FROM THE FIRST 356 in 1948 to the current twin-turboed monsters in the 911 GT2, many a Hong Kong schoolboy has fantasised about driving a Porsche. You see them all over town: the Boxster, the Cayenne and the evergreen 911. The 911 first started as a bug-eyed, sloped-back relative of the Volkswagen Beetle in 1963, with a flat-six engine slung over the rear wheels. It's kept this form throughout its 41-year history, even when Porsche tried to broaden its image by introducing front- and mid-engined cars into its lineup. The most radical development in the 911's production history was the use of a water-cooled engine in 1997. This variant also incorporated the largest departure from the original 911 silhouette, with major surgery to every body panel. This 911 model (coded 996) was quieter and more civilised, while still maintaining most of its sporty character and high performance. The 996 launched the high-performance sports car into the more mature grand-tourer territory. But back in 1973, when the 911 was still a rarity on Hong Kong roads, it was startling other road users from a distance with the loud, baritone bark from its exhausts. And as it drew up closer, the bug-eyes, the perfectly formed rear end and the 'Porsche' script would erase all doubt that this was a thoroughbred sports car that could outperform nearly anything else on the road. Thirty-one years later, I pick up the keys to a pristine example owned by David Chan. His dark silver 911E Targa has a wide stainless steel loop behind the driver and the wrap-around rear window that confirm this is a very special car indeed. Settling in, I notice how Porsche believes in the 'if something works, don't fix it' theory. The dashboard is identical to the last air-cooled cars in 1997, as is the driving position, from the vertical steering wheel to the off-set, floor-hinged pedals. The seats and the wing mirror on the driver's side only have to be manually adjusted, but since this car is so compact, everything is less than an arm's length away. The rear seats are small but adequate over short distances here. The narrow A-pillars and expansive rear-window give near-cabriolet levels of visibility, making this compact car feel a snug fit - but not claustrophobic. There's a slight cough and splutter as the key is turned, but the engine soon settles to a lumpy idle. It pulls strongly from rest, with a meaty clutch action, but the first shock is how light the steering is, given the thin-rimmed wheel and the lack of power steering from 1973. There's absolutely no vagueness in the steering box as the car builds up speed. It's pin-point accurate, which is incredible for such an old car. The brakes demand a firm push on the pedal and a lot of anticipation, but feedback is excellent and from the sole of your foot you know exactly how hard you're squeezing the disc brakes at each corner. I cruise around Victoria Road, Shouson Hill and Deep Water Bay, savouring each climb and dip and every camber change through the excellent controls. With the window rolled down, the engine behind sings away in tune to the angle of your right foot on the accelerator. With no sound-proofing, no auxiliary pumps to run and, of course, no water-cooling, nothing dilutes the aural beauty unique to older Porsches. If honesty could be expressed by an internal combustion engine, this would be it. As I gain confidence, a blue 1994 Porsche cuts in front of me at the small roundabout before Repulse Bay. The driver seems to be in a hurry as he pushes along towards Stanley. The 911E manages to keep pace, the responsive handling and light weight allowing me to stay on his tail through the bends. Only when we hit the straights does his 100 brake-horsepowered advantage pull a substantial lead over us. I can see the other driver has both hands on his wheel: it's most likely his car is a Tiptronic version with an automatic gearbox. I'm enjoying the perfectly spaced pedals, heel-and-toeing them with pleasure. The engine revs echo off the walls to my left and the gearshift swaps ratios with rifle-bolt accuracy, confirmed by a precise 'click'. I continue along towards Shek O at a much more relaxed pace, cruising in fifth gear, riding on the modest torque from the 2.4-litre engine. This is what driving is all about: clear sky, dry road, no traffic and a beautiful car. Heading back into the New Territories, I arrange to meet another 1994 Porsche Carrera (code 993). These are the last of the air-cooled 911s and to me the purest of the 993s, without four-wheel drive, turbo-charging or the slightly obese wide-body. It does, however, come with the optional Sports suspension package, which is slightly lower than the stock version, and rides a touch harsher on its stiffer springs. We drive past Tai Po into Bride's Pool, and park outside the cafe at Luk Keng. It's obvious the two cars come from the same stable. Although they were designed and built 21 years apart, with many luxury and safety features introduced during the decades of development, the family characteristic is preserved: the Porsches offer their drivers a truthful communication unparalleled in other cars. The latest 997 will uphold the marque's traditions. Thanks to David Chan and Louie Lee for the loan of their cars. If you're interested in classic motors, contact the Classic Car Club of Hong Kong in the evenings on 2719 1014. Motoring's report on the Porsche 997 is on the way.