Porsche 718 RS 60 Spyder 16

The latest Porsche Boxster, the 718 Boxster that was revealed earlier this year, wears its “718” tag with pride. The number is a part of the car’s official name and not just an internal code that enthusiasts use to identify the generation, e.g. W222 or F30. Seven eighteen is emblazoned on the roadster’s new (and very sexy) rear end too, but what’s in the name?

If you haven’t already heard, six-cylinder engines are no more in the Boxster, and in their place is a pair of turbocharged four-cylinder engines – 2.0L with 300 hp/380 Nm for the 718 Boxster and a 350 hp/420 Nm 2.5L for the 718 Boxster S. Downsizing is the way to go to meet the fuel economy and emissions needs of today (even Ferrari isn’t spared) but it’s “not very Porsche” isn’t it, some might ask.

Well, that’s the reason for invoking the name of this past master, the Porsche 718 from the late 1950s. The successor to the famous Porsche 550 Spyder, the 718 RSK was powered by a 1.5 litre flat-four engine with 142 hp, mounted in the middle of a roadster body, just like today’s Boxster.

On display at the international press launch event of the 718 Boxster, this is the Porsche 718 RS 60 Spyder from 1960, a later model that had an upgraded 1.6 litre engine with 160 horses (100 hp per litre not a daily occurrence back then) and new double-wishbone rear suspension.

With the introduction of new minimum dimensions for the cockpit, the original steel tubular frame became wider and longer, with the extra weight partly offset by lighter wheels and magnesium brake drums, among other things.

It was successful. The race car competed in the “small” class of the World Manufacturers’ Championship in 1960 and scored the first overall victory for Porsche at Sebring against more powerful rivals. At the famed Targa Florio race, this exact car (chassis no 043) finished third, while a sister car claimed the win.

Porsche 718 RS 60 Spyder 10

The Zuffenhausen outfit eventually finished the World Championship season tied for points with Ferrari, but lost out to Maranello because of the Italians’ one better race result. The 718 RS 60 Spyder, which weighed just 550 kg and had a top speed of 225 km/h, also won the European Hill Climb Championship in 1960 and 1961.

Porsche has heritage in four-cylinder engines, so the new motors aren’t things to be looked down upon – that’s the message. In any case, the base 718 Boxster is 35 hp and 100 Nm (yes, one hundred) up from the old naturally-aspirated 2.7 litre flat-six, while the 718 Boxster S’ turbo-four is 35 hp/60 Nm stronger than the old 3.4L NA engine.

Good enough compensation for the nice six-pot fizz? We’ll know soon enough.

GALLERY: 2016 Porsche 718 Boxster