Join Us on a Deep Dive Into Porsche: Their History, Racing Achievements, & Iconic Cars
For nearly seventy years, the name Porsche has been synonymous with some of the finest, best-engineered automobiles the world has ever known.
The cars, which boast superior German engineering, are recognized as the most reliable, best handling, performance-driven sports cars both on the racetrack and the open road. Owners and enthusiasts alike will agree that – when it comes to both drivability and collectability – a Porsche is almost always a sure thing; a winner on race day and an investment that will only appreciate in value over time.
However, to appreciate the technology and refinement of today’s most advanced Porsche supercars like the 918 or the 911 GT2 RS, it is important to understand the history of the company, and the people, that gave life to these amazing machines.
Like most of today’s successful automobile manufacturers, Porsche’s “climb to the top” is lined with a rich history that unfolded during some of the most pivotal events of the early 20th century. It’s evolution into the company it is today began with the vision of one man – and a family name that would transcend the borders of Germany and become synonymous with performance driven perfection the world over.
This is the story of Porsche.
In the Beginning
The man behind the Doktor Ingenieur honoris causa Ferdinand Porsche Aktiengesellschaft (or Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG) company was founder Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche Sr.
Ferdinand Porsche was born on September 3, 1875 in Vratislavice nad Nisou near Liberec in the Czech Republic. Even as a child, a young Ferdinand had demonstrated an aptitude for engineering as he worked in his father’s mechanical shop.
By his eighteenth birthday, Ferdinand had obtained a position in Vienna at the Bela Egger Electrical Company.
Because of his strong desire to learn, Ferdinand would sneak into the Vienna Technical University at night to obtain an education that would further enable him to advance his skills as an engineer and designer. Through these studies at the university, and through his constant pursuit for knowledge at his workplace, Ferdinand successfully built an electric hub motor of his own design.
Jakob Lohner & Company
Because of his electric motor design, Ferdinand was able to gain a position at Jakob Lohner & Co., a Viennese luxury coachbuilding firm.
Lohner, who had become well known for his work building carriages and coaches, entered the realm of building “horseless carriages” (early automobiles) in 1896. He wanted the young Ferdinand Porsche to accompany him on this new venture, and he summarily hired Ferdinand to work with him.
Together they unveiled the “Lohner-Porsche” automobile at the 1900 Toujours-Contente (Paris World Expedition). The automobile was “carriage-like” with hub mounted electric motors that were directly powered by 1800kg of lead acid batteries.
While its success at the 1900 Paris World Expedition proved the carriage’s potential commercial viability, the Lohner-Porsche was originally designed to be used as a racer. Even given its size and weight, the Lohner-Porsche and surprisingly fast off the line. Still, due in large part to the weight of its batteries, the car struggled to climb hills of any reasonable grade. Further, the battery life was very short.
The Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid
Still, over the course of its development, the Lohner-Porsche evolved through several variations and ultimately emerged as the distant ancestor of a type of vehicle we recognize today as a “hybrid”. This new vehicle was named “Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid”.
Unlike the earlier Lohner-Porsche (which utilized a Volkswagen engine), the Mixte Hybrid featured a Daimler internal combustion engine. In turn, the engine that was fitted to a generator to drive the electric hub mounted motors.
The Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid was celebrated as the first petroleum electric hybrid vehicle (or HEV), and demonstrated unequivocally that the engineering brilliance of Ferdinand Porsche was certain. In addition to being very efficient (for its time), the Mixte Hybrid also proved to be a performance vehicle – it set a land speed record of 35 mph and won the Exelberg Rally in 1901.
By 1905, Ferdinand Porsche had become recognized as one of Austria’s most outstanding automotive engineers.
Between 1901 and 1905, he and Lohner sold more than 300 of their vehicle to consumers throughout Austria and parts of Germany. Despite their success, Ferdinand felt that he could better advance his career by parting company with Lohner and continuing his career as the chief designer for Austro-Daimler. He joined the Daimler corporation in 1906.
Austro-Daimler and the Future Arrives
On September 19, 1909, Ferdinand and wife Aloisia Johanna Kaes, welcomed their one and only son into the world. Baptized Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche, the newest member of the Porsche family would quickly become known as “Ferry” to his family, a term of endearment that was used to differentiate between father and son.
It was also a name that would follow the younger Porsche into his own professional career and become synonymous with the car he’d help to create.
The 22/80 PS
Because of his work with Lohner, Ferdinand Porsche was commissioned by Daimler to design a car that could be used to compete in the Prinz-Heinrich-Fahrt (the Prince Henry Trial.)
This race, which was held annually from 1908 to 1911, was the precursor to the German Grand Prix, and was run throughout Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Austria, before finishing in Munich. While several designs were presented, Ferdinand’s model – the 22/80 PS – was selected to represent Austro-Daimler in the race.
The 22/80 PS featured a 95 brake horsepower, four-cylinder, overhead camshaft engine which included five inclined valves per cylinder (one inlet valve and four exhaust valves.) When the 22/80 PS finished in the top three spots of the Prinz-Heinrich endurance race event, the car was christened as the “Prince Henry,” which is how the car continues to be most commonly referred to today.
Ferdinand Porsche continued to achieve a great measure of success during his tenure with Daimler. By 1916, he had advanced to the position of Managing Director.
Two Honorary Doctorates and a Change In Direction
The following year, Porsche received an honorary doctorate from the Vienna University of Technology (the same university that he had illegally gleaned an education from some twenty years earlier.)
In 1917, he was bestowed with the title “Doktor Ingenieur Honoris Causa” (Doctor of Engineering, Honorary). The more common abbreviation of the degree, “Dr. Ing. h.c.” became an integral part of how Ferdinand was to be addressed and/or identified from that point forward.
For the next several years, Ferdinand continued improving upon the designs of his racing cars and, in 1922, constructed racers that won 43 of the 53 races they competed in that year.
In 1923 Ferdinand resigned from Austro-Daimler and in a few short months accepted a position as Technical Director for Daimler Motor Company in Stuttgart. With Ferdinand’s reputation and popularity, he was given another honorary degree – this time from Stuttgart Technical University.
In 1926, Daimler merged with Benz and became Daimler-Benz, operating under the name Mercedes-Benz. Ferdinand worked his way up into the Chief Engineer position and had many of his more successful designs reach the racing circuit.
From 1925 to 1927, the Porsche designed 2-liter, 8-cylinder Mercedes Type S won 21 of 27 races in the “Regenmeister.” The car, which was driven by Rudolf Caracciola, was said to be almost unbeatable.
Even though Ferdinand was very successful in the racing circuits with his innovative designs, he was otherwise focused on another project that he worked on in the background of his obligations to Mercedes Benz – namely, a compact automobile that would appeal to the masses. Once he reached a point with his design that he felt it was ready to be unveiled, he proposed it to the directors of Daimler-Benz in 1928. Daimler-Benz showed no interest in his work and Ferdinand’s ego and pride helped reinforce the decision to walk out the door once more and resign.
In several interviews with his son, Ferry Porsche often stated, “My father found that when he signed a contract with an (automotive) firm, they could live another ten years on his designs, but he couldn’t.”
This sentiment – even though it was historical by the time Ferry expressed it – was a driving force at the core of the older Porsche’s professional objectives. Many that knew him believed that, even before his resignation from Daimler-Benz, that Porsche would ultimately seek employment with a company that would openly embrace his vision.
Given the reputation that Ferdinand had developed, accompanied by his successes on the race track, Ferdinand felt that finding gainful employment elsewhere – and moreover, being able to solicit his new automobile design – would be easy.
However, one of his specific employment requirements with any prospective employer he approached was that he’d immediately be placed on their board of directors.
This demand was simply unrealistic and made finding employment very difficult.
The Great Depression & The First Porsche Company
Finding employment became even more challenging for the talented (but obstinate) Ferdinand when the Wall Street stock market crash of 1929 resonated around the world, causing economies everywhere to collapse. As an economic depression took hold of the global economy, finding employment became nearly impossible.
Despite the seemingly insurmountable odds, and with only his family’s financial backing to support him, Ferdinand realized that it was time to take all that he had learned, all the experiences that had helped refine his abilities, and all his successes in automotive design – both on and off the racetrack – and parlay all of it into a new automotive firm.
