Sedans & Coupes

Turns Out, Porsche Did Build a Factory Safari 911…as a Concept

If the sight of high-value overly-restored 911s leaves you exasperated, one version of Porsche’s iconic air-cooled sports car may be the remedy. That would be the various Safari 911 builds that have started popping up from numerous shops. Even historied tuners like RUF are getting in on the lifted 911 action. But they’re not the only ones. Several years ago, Porsche created a Safari 911, but it’s gone unseen—until now.

The 2012 Porsche 911 Vision Safari was a one-off concept

Porsche recently unveiled several past concepts as part of its “Porsche Unseen” project. These vehicles range from an electric bus to a road-going version of its hybrid 919 Le Mans car. And one of them is the 2012 Porsche 911 Vision Safari.

The white-red-and-blue 2012 Porsche 911 Vision Safari
2012 Porsche 911 Vision Safari | Porsche

The Porsche 911 Vision Safari is based on the then-new 991-gen 911, Road & Track reports. That means it has a 3.4-liter flat-6 engine mounted in the rear with 350 hp and 287 lb-ft, Motor Trend reports. And while some concept cars are just meant to stand around, Porsche calls the 911 Vision Safari a “mobile prototype.” It really works and has genuinely driven on gravel test surfaces around the German automaker’s facility, Motor1 reports.

The rear view of the white-red-and-blue 2012 Porsche 911 Vision Safari
2012 Porsche 911 Vision Safari rear | Porsche

That capability comes from the Porsche 911 Vision Safari’s modifications over the base car. It rides on lifted suspension and off-road tires, Autoblog reports. Its wheel housings and bumpers are strengthened compared to the standard 911, Autoweek reports. The interior is fairly spartan, but it does have race seats and a full roll cage, Classic Driver reports. Plus, it has a rear shelf with a dedicated fan to cool the driver’s and co-driver’s helmets.

Could Porsche have put the 911 Vision Safari into production?

The Porsche 911 Vision Safari isn’t just a functional concept. It’s actually the only running car amongst the “Porsche Unseen” vehicles, The Drive reports. The automaker’s chief designer, Michael Mauer, has taken it for a spin, saying, “I have rarely had so much fun before.”

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And it’s not like this is the first time a 911 has been lifted. In the 70s, Porsche entered 911s in the East Africa Safari Rally, Petrolicious reports. Those cars’ racing liveries inspired the Vision Safari’s paint job. And in 1984, Porsche modified the 911 into the 953 for the Paris-Dakar. It was the first AWD 911, and it won that year’s race, Petrolicious reports. Plus, it paved the way for the later 959 supercar.

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However, Porsche is very insistent on calling the 911 Vision Safari, along with the rest of these concepts, “design studies.” True, at least one of them influenced the design of the current Taycan, Autoweek reports. But they’re meant to be free-thinking exercises rather than production cars. And it’s worth pointing out that the 991-series 911 has already been replaced by the 992-gen car. So even if Porsche meant to release the Vision Safari, it would have to create a new concept based on the current-gen car.

Which brings us to the matter of the recently-spotted lifted 911 test car.

What about that disguised prototype seen at the Nurburgring?

A black lifted Porsche 911 test mule on the Nurburgring
Lifted Porsche 911 test mule | Misha Charoudin via YouTube

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A few weeks ago, a camouflaged Porsche 911 was spotted at the Nurburgring. In and of itself, that’s not unusual. The German track has seen its fair share of prototypes and test mules over the years.

However, this particular 911 was different. For one, while it had a 992-style body, it had fender flares. And, more importantly, it had taller tires and a taller ride height than the standard Porsche 911, Evo reports. So, naturally, many assumed the car was a disguised factory-built Safari 911.

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As of this writing, Porsche hasn’t confirmed what the lifted prototype is. Motor1 muses that, while it could be a Safari 911, it could also be a suspension testing platform. Or, perhaps something to honor the 959; 2021 marks the 35th anniversary of its 1985 Paris-Dakar win.

Interestingly, though, while the 911 Vision Safari will remain a concept, Porsche hasn’t technically discounted the idea. The Drive’s executive editor, Jonathon Klein, ruminated with Porsche North America’s CEO, Klaus Zellmer, on the subject of Safari 911s. According to Klein, he asked Zellmer, “’ Any plans on bringing out a new Safari? I bet they’d go like hot cakes.’” Zellmer replied with “something to the effect of ‘it could be.’”

Perhaps the 2012 concept could prove to be a clear vision after all.

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