. The information displayed within isn’t, though. Over the years, Porsche has subtly varied the information on display as new generations have been introduced.

So, can you spot which series of 911 you’re looking at just from knowing what the tally of dials is? You certainly can. Here’s why.

Porsche 911 993

The Porsche 993 was the ultimate original 911 and so its dashboard displayed everything that, over the years, the firm had come to believe owners should regularly monitor. This gives us six main dials and a clock.

Of these, you have no less than three means of monitoring oil status: oil level, oil temperature, oil pressure. All three are vital (we haven’t lost oil level today: now, it’s done by electronic means).

Mind you, Porsche wasted real estate with the 993. An entire binnacle – 20 per cent of it – was taken up with a clock. The oil level gauge also reads zero when running, so is effectively ineffective (and having something say ‘zero’ would horrify modern owners). That’s pre-digital displays for you – LCDs take them away and leave space for the important stuff.

Oil temperature: Yes

Oil pressure: Yes

Water temperature: No

Volts: No

Porsche 911 996

The 996 was first water-cooled 911. So, for the first time, we gained a water temperature dial on a 911. Reading in degrees Celcuis, its significance was easily overlooked, because so many other road cars had one too. Porsche dropped it in next to the fuel gauge, rather than into its own binnacle, equally softly-softly. This was a touchy subject, after all.

The oil pressure gauge remained, but there were only six dials overall. So what had been lost? Yes, the oil temperature gauge. In a rare illogical and anti-engineering move, Porsche clearly thought water temp was enough. It isn’t.

What was there? A voltmeter. Reflecting doubts the electrical system of the new 996 was up to all the demands from its now high-tech auxiliary gadgetry?

Oil temperature: No

Oil pressure: Yes

Water temperature: Yes

Volts: Yes

Porsche 911 997

The 997 marked a return to form for the Porsche instrument binnacle engineers (the rest of the car was pretty good too). There were still six dials, but engineering logic had now been applied to them.

The voltmeter was ditched. In its place appeared an oil temperature gauge. The questions over load on the electrical system were apparently sorted. The must-read set of engine status indicators was complete.

Oil temperature: Yes

Oil pressure: Yes

Water temperature: Yes

Volts: No

Porsche 911 991

The 991 is the ultimate 911, in terms of engineering development. It has dials for oil temperature, and oil pressure, plus water temperature and fuel level.

It also backs these analogue dials up with a more accurate electronic display: one of the menus in the ‘virtual’ dial roundel shows them in high-accuracy figures, so people like me really can monitor water temperature, oil temperature and oil pressure to decimal accuracy. Even volts return (albeit replaced in the new Turbo by a turbo boost graphic).

It took a bit for Porsche to mix oil and water temperature dials as they should be, but it got there in the end.

I wonder, though, what on earth led Porsche to relegate it on the 996, and to who else is that generation of 911 ever so slightly spoiled because of its omission?

Oil temperature: Yes

Oil pressure: Yes

Water temperature: Yes

Volts: Yes

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