On March 6, 1931, “Porsche Konstruktionsbüro für Motoren-Fahrzeug-Luftfahrzeug and Wasserfahrzeug” (Porsche Construction Office for Engine, Vehicle, Aircraft and Watercraft Construction) was officially established in Stuttgart, Germany.
Throughout his time with Daimler Benz, and even in the years between his resignation there and the founding of his company, Ferdinand had made a conscious effort to provide his son with an education in engineering.
Much like his father, young Ferry took to the areas of design and engineering naturally. He showed great promise and learned his profession quickly, working whenever (and wherever) he could to prove his abilities to his talented father. When Ferdinand Porsche established the Porsche Construction Office in 1931, he almost immediately employed Ferry as the company’s first engineer.
The Type 7
While Ferdinand’s goal of developing his own brand of automobile remained the focus of his ambitions, his design firm needed to be profitable. Using relationships he’d developed while working for other automobile companies, Ferdinand began to seek out opportunities to bring work into his firm.
It wasn’t long before the Porsche Engineering firm had its first contract with the Auto Union under its “Wanderer” brand. Porsche was hired to design a 2-liter, 6-cylinder engine automobile. The design would become known as the Porsche Type 7, a four-door sedan that was developed between 1930-1931.
The success of Porsche’s Type 7 design led to a larger partnership between Porsche and the Auto Union. This time, Porsche was contracted to design a series of race cars (and the engines that powered them) that were to be driven in the Gran Prix of Germany. Known as “The Great Auto Union Project,” the development of the race car would keep the Porsche engineering firm busy through most of the 1930’s.
In 1933, the governing body of the Grand Prix Circuit announced a new racing formula, with the main regulation stating that the weight of the car (excluding driver, fuel, oil, water and tires) was not to exceed 750 kilograms (1,650 lbs).
The intent behind the formula restriction was to restrict the size of engine that could be used in the racecars. Based on designs up to that time, the assumption was the racers would be limited to an engine no larger than a 2.5-litre.
Both Ferdinand and Ferry set to work on designs that would meet the 750kg formula regulation. The early result of this effort was an experimental vehicle known as the P-Wagen project.
The P-Wagen (with the “P” standing for Porsche) was a racing car that utilized a “teardrop” aerodynamic design that would serve as the prototype automobile for the line of cars that Porsche would develop in conjunction with the Auto Union until 1937.
The Auto Union’s Types A-C
The P-Wagen design was well received, and the Auto Union immediately set about development of the Grand Prix racer in cooperation with Porsche.
In 1934, Ferdinand had been selected by Hitler to facilitate the development of a car that would be dubbed the “Volkswagen” (Peoples Car) in Wolfsburg (more on this below), so the management of the cooperation between Porsche and the Auto Union belonged almost solely to Ferry Porsche.
Variants of the P-Wagen were developed for use in Grand Prix racing, spawning the development of the Auto Union’s models Type A, Type B and Type C. All three cars maintained the 750kg formula regulation, and all featured huge engines that created great horsepower. Because these cars were massively powerful and ultra-lightweight, they were capable of achieving high speeds. They also were the cause of excessive, and often fatal, accidents on the track.
The pinnacle of these cars was the Auto Union Type C racer.
Like its predecessors, the Type C was a mid-engine design that featured a supercharged 6.0L V16 engine that was rated at 520bhp and 630lb/ft of torque. Still adhering to the 750kg requirement, the Type C was known to have the ability to induce wheel spin even when travelling at 150 miles per hour.
The car was very fast, but suffered from poor handling. It required a skilled driver to keep it under control. Still, the Type C set many land speed records and dominated the Grand Prix circuit in both the 1936 and 1937 seasons.
The Peoples Car
While the partnership with the Auto Union enabled the Porsche engineering group to grow a business base, the economic downturn of the depression still made it difficult for Porsche to continue work on his own automobile designs. Certain that his automobile would be a success, and anxious to produce one that could be marketed to the world, Ferdinand made a decision to take a sizable financial loan from his life insurance policy to fund the development of the car he’d been designing.
Ferdinand Porsche immediately set to work on the fabrication of three prototype vehicles from his own designs. The cars he built were smaller in scale than anything available at that time.
His car – which he called the “Volksauto” (the Peoples Car) – utilized many of the design ideas that were popular at that time and also incorporated several of his own. The car featured an air-cooled rear engine, torsion bar suspension, and a “beetle” shape, with the front end rounded for better aerodynamics (which was essential since the car featured a small engine.)
Porsche recognized that while he had the money to build his concept automobile, he did not have the financial fortitude to market it, so he turned to NSU Motorenwerke AG (a German manufacturer of automobiles, motorcycles and pedal cycles.)
The company – which specialized mostly in motorcycles at the time – showed interest in Porsche’s design, but ultimately made the decision to sell their automotive division to Fiat, recognizing that most people in Germany could not afford to purchase an automobile.
The prototypes – and Porsche’s dream of producing his own vehicle – were once more put on hold until 1934, when Adolf Hitler ordered that all Germans should be able to afford a basic vehicle capable of transporting two adults and three children at 100 km/h (62 mph). He believed that all German citizens should have access to a radio and an automobile. He further stated that the “People’s Car” would be available to all citizens of the Third Reich at a price of just $396 (in 1930’s U.S. dollars) – which was equivalent to the price paid for a small motorcycle at that time.
While there were a number of automobiles being developed by German manufacturers at the time of Hitler’s decree, it became quickly apparent that none of the privately-owned companies could produce a car at a cost that would make Hitler’s price-point profitable.
As a result, Hitler chose to sponsor an all-new, state-owned automobile factory that could produce the “People’s Car,” and, upon reviewing the conceptual vehicles that Ferdinand had developed, made the decision to move forward with Porsche’s design (albeit with some influences from Hitler himself.)
Porsche and the Nazi Party
Now that Ferdinand was officially engaged by the Nazi party to develop the Volksauto, Porsche began to be praised by the party as the “Great German Engineer” (despite being of Czech descent). Hitler considered Czechs to be subhuman and Porsche was therefore urged – both by family and by members of the Nazi party – to apply for German citizenship. Within just a few days, Porsche did indeed file a declaration renouncing his Czechoslovak citizenship at the Czechoslovak consulate in Stuttgart, Germany.
In early 1937, the “Reichsverband der Deutschen Automobilindustrie” (“Reich Association of the Automobile Industry”), the automotive division of the Third Reich, decided that 30 more prototypes of the Volkswagen were to be built by Daimler-Benz and a factory was to be built northeast of Hanover in what is now known as Wolfsburg, Germany (the current home of the Volkswagen Corporation.) Ferdinand traveled to Wolfsburg to manage the production of the additional prototypes and left Ferry to continue to run the family firm in Stuttgart.
That same year, Porsche joined the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (becoming member No. 5,643,287) as well as the SS.
On May 28, 1937, in preparation for production of the Volkswagen, the “Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH” (“Company for the Preparation of the German People’s Car, Ltd.”) was established by the Deutsche Arbeitsfront in Berlin. On September 16, 1938, the company was renamed the Volkswagenwerk GmbH.
An early version of the Volkswagen was dubbed the “Kraft durch Freude Wagen” (“Strength through Joy Automobile”) and first appeared in 1938.
This first run of cars were produced at Porsche’s plant in Stuttgart, Germany prior to the completion of another manufacturing plant in Wolfsburg.
Even in this first iteration of the future “Volkswagen”, the car showcased many of the now-distinctive features – including its unique, rounded shape and the air-cooled, flat-four, rear-mounted engine.
World War II
Construction of the Wolfsburg manufacturing plant started in May, 1938, and it was expected that mass production of the Volkswagen would begin the following year. Because of its remote location, the area surrounding the plant was developed to house the factory workers (and would establish the first residents of Wolfsburg proper.)
While it was expected that production of the Volkswagen would begin even before the plant was completed, only a handful of cars were actually produced before World War II began in Europe.
On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland under the false pretext that Poland had carried out a number of sabotage operations against German targets near the German/Polish border. Two days later, on September 3, 1939, after the Germans elected to ignore a British ultimatum to cease military operations against Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany.
As Germany now faced opposition from several of the allied nations, all commercial manufacturing was halted in favor of developing military vehicles to support the German war effort. At the Volkswagen plant, Porsche began development of the Type 82 Kübelwagen (Bucket Car) utility vehicle and the amphibious Schwimmwagen, both of which were specifically developed for use by the German military.
To staff the plant and to meet the increased production demands, slave labor was utilized in the Volkswagen plant, with most of the “employees” being pulled from the Arbeitsdorf concentration camp. While a common practice throughout Nazi Germany during the war, it is believed that the plant utilized more than 15,000 slave laborers during the entirety of the war effort.
(NOTE: A lawsuit was filed in 1998 by survivors for restitution for the forced labor. Volkswagen set up a voluntary restitution fund to provide compensation to those that were forced to work in the plant during the war.)
By 1942, Ferdinand Porsche had achieved the rank of SS-Oberführer (Upper Leader). As a civilian officer of the SS, he was further decorated with the SS-Ehrenring (ring of honor) and awarded the War Merit Cross.
That same year, Porsche produced a heavy tank design which became known as the VK4501 Tiger.
Due to the complex design of Porsche’s drive system, a competing design was selected for production. However, ninety “Tiger” chassis had already been built before the design was ultimately rejected, and these chassis were then converted into self-propelled anti-tank guns. They were put into service in 1943 as the “Panzerjager Tiger.” On the battlefield, they became known by their nickname – “the Ferdinand.”
The Ferdinand was driven by a hybrid electric powertrain, and was armed with a long barrel version of the 88mm Flak cannon. It had a kill ratio of nearly 10:1, but as with most German wartime vehicles, an overall lack of service supplies made maintenance of the Ferdinand a serious problem, reducing its overall effectiveness and forcing crews to ultimately abandon and destroy the otherwise functional weapons.
Post War and War Criminals
At the close of the war in April 1945, the heavily bombed Volkswagen factory was captured by the American army and subsequently handed over to the British government, within whose occupation zone the town and factory fell.
The factory was placed under the control of British Army officer Major Ivan Hirst.
While Hirst initially thought to use the plant for military vehicle maintenance before dismantling the plant and shipping it back to Britain, it was later decided that the equipment could be salvaged as war reparations.
In November 1945, at the decree of the British military, Porsche was encouraged to continue the design of the Volkswagen in France and was directed to move the factory equipment there as part of war reparations. However, differences within the French government and strong objections from the French automotive industry put a halt to this project before it had even begun.
On December 15, 1945, French authorities arrested Ferdinand, Anton Piëch (The Porsche company lawyer and Ferdinand’s son-in-law) and Ferry Porsche as war criminals. Ferry was freed after just six months imprisonment, but Ferdinand and Piëch remained imprisoned for war crimes against humanity as they had been high ranking officers of the Nazi party.
Ferdinand and Piëch were imprisoned first in Baden-Baden and then later in Paris and Dijon. Porsche, now seventy years old, struggled with his health in the poor conditions of the Dijon prison.
With his father in captivity, Ferry Porsche focused on managing his family’s company. He also began to seek out a means to raise the 1,000,000 francs bail required to get his father released from prison. To make ends meet, the Porsche company repaired cars, water pumps, winches and pretty much any mechanical equipment that they could bring into the shop. Moreover, Ferry continued to promote the design capabilities of the firm.
The Porsche Type 360 Cisitalia
In 1946, Piero Dusio, an Italian soccer player, businessman and racing driver, approached the firm to design a new Grand Prix race car. Ferry recognized that this might be the opportunity he’d been seeking to free his father from prison.
It was agreed that Dusio would pay the entire sum for the design up front, which would enable Ferry to post bail and have his father and Anton Piëch released from prison. In exchange, Ferdinand would consult on the design and assist in developing the Grand Prix racer.
Dusio gave the Porsche firm just 16 months to complete the car. Dubbed the Porsche Type 360 Cisitalia, the Grand Prix racer featured a supercharged, mid-mounted, 1.5 liter flat-12 cylinder engine that produced 385bhp at 10,500rpm. It was paired to a complex four-wheel drive transmission assembly.
While the car was considered innovative, it never advanced beyond the testing phase, due mostly to the limited timeframe in which the car was to be completed so that it could compete in the Grand Prix circuit. Despite this, the car was also the first ever to bear the “Porsche” name.
Although Ferdinand was home, his failing health prevented him from managing the family firm. At his father’s insistence, Ferry officially assumed the role of managing director.
Porsche Konstruktionen GesmbH and the 356
Under the direction of Ferdinand “Ferry” Porsche, the company started work on an entirely new automotive design.
Prior to World War II, Ferry Porsche had designed and built three Type 64 cars for a 1939 Berlin-to-Rome race that had ultimately been cancelled at the start of the war. The Type 64 was a rear-engine car and is considered by some historians as the first car ever officially manufactured by Porsche. Regardless of the distinction, the Type 64 is recognized as a true design precursor to the post-war production model – the Porsche 356.
The 356 was created by Ferry Porsche and manufactured by the Porsche Konstruktionen GesmbH, a new company that was founded in 1947 by Ferry and Louise Piëch (Ferry’s sister) in Gmünd, Austria. Like the Volkswagen Beetle (which Ferdinand Porsche Sr. had designed), the 356 featured a four-cylinder, air-cooled, rear engine, rear-wheel drive car with unitized pan and body construction.
The Porsche 356 was a hybrid of new-and-old elements, incorporating an entirely new body design that was developed by Porsche employee Erwin Komenda while utilizing engine and suspension components that were initially sourced/developed for the Volkswagen.
“I had always driven very speedy cars. I had an Alfa Romeo, also a BMW and others. By the end of the war I had a Volkswagen Cabriolet with a supercharged engine, and that was the basic idea (behind the 356). I saw that if you had enough power in a small car, it is nicer to drive than if you have a big car which is also overpowered….and it is more fun. On this basic idea we started the first Porsche (356) prototype. To make the car lighter, to have an engine with more horsepower…that was the first two seater that we built in Carinthia (Gmund.)” – Ferry Porsche, from an article in PCA Magazine, September, 1972
While Porsche is an international company today, with high-tech manufacturing facilities all over the globe, the original manufacturing plant in Gmund, Austria was nothing more than an old saw mill. The company had been relocated there during the war to avoid Allied bombing in Stuttgart.
Although the company had some of the manufacturing equipment from the Stuttgart facility, the process of building the first Porsche 356 involved fabricating almost every component of the car by hand. Over the next two years, the Porsche company would manufacture just 49 examples of the 356 model.
The Porsche 356 Pre-A
The first Porsche 356 was road-certified in Austria on June 8, 1948. Officially designated Porsche 356/1, the “Gmund Roadster” was powered by a 1.1-liter, air-cooled, flat-four cylinder engine from Volkswagen. The engine was modified by Porsche to increase its horsepower output to 35 hp for the 356. The roadster weighted just 585 kilograms and reached speeds of up to 135 km/h (83 mph).
The 49 original 356 roadsters (which commonly became known as at the “pre-A” roadsters) were easy to differentiate from later models because they featured a two-piece windscreen divided by a center bar. This two-piece windshield would be replaced with a single piece windshield in future iterations of the car.
To further test its capabilities and demonstrate its potential, the “Gmund Roadster” was entered into a race in Innsbruck, Austria, where it won its class.
Despite this victory, the car was slow to garner attention, and the attention it did receive came mostly from a small number of auto racing enthusiasts.
While the car was a road-certified vehicle, early sales within Austria and Germany were limited both by consumer levels of interest and the fact that it took two years to produce the first fifty cars.
The early Porsche 356 automobile bodies that were produced in Gmünd were handcrafted out of aluminum. However, when production of the 356 was moved to Zuffenhausen, Germany in 1950, it was decided that the 356 body should instead be manufactured out of steel. The aluminum-bodied cars from those first years of production are now commonly referred to as the 356 “prototypes.” They are exceedingly rare and continually increasing in value amongst collectors today.
By the early 1950’s, the 356 had gained some recognition amongst automotive enthusiasts both in Europe and in the United states for its aerodynamics, handling and excellent build quality. In 1951, a Porsche 356 was entered in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The car, still equipped with the modified Volkswagen 1.1L engine, won its class, completing 210 laps during the 24-hour race. This impressive accomplishment bolstered sales, and it became common for owners of the 356 to race their cars as well as drive them on the streets.
From its inception in 1948, the overall shape of the 356 remained largely unchanged. In 1951, 1.3L and 1.5L engine options were introduced. Each produced considerably more horsepower than the 1.1L engine provided by Volkswagen. By late 1952, the divided windshield was replaced by a V-shaped unit which fit into the same opening. In 1953, the Porsche 953 1500 S (“Super”) was introduced, and the 1100CC (1.1L) engine was eliminated completely.
Towards the end of 1954, Max Hoffman, a New York-based importer of luxury European automobiles, and the sole U.S. importer of Porsches, convinced the Porsche company to build a stripped-down roadster version of the 356 with minimal equipment and a cut-down windscreen. Further, Hoffman felt that the car could be better marketed to American consumers if it had a name (instead of just a numeric distinction), and so he convinced Porsche to manufacture the car as the “Porsche Continental.”
Unfortunately for Hoffman (and Porsche), the Ford Company (who had already been manufacturing the Lincoln Continental at the time) sued the company, and the name was summarily dropped. The 1955 Porsche Continental is especially collectible today, even amongst Porsche enthusiasts.
From its introduction in 1948 until its final iteration in 1955, a total of just 7,627 Porsche 356 (pre-A) examples were produced.
The End Of An Era
With production of the 356 well underway, and with the Porsche company being successfully managed by his son Ferry, Ferdinand was content to observe the growth of the automotive company that he had envisioned but had never completely successfully launched himself. He took solace in the knowledge that the Porsche 356 was an evolution of a car that he and his son had envisioned years before, and he appreciated the fact that the early 356 models incorporated many of the mechanical advances he had helped develop with the creation of the Volkswagen a decade earlier.
Perhaps it was fate then, that in the onset of his retirement, the Volkswagen company reached out to him asking him to consult on the future development of the Volkswagen Type I (Beetle) that they had begun manufacturing at the end of World War II. As compensation for his efforts, and for the work he’d put into the development of the original prototypes, Ferdinand Porsche was compensated by Volkswagen with royalty checks for every Volkswagen Beetle ever built – which numbered more than 21 million units by the time the plant stopped manufacturing the Type 1 in 2003.
In November 1950, Ferdinand Porsche visited the Wolfsburg Volkswagen factory for the first time since the end of World War II. Porsche spent his time there visiting the original plant that he’d help establish and by chatting with Volkswagen president Heinrich Nordhoff about the future of the VW Beetles, which were already being mass produced at that time.
He returned home from that visit satisfied in the certainty that his vision for a small, efficient automobile had been brought to fruition in the Volkswagen Beetle and that his dream of building his own line of automobiles had been accomplished by his son.
Just a few weeks later, Ferdinand Porsche suffered a stroke. He never recovered from it and passed away on January 30, 1951.
The Porsche 356 A
In late 1955, with a number of small but significant changes made to the 356’s overall design, the Porsche 356 A was introduced. While the car was stylistically similar to its 356 pre-A predecessor, the car now featured a single-piece, curved panoramic windshield. The 356 A also featured a modified front-lid handle that now included the Porsche crest (the pre-A did not bear the crest, only the “PORSCHE” brand name above the front bumper.)
Perhaps more impressive than the aesthetic changes were the range of engines that could not be purchased when buying a Porsche 356 A. The car came with an available five different engine options including:
- 356 A 1300 (rated at 44 hp)
- 356 A 1300 Super (rated at 60 hp)
- 356 A 1600 (with 60 hp)
- 356 A 1600 Super (rated at 75 hp)
- 356 A 1500 GS Carrera (rated at 100 hp)
The modifications to the vehicle were part of Porsche’s “Technical Programme 1” (T1). When the car was introduced, the Porsche 356A Type 1 (1956-1957) would become affectionately known simply as the “T1” amongst enthusiasts.
In 1958, the Porsche dropped the option to equip their 356 A models (T2) with the 1300cc (1.3L) engine. Instead, all Porsche 356 models – which included the both the roadster and open-top versions (the Cabriolet, Speedster or Convertible D) – were now equipped with either the higher output 1.6L engine, or the Carrera 1.5L engine.
The “Carrera” engine was actually an engine developed by designer Ernst Fuhrmann. The 1.5L engine, which was officially called the “Fuhrmann Engine,” had been introduced initially as a racing engine for the spyder-variant 356 race cars. It featured four overhead camshafts which were driven by bevel-gear shafts. The engine was well equipped to provide drivers plenty of power both on-and-off the racetrack. Additionally, any Porsche equipped with the Fuhrmann engine, was dubbed a “Carrera” (which is Spanish for “race”) edition Porsche.
Fewer and fewer parts were shared between Volkswagen and Porsche as the 356 A automobile evolved. By the end of the 1950’s, Porsche had become an almost completely independent automobile manufacturer, though it did continue to contract the fabrication of the 356 A steel bodies to the Reutter company (a company it would acquire in 1963).
From 1955 to 1959, Porsche manufactured a total of 21,045 examples of the Porsche 356 A. It is considered one of the most desirable of all the 356 variants by collectors today.
The Porsche 356 B
In late 1959, significant styling and technical refinements resulted in a complete re-design of the Porsche 356 A. For the 1960 model year, Porsche would unveil the 356 B (T5) and, like the 356 A before it, would be offered to consumers with a variety of engine options that ranged from the 356 B 1600, which was rated at just 60 horsepower, to the 356 B 2000 GS-GT Carrera 2, which produced an unprecedented 140 horsepower.
The key visual difference between the A and B series cars was the 356 B included a more pronounced front bumper with enlarged rim guards, higher-positioned headlamps, a wider, front-lid handle, more pronounced horn grilles and further-protruding front indicators. The rear bumper was also re-positioned higher than previous models.
In mid-1962, the 356 B model was changed to the T6 body type (which featured twin-engine lid grilles, an external fuel filler in the right front wing/fender and a larger rear window in the coupe.) Although these modifications to the body design were significant enough to potentially warrant another-iteration of the 356, Porsche did not call attention to these changes with a different model designation. However, when the T6 was further modified to include disc brakes, Porsche dubbed it the “model C” (unofficially) or the “SC” when it had the optional, extra-powerful “Carrera” engine.
A unique Porsche 356 B Karmann hardtop or “notchback” model was produced from 1961-1962. The 1961 production run of this variant was essentially a cabriolet body with the optional steel cabriolet hardtop welded into place. The 1962 version, however, was specifically developed prior to production to be a hybrid of the cabriolet rear-end design blended with the T6 coupe hard-top body. Both versions of the notchback variant have officially been dubbed the “Porsche 356 Karmann Notchback.”
By the time the Porsche 356 B had been introduced, and throughout its entire production run, it remained one of the best-selling of the 356 variants. From 1959-1963, a total of 30,963 Porsche 356 B examples were manufactured.
Porsche Prepares to Evolve Beyond the 356
By the early 1960’s, with the commercial success of the 356 (in all of its variants) over the past decade, Porsche had garnered a reputation for building quality, high-performance vehicles that handled equally well on-and-off the race track. At the same time, Ferry recognized that the 356, for as much as it had evolved, was fifteen years old, and was due for a major redesign.
Instead, Porsche felt it was time to introduce the world to the successor of the 356. In September, 1963, at the Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung (the Frankfurt Motor Show) in Frankfurt, Germany, Ferry Porsche presented the successor to the 356 as the Porsche 901.
The early development of the 901 was centralized around a proven concept – develop another air-cooled, rear-engine sports car, but this time equip it with a more-powerful six-cylinder “boxer” engine. Much as his father had done for him a generation earlier, Ferry entrusted the body design of the Porsche 901 to his eldest son, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche (F.A.).
The decision to utilize Ferdinand Alexander created an upheaval within the Porsche organization. It had been assumed that Erwin Komenda, who had developed the body design for the Porsche 356 and led the body design department up to that point, would be responsible for the 901’s design. F.A. Porsche complained that Komenda made unauthorized changes to his design and caused internal strife within the group. As the design took shape, Ferry Porsche took his son’s drawings to neighboring chassis manufacturer Reuter to fabricate the first prototypes of the Porsche 901 design.
The car’s success at the Frankfurt Auto Show proved unequivocally that production of the 901 would begin as soon as the Porsche facilities could re-tool to begin production. There were still a good number of 356 C orders to be filled, and while production of the 356 C would continue for at least another year while additional engineering was completed on the 901, public appeal for the new car seemed very promising.
In September 14, 1964, production on the new Porsche 901 began and over the following week, a total of 82 cars were manufactured. One of the Porsche 901 prototypes was transported to the Paris Motor Show in October, 1964, and was once more well received by almost everyone – except for the executives of the French car manufacturer Peugeot.
Peugeot objected to the “901” designation because they too had patented a three-digit numeric designation for one of their cars that contained a zero as the middle digit. They asserted that they had ownership over the naming convention and had already sold many models in multiple markets bearing the same designation. Porsche’s solution? Change the middle “0” to “1” and call the car the Porsche 911.
Officially, the 901’s that had already been constructed were used for testing and for additional exhibitions, and Porsche never sold any of the original 82 units to private customers.
The Porsche 356 C
The final variant of the 356 series was the Porsche 356 C, which was introduced for the 1964 model year. Although the car carried a new designation, it was actually very similar to its predecessor, save for a couple of small, but significant, changes.
To start, the Porsche 356 C featured disc brakes all-around, a “carryover” that was introduced in some of the late-model variants of the 356 B. For another, the car featured modified hubs with flatter hub caps that were devoid of the Porsche crest. It also featured a round, exterior rear-view mirror.
The introduction of the 356 C in 1964 also reduced the available engines for the car to just three, with the existing 60 hp variant being discontinued completely. Instead, Porsche now offered the 75-horsepower engine of out of the Porsche 356 B 1600 Super as the entry-level engine for the 356 C. Its mid-range engine was a 95 horsepower “SC” engine, which was the most powerful push-rod engine built by Porsche up to that point in time. The highest-performance variant of the car was the Porsche 356 C 2000 GS Carrera, which delivered a power output of 130 horsepower.
Production of the Porsche 356 C peaked at 14,151 units in 1964, despite the fact that its successor, the new Porsche 911, was introduced to the U.S. market that same year. The 356 C offered American consumers a more performance driven Porsche than the heavier, and more refined Porsche 911, and demand for the Porsche 356 C remained quite strong in North America through the 1965 model year.
The final ten Porsche 356 C automobiles were assembled for the Dutch police force in March, 1966. All ten units were cabriolets and all were registered as 1965 models.
In 1963, Porsche assigned the development of a new, horizontally-opposed, four-cylinder engine to Dan Schwartz, then Chief Departmental Manager for Development of Mechanical Systems. This engine was to be utilized as the powerplant for the 912 (originally Type 902), a variant of the Porsche 911, and was specifically intended to produce higher performance numbers than Porsche’s 356 SC engine. Moreover, the engine would be less costly and complex than their Carrera 2 engine.
Given time restrictions and developmental concerns, another option that was considered was to increase the displacement of the 1.6L engine (Engine Type 616) from the Porsche 356 to 1.8L, add Kugelfischer fuel injection, and modify the engines valve and cooling systems.
Again, given cost and scheduling concerns, both of these ideas were ultimately abandoned in favor of tailoring the exiting 1.6 liter Type 616 engine to the Porsche 912.
The Porsche 912 was not intended to replace the Porsche 356, but rather offer consumers who had appreciated the 356 as an option to buy a car at the same price point. The Porsche 911 (originally Type 901) was developed specifically as the successor to the 356 line, but because of the increases in technology and performance, including a larger, more powerful engine, Porsche recognized that the 911 would also cost considerably more than the outgoing 356 had, and so the 912 was introduced to bridge the gap between the outgoing 356 and the 911, the car that was to carry the Porsche brand forward.
As production of the 356 began to wind down in early 1965, Porsche officially began production of the 912 coupe on April 5th of the same year. Styling, performance, the quality of construction, the car’s reliability and the price made the Porsche 912 a very attractive alternative to the outgoing 356, and was well received by both old and new customers alike.
The Porsche 912 was manufactured by Porsche between 1965 and 1969 as their entry-level model. In that time, Porsche produced nearly 30,000 Porsche 912 coupes and roughly 2500 912 Targa top automobiles.
Although technically a variant of the 911, the 912 was a more nimble-handling compact performance 2+2 sports car, delivering 90 SAE horsepower at 5,800 RPM. Because of its highly-efficient flat-4 cylinder engine, low curb weight and low coefficient of drag, the Porsche 912 was capable of achieving up to 36 MPG, a number not commonly associated with any performance car of that era.
By 1969, Porsche executives made the decision that continuing production of the Porsche 912 would not be viable, due both to internal and external factors.
- For one, the production facility that was utilized for manufacturing the 912 was to be reallocated for a new model, the Porsche 914-6.
- Second, the 911 platform had returned to Porsche’s traditional model of offering three performance level options – a base model 911T, a fuel-injected 911E and a high-performance 911S.
- Third, by 1969, the United States had started implementing more stringent emission control regulations that would require re-engineering all of Porsche’s offerings – and given the optional, multi-tiered 911’s available combined with the pending introduction of the 914, it was determined that the 912 was not worth the effort.
“It would have taken some trouble to prepare the 912 for the new exhaust rules, and with the arrival of the 914 we would have three different engines to keep current. That was too many.” -Ferry Porsche
Perhaps the most famous sports car in the world today, the Porsche 911 was not initially regarded as the “gold standard” of sports cars. That’s not to say that the car was ill-received. In fact, when showcased at the Frankfurt Auto Show under the model Type 901, it was considered a triumph in design. The challenges facing the 911 was that it was the successor to the wildly popular Porsche 356 (pre-A, A-C), and, because it was considerably more expensive than its predecessor, it took some time for the car to establish itself for the performance machine it is recognized for today.
As previously stated, the Porsche 911 started its life as Porsche Type 901. It traces its roots directly back to sketches drawn by Ferry’s son Ferdinand Alexander Porsche. From its inception, the Porsche 911 was developed to be a more powerful, larger, more comfortable replacement for the Porsche 356.
The Porsche 911 was developed with the proof-of-concept Type 745 engine – a boxer six-cylinder, twin-cam, overhead-valve engine. However, early Dyno results weren’t as promising as Porsche had hoped. The engine was only capable of 120 horsepower. To bolster performance, the engine was reworked to a 2.2L engine to achieve the desired engine output of 130 horsepower, but compromises had to be made that included utilizing long, flexible pushrods that put competition-grade power out of reach with the OHV six-cylinder.
After driving an early 911 equipped with the 745-powered T7 engine (as it was officially classified), Ferry Porsche reportedly banned further development of new pushrod engines.
Instead, Ferry turned to Hans Mezger’s team to develop an overhead-cam variant of the flat-six engine. Mezger had worked under Fuhrmann straight out of university and had gained a great understanding of Fuhrmann’s approach to engine design. Over the next year, Mezger’s team would develop the boxer powerplant that would ultimately be used in the first iterations of the 911. By late 1963, the air-cooled Type 901/01 2.0L flat-six “boxer” engine was ready for production.
Production of the Porsche 911 began in September 1964.
The 1964 911 featured a four-seat configuration, although the rear seats were small – and considered too small to be used by anyone but a small child. As such, the car was designated as a “2+2” rather than a true four-seater.
The Porsche 911 came equipped with either a four- or five-speed manual “Type 901” transmission. The outward styling of the car maintained the conceptual elements originally drafted by Ferdinand Porsche, with many elements ultimately added by Erwin Komenda (who initially objected to Ferdinand’s involvement with the design).
By the 1960’s, the popularity of the Porsche 356 had won over the hearts and imaginations of many Americans. While in its humble beginnings Porsche may have initially focused on developing its automobiles for a European market, a large focus was placed on marketing the 911 to the United States. Left-hand drive Porsche 911’s began production almost immediately and the first 911’s were marketed to the United States in February, 1965.
In 1966, Porsche introduced the more powerful 911S, which featured the Type 901/02 engine capable of producing 160 horsepower (120 kW/160 PS). Forged aluminum alloy wheels from Fuchs, with a five-spoke design, were offered for the first time.
Porsche 911 A
In August, 1967, Porsche began production of the 911 A series which included some notable improvements over the previous models. To start, the 911 A featured dual brake circuits and widened (5.5J-15) wheels paired with Pirelli Cinturato 165HR15 CA67 tires.
More significant was the introduction of the Targa top version of the car. The Targa top variant featured a stainless steel-clad roll bar that was intentionally introduced because of the common belief by automobile manufacturers that rollover safety requirements enforced by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would make it difficult for fully open convertibles to meet regulations for sale in the United States.
The designation “Targa” came from the Targa Florio sports car road race in Sicily, Italy. Porsche had participated in this event for many years, and scored many victories in a number of race-equipped variants of their production vehicles until the event was discontinued in 1973. The last win for Porsche was accomplished in a 911 Carrera RS against prototypes entered by Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. The road-ready 911 Targa was equipped with a removable roof panel and a removable plastic rear window.
Porsche 911 Series B – F
Porsche Series B
The Porsche 911 B series began production in August, 1968, replacing the A-series 911L model with the 911E, one of the first 911’s to be introduced with fuel injection. It remained in production until July, 1969.
Porsche Series C
The Porsche 911 C series was introduced just a year later in August 1969 and featured an enlarged 2.2-litre engine. The wheelbase for both all 911 and 912 models was increased from 87.0 inches to 89.3 inches (2,211mm to 2,268mm). The decision to increase the wheelbase was made because of the 911’s instability when running wide open at full throttle. While the overall length of the car did not change, the rear wheels were re-positioned further back. Fuel injection was introduced to the 911S and a new mid-level Porsche 911 was introduced.
In addition to the above, a semi-automatic Sportomatic 911 model was introduced. This variant featured a torque converter, an automatic clutch mated to Porsche’s time-tested four-speed transmission. A lot of people questioned the introduction of the Sportomatic to the 911 stable. Afterall, the 911 was an enthusiast’s car, and most driving purists chastised the inclusion of an automatic transmission in any sports car, but most especially a Porsche!
Porsche’s rationale was simple. Traffic in metropolitan areas grew more and more congested year after year. The people moving into those metropolitan areas where there to stay. Those people drive cars. Cars congest/clog the interstates. As anyone who has ever driven a manual transmission will confess, stop-and-go driving is a hassle and even die-hard sports car buffs were known to grow weary of driving a manual transmission-equipped car in congested traffic.
Apparently, the majority agreed with Porsche’s rationale. Despite criticism from both automotive enthusiasts, critics and journalists alike, Porsche’s Sportomatic 911 sold well for over a decade until the decision to continue the platform was made in 1980, when the gearbox for the transmission was changed from a four-speed to a three-speed.
Porsche Series D
The 911 D series was introduced in August, 1970 and produced until July 1971 with no notable changes over earlier variants save for some minor refinements to the powertrain.
Porsche Series E
However, the Porsche 911 E series, which was produced from August 1971 to July 1972 for model years 1972 and 1973 brought some notable improvements to the 911 lineup. While the E series featured all the same models, they all came equipped with a new, larger 2.3 liter (2,341cc) engine. The engine is known as the “2.4 L” engine, despite its displacement being closer to 2.3 liters.
The 911E (Type 911/52 engine) and 911S (Type 911/53) featured Bosch mechanical fuel injection (MFI) in all markets. For the 1972 model year, the 911T (Type 911/57) was carbureted, except in the U.S. and some Asian markets where the 911T also came equipped with fuel injection (MFI.) Those variants became known as the 911T/E (Type 911/51 engine) and featured an increased horsepower rating of 140 HP, compared to their European counterparts, which were still rated at 130 HP.
Because of the power and torque increases, the 2.4-liter cars also received a new, stronger transmission. This transmission, identified as Type number 915, was derived from the transmission originally introduced in the Porsche 908 race car.
The Type 915 transmission did away with the 901 transmission’s “dog-leg” style first gear arrangement, opting instead for a more traditional “H” shift pattern, with first gear up to the left, second gear beneath first, third gear up and to the right, and fourth below third.
The Porsche 911 E series had an unusual oil filler behind the right-side car door, with the dry sump oil tank relocated from behind the right rear wheel to the front of it. This decision to relocate the tank was made to move the center of gravity slightly forward to improve handling. An extra oil filler/inspection flag was located on the rear wing, and for this reason it became known as the “Oil Klapper” or “Vierte Tür” (fourth door.)
Porsche Series F
The Porsche 911 F series, which was produced from August, 1972 to July 1973 (for the 1973 and 1974 model years) received a few more, but equally noteworthy changes.
To start, the dry sump oil tank was moved back to its original location behind the passenger side rear wheel. This reversal was performed in response to numerous complaints received by Porsche from consumers stating that gas-station attendants often mistook the oil filler door as the fuel filler door, and would fill the oil tank with gasoline.
In January, 1973, all U.S. 911T’s were equipped with the new K-Jetronics CIS (Continuous Fuel Injection) system.
Series F 911S models also received a small spoiler under the front bumper to improve the car’s stability at higher speeds. Because the car weight just 2,310 lbs (1,050 kg), the added downforce helped reduce lift, an occurrence that caused drivers of earlier variants of the car to lose control and begin drifting as they maxed out acceleration in their cars.
A 911 ST was produced in small numbers and was built specifically for racing applications. Although the cars were built for just a single year, they were highly sought after by drivers looking to use their Porsches for serious competition. The 911ST came equipped with a 3.5 litre engine capable of producing 270 horsepower (200 kW or 270 PS) at 8,000 rpm. In addition to the substantial increase in engine power, the car’s weight was reduced to just 2,120 ls (960 kg).
The Porsche 911ST was driven in racing events around the world the year it was produced, and achieved considerable success, winning at the Daytona 6 Hours, the Sebring 12 Hours, the 1000 km Nurburgring and the Targa Florio (at the final running of that particular event.)
By the late 1960’s, both the Porsche and Volkswagen companies were in need of a new automobile model. Although Porsche had achieved commercial success with the 911, they were looking to replace the entry-level 912 with something different. Volkswagen, on the other hand, wanted to develop a new sports coupe to replace the Karmann Ghia coupe.
At the time, the majority of Volkswagen’s development work had been handled by Porsche. This arrangement had been made contractually at the time of Porsche’s founding as a company. Essentially, the contract stated that Porsche would have involvement with the development and design of the next several Volkswagen projects for an undisclosed term. In order to fulfill the contract, one last project needed to be completed in cooperation with Porsche. It was decided by both companies that they’d develop a new car – and so started the 914 project.
Originally intending to sell the 914 with a flat four-cylinder engine as a Volkswagen and with a flat six-cylinder engine as a Porsche, Ferry decided during early development that having two brands share the same body and design could be risky for business in the American market as brand recognition might be unclear. He convinced Volkswagen chairman Heinz Nordhoff, under verbal agreement, to allow Porsche to sell both versions of the car as a “Porsche” in North America.
On March 1, 1968, the first 914 prototype was presented to both Ferry Porsche and Heinz Nordhoff. While the car was generally well received, additional development was delayed after the death of Nordhoff on April 12, 1968. His successor, Kurt Lotz, was not affiliated with the relationship between Porsche and Volkswagen, nor was he connected to the Porsche dynasty, and the verbal agreement between the two companies fell apart.
In Lotz’s opinion, Volkswagen had exclusive rights to the 914, and saw no reason to share the design with Porsche, especially if they would not share the manufacturing expense. Because of Lotz’s decision, the price and marketing concept (the manufacturing of a shared automobile between Volkswagen and Porsche) failed before series production had even begun.
Porsche, who had already committed to building the 914 and had begun taking orders for the car, decided that they would proceed with manufacturing the automobile. Volkswagen, similarly, would build their own version of the car, though because Porsche had designed the vehicle and had ownership of the design, both the Porsche and Volkswagen version the car would be marketed as Volkswagen-Porsches at European Volkswagen dealerships and would be badged and sold as Porsches throughout the United States.
Volkswagen versions of the 914 originally featured a 1.7 liter, flat-four cylinder engine rated at 79bhp. Porsche’s 914/6 variant featured a carbureted 2.0 liter, flat-6 cylinder engine rated at 108bhp that had been borrowed from the 1969 911T. Karmann manufactured the rolling chassis for both versions at their plant, completing Volkswagen production in-house and delivering the Porsche versions to the Porsche plant for final assembly there.
As a result, the price for the chassis went up considerably, which resulted in a significant increase in the cost of the 914/6. By the time the car went to market, it ended up costing only a bit less than the Porsche 911T, Porsche’s next lowest priced car. The 914/6 sold quite poorly while the much less expensive 914/4 became Porsche’s top seller during its production run, outselling the Porsche 911.
In order to facilitate distribution of the 914 in North America, and to also facilitate better relations between the two companies, both Porsche and Lotz agreed to sponsor a Volkswagen-Porsche joint venture for 914 distributorship in the U.S. Designated Volkswagen of America, this cooperation was developed to handle exportation of the Porsche 914 to the United States, where both versions were badged and sold as Porsches.
Slow sales and rising costs prompted Porsche to discontinue the six-cylinder variant of the 914 in 1972 and manufacturing just 3,351 examples of the car. The production line where the 914/6 was manufactured was re-purposed to manufacture another variant of the 914 powered by a 2.0L fuel-injection version of the Volkswagen’s Type 4 engine in 1973.
Before production of the 914 was ultimately cancelled in 1976, more than 118,000 units were sold world wide, making the 914 one of the most successful Porsche models to date.
Porsche Relocates and Incorporates
Since its founding as a limited partnership in 1947, the Porsche Kommanditgesellschaft had grown exponentially. Neither Ferry, nor any other member of his family, could have imagined the commercial success that the Porsche brand would have over the next twenty-five years.
By 1972, Ferry Porsche recognized that the scale of his company had outgrown a “family operation.” Further, after learning about Soichiro Honda’s “no family members in the company” policy at Honda, Ferry felt it was time to establish an executive board for his company, with members from outside the Porsche family, and a separate Supervisory Board comprised mostly of family members. Upset by this decision, most family members involved with the operation of Porsche – including F.A. Porsche and Ferdinand Piech – left the company to pursue other ventures.
F.A. Porsche (Ferry’s son) founded his own design company, Porsche Design, and became known for building exclusive watches, sunglasses, furniture and many other high-end luxury item. Louise’s son and Ferry’s nephew Ferdinand Piech, who had been responsible for the mechanical development of Porsche’s production and racing cars (including the very successful 911, 908 and 917 models), started his own engineering company, during which time he was contracted by Mercedes-Benz to develop a five-cylinder-inline diesel engine. A short time later he made the decision to move to Audi (which at that time was a subsidiary of Volkswagen) and advanced his career with them, eventually becoming the Chairman of Volkswagen Group.
In late 1972, the Porsche company’s legal identity was changed from Kommanditgesellschaft (KT), a limited partnership, to Aktiengesellschaft (AG), a public limited company.
The first Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for Porsche AG was Dr. Ernst Fuhrmann. Fuhrmann, though not a member of the Porsche family, had been an integral part of the company’s success. After all, he’d been responsible for developing the Fuhrmann engine, which had been used in the 356 Carrera models as well as the 550 Spyder. Ferry trusted his longtime colleague and friend, and it made sense therefore to have someone close to the family oversee the company he’d helped to build.
As Chief Executive Officer, one of Fuhrmann’s personal objectives was to cease production of the Porsche 911 during the 1970’s and replace it with a front-engine V8 Grand Sportswagon that was to be identified as Porsche Type 928. Of course, proving the concept would require considerable effort to develop the 928 into a platform that could live up to the success that the 911 had already achieved, and it was a venture that Fuhrmann intended to pursue.
The Porsche Type 924 was originally developed as a joint venture/project between Volkswagen and Porsche. Despite early disagreements between Lotz and Porsche during the development of the 914, the cooperation between the two companies and the success of the 914 led both to evaluate the benefit of working with the other past the completion of the 914 venture.
The two companies had put the appropriate infrastructure in place with the creation of the Vertriebsgesellschaft (The Porsche-Volkswagen distribution company originally established for export distribution of the 914 to the United States), and it was decided that a successor to the 914 should be developed between the two companies.
For Volkswagen, the 924 was intended to be the company’s flagship coupe sports car and was dubbed “Project 425” during its development phase. For Porsche, the 924 was to be the company’s entry-level sports car (and replacement for the outgoing 914.)
Volkswagen still lacked a research and design division capable of developing the sports car. Because of the history shared with Porsche, the companies entered into a new contract wherein Porsche was to develop the new 924 sports car with the caveat that the vehicle must be equipped with an existing VW/Audi inline-four cylinder engine. Porsche chose a rear-wheel drive configuration and a rear-mounted transaxle to improve the front-to-rear weight distribution (the 924 had a 48/52 weight ratio in its final production design).
Because of the 1973 oil crisis, a series of automobile-related regulatory changes enacted in the 1970’s calling for increased emission regulations and a change in directors at Volkswagen – Lotz resigned in 1971 and was replaced by Rudolf Leiding – the decision was made by Volkswagen to put the 425 project on hold. When VW decided to scrap the program entirely, Porsche struck a deal with Volkswagen leadership to buy the design back.
Porsche still needed a model to replace the outgoing 914, but also needed time to re-tool for the new automobile. Additionally, as part of the deal, Volkswagen was to work under Porsche as a subcontractor and would use its employees to build the Porsche 924, supervised by Porsche personnel.
Recognizing that the 924 would not be ready in time for the 1975 model year, Porsche re-introduced the Porsche 912 – this time as the 912E – for a one year production run (1975-1976) as their entry-level automobile until the 924 could be finalized and put into production.
The cars layout and design was created by Dutchman Harm Lagaay, a member of the Porsche styling team. The car featured retractable headlights, a sloping bonnet line and a grille-les nose, giving the car its popular “wedge” profile.
The Porsche 924 made its public debut in November, 1975. It was almost immediately criticized by enthusiasts for its mediocre performance. Despite this, the car went on sale in the United States in July 1976 as a 1977 model with a base price of $9,395.00.
The original 924 had used an Audi-sourced four-speed manual transmission mated to a Volkswagen 2.0L inline-4 cylinder engine. The engine was equipped with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, which aided the engine in producing 95 horsepower. The horsepower was bolstered to 110hp in mid-1977 with the introduction of a catalytic converter, which reduced the need for power-robbing smog equipment to be installed on the engine.
In 1980, the Porsche 924 received some minor changes including a three-way catalyst and slightly higher engine compression, which brought horsepower up to 115 hp (86 kW). Despite this, sales in the U.S. were hampered due to the high-cost of the 924 – with a well-equipped version costing almost twice as much as a Nissan 280ZX, even though the Japanese sports car was considerably more powerful.
A turbo version of the 924 was introduced in 1979, and it was developed to bridge the performance gap between the base model 924 and the 911SC. It varied slightly from the base model 924 in that it featured additional air slots in the front apron to supply air to the brakes and the oil cooler, as well as the engine compartment. The 924 Turbo also featured a black rear spoiler on the rear decklid.
The most significant difference between the 924 and the 924 Turbo was the engine itself. While the 924 Turbo still utilized the same 2.0-liter, inline-four cylinder engine, the engine had been modified to incorporate a supercharger. In this configuration, the car now developed 170 horsepower. In 1981, the efficiency of the 924 Turbo was further increased to 177 horsepower.
The 924 Carrera GT
By 1980, recognizing the sales success of both the naturally aspirated and turbo variants of the 924, Porsche introduced (without any announcements prior to the release) the 924 Carrera GT.
The car, which was developed specifically for track use, featured an intercooler, had a higher engine-compression ratio of 8.5:1, a much larger rear spoiler and a flush mounted windscreen, along with a number of other minor improvements. The Carrera GT was really an evolution of the 924 Turbo model, but it was the 924 that Porsche had envisioned – namely one that was capable of competing on the world racing stage.
In order to comply with sanctioned homologation regulations, the 924 Carrera GT (and later, the Carrera GTS) were offered as production vehicles, and were equipped as road cars as well. The GT version, when introduced, produced 210 horsepower and the GTS was rated at 245 hp. Both variants of the car included factory-installed roll cages and race seats. The 924 Carrera GT variations were known by model numbers 937 (left hand drive) and 938 (right hand drive.)
On the Racetrack
The ultimate iteration of the 924 for the racetrack was the 924 Carrera GTR race car, which produced 375 horsepower (280kW) from a highly modified variant of the 2.0L inline-four cylinder engine which had been used in all Porsche 924 models.
In 1980, Porsche entered three of their 924 GTR models in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The cars completed the race, finishing in 6th, 12th and 13th place overall.
In 1981, Porsche entered a specially built 924 Carrera GTP model (known officially as the 944GTP Le Mans). The car was equipped with a new prototype variant of Porsche’s 2.5 liter, inline-4 cylinder engine. The engine featured four valves per cylinder, dual overhead camshafts, twin balance shafts and a single turbocharger. So equipped, the engine produced 420 horsepower (313 kW). The car successfully navigated Le Mans for 24 hours and finished in seventh place overall.
This new 2.5 liter engine became the predecessor of the powerplant used in the 944 platform and the later 1987-1988 944S 16V powerplant.
The Porsche 928
The Porsche 928 was developed as a luxury grand tourer. The car, which was originally intended to replace the Porsche 911 line, featured the power and handling of a sports car with the refinement, comfort and equipment of a luxury sedan. Fuhrmann, and several other Porsche executives at that time, believed that the 928 would have much wider appeal than the compact 911.
In the late 1960’s, given the successes that Porsche had already achieved with the development of their sports cars – including the 356, the 914 and most especially the 911 – the executive team at Porsche, including Ferdinand Porsche himself, had begun considering adding a luxury touring car to their lineup of vehicles.
Ernst Fuhrmann had begun pressuring Ferry Porsche to approve development of a new model – Type 928 – due to his own concerns that the then-current flagship model, the Porsche 911, was quickly reaching the limits of its potential. Given that sales of the 911 were on the decline, the evidence seemed to confirm that belief.
Fuhrmann’s vision for a new Gran Turismo (Grand Touring) type automobile united the best elements of both a sports coupe and a luxury sedan. When presented to the board of directions, it was agreed by most of the Porsche leadership team that this new car would secure the company’s viability for many years to come.
In 1971, Ferdinand Porsche ordered Fuhrmann to design a production-feasible concept for the new 928 model. Several iterations were considered, including both rear-and-mid engine designs, but most were dismissed to legislative difficulties related to stricter noise and emission standards. Ultimately, a front engine, rear-wheel drive layout was chosen.
(NOTE: Some speculate that Porsche may have decided on the front engine/rear wheel drive configuration because they feared that the U.S. government would ban the sale of rear-engine cars in response to safety concerns that had arisen over the Chevy Corvair.)
Porsche engineers wanted to utilize a large-displacement engine in the 928. The prototypes which were developed utilized a 5.0 Liter V8 engine which produced nearly 300 horsepower (220kW). With increasing concern over the availability of fuel in the early 1970’s, smaller engines were considered in the interest of fuel economy. The design engineers balked at the suggestion.
By the time the car was ready for production in 1977, it was settled that the Porsche 928 would utilize a 4.5 liter, SOHC (per bank), 16-valve V8 engine which produced 240 horsepower (180kW). This engine, which was specifically selected in an effort to ensure sales in North America, was considered to have a reasonable compromise between performance and fuel economy.
The Porsche 928 debuted at the 1977 Geneva Motor Show before going on sale later that year as a 1978 model. Although the car was well received, and praised for both its comfort and power, initial sales of the car were low. The base price of the 928 were considerably higher than that of even the most expensive 911 models. Moreover, the front engine, rear-wheel drive design went against everything that Porsche purists had come to love about the company’s earlier models, and many alienated the 928 entirely.
Porsche’s Uncertain Future and And A New CEO – Peter Schutz
In 1980, Porsche suffered its first money-losing year since the inception of the company. CEO Ernst Fuhrmann had pressed forward with the design and production of both the 924 and the 928 models, insisting that these cars would be a suitable replacement for the 911. With sales failing in the United States combined with the lack of customer interest in the current offerings, Ferry Porsche made the decision to remove CEO Ernst Fuhrmann from his position and begin seeking out his replacement.
Ferry Porsche personally invited Peter Schutz to apply as one of twelve potential candidates for the CEO position. Schultz had gained a solid reputation as an engineer and product developer for Caterpillar, Cummins Engines and the director of the Deutz Engine Division of Klockner-Humboldt-Deutz. Additionally, Schutz, who had been born in Berlin, Germany during World War II but had migrated to Chicago, Illinois when he was just 2 years old, was an American citizen. It was widely believed that Schutz was selected to become the next CEO of Porsche in order to have an American running the company to reignite Porsche sales in the United States.
Upon acceptance of the position, Schutz began digging into the challenges the company was facing. He found that dealers in the United States felt that Porsche’s pricing was too high and that the cars they were manufacturing lacked the level of quality control that earlier models had always been given. Upon further investigation into the issues that were affecting overall product quality, he discovered that the primary problem was with the drive chain for the camshafts in the 911 engines. When he later asked why this problem had not been fixed, he was told that there was no reason to do so since the 911 was “ending production in favor of the 924 and 928 models.”
Cancellation of the Porsche 911 model was also causing morale issues in Porsche’s engineering department. Within the Porsche organization, and most especially within the engineering group, the 911 was recognized as the quintessential Porsche automobile.
Consumers continued to demonstrate the same belief. While Porsche was proclaiming an “end of life” for the Porsche 911, sales of the car remained so strong that it caused everyone within the Porsche organization to give considerable thought to the decision which had been made by Ernst Fuhrmann.
The decision to ultimately keep the 911 in the production lineup occurred one afternoon in the office of Dr. Helmuth Bott, the Porsche operating board member responsible for all engineering and development at Porsche.
In a memoir written by Peter Schutz (about his time as CEO of Porsche), he wrote:
“I noted a chart on the wall of Professor Bott’s office. It depicted the ongoing development schedules for the three primary Porsche product lines: (development of the) 944, 928 and 911. Two of them stretched far into the future, but the 911 program stopped at the end of 1981. I remember rising from my chair, walking over to the chart, taking a black marker pen, and extending the 911 program bar clean off the chart. I am sure I heard a silent cheer from Professor Bott, and I knew I had done the right thing. The Porsche 911, the company icon, had been saved, and I believe the company was saved with it.”
Under Schutz’s direction, Dr. Helmuth Bott began the process of dramatically improving the Porsche 911. The results of these efforts would be a 3.2-liter powered, third generation Porsche 911 Carrera series that was introduced in the 1984 model year.
While Peter Schultz had rescued the 911, he also felt that the other models (the 924 and 928) should be sold alongside the 911. While he recognized that the 911 would definitely carry forward, he also understood the considerable investment that had been made into the development and production of the other models. While the Porsche 928 never sold in the numbers that Fuhrmann had originally envisioned, the 928 did develop a following overtime and continued to be manufactured for eighteen years after its introduction.
During Schutz’s tenure as CEO of Porsche, the company experienced a massive resurgence. Success on the racetrack, improvement to all of their production models and, most importantly, a strong U.S. economy and exchange rate all proliferated the company’s sales numbers throughout the mid-1980’. Over the course of just six years, Porsche worldwide sales grew from 28,000 units in 1980-1981 to a peak of over 53,000 units in 1986.
Ferry Porsche and the Porsche 942
- Designed by Tony Lapine, the Porsche 942 extended the bodyshell of the Porsche 928 by 250 mm and straightened the B-pillar to allow greater access to the car’s rear seats and more legroom for rear passengers.
- A flat roof that extended over the rear seating area provided rear passengers with increased headroom and gave the 942 an almost “hatchback-esque” appearance.
- The front fenders were raised and made more prominent to make parking the car easier by giving the driver greater visual reference points.
- The bodywork was painted a deep green metallic – olive green as it is known today – and complemented by smooth bumpers that were integrated into the bodyline (a design change which carried forward to the 928 when the S4 generation was introduced in 1987.)
- Mechanically, the car had the same 5-liter V8 engine that was used in the 928 model. The engine was mated to a four-speed automatic transmission.
The car was presented to Ferry Porsche on September 19, 1984, in commemoration of his 75th birthday. Only one example of the car was ever built – making it a truly unique and incredibly special birthday present for the man who had taken his father’s dream of manufacturing a car that bore his family’s name, and turned it into a world-wide phenomenon.
The Porsche 944
The evolution of the Porsche 944 actually began with the introduction of the Turbocharged Porsche 924 in 1979.
While Porsche had developed the 924 Turbo in response to the criticisms they had received about the Audi-sourced 2.0 Liter engine used in earlier iterations of the 924, the Turbo edition had carried a much higher price tag, which impacted sales of the car, though sales of the 924 were considerably higher than the 928, accounting for more than 150,000 units during its eleven year production run.
Because of the relative success of the 924, Porsche decided not to scrap the design (which had initially been developed as a co-op between Porsche and Volkswagen, and later purchased and manufactured exclusively by Porsche). Instead, they decided that the Porsche 924 would provide a great basis from which to develop a replacement front-engine, rear-wheel sports car for both the 924 and 928.
Porsche re-worked the 924 platform and developed an all-new, all-alloy 2.5 liter, inline-four cylinder engine to power this new model, which had been dubbed Type 944. Interestingly, the 2.5 liter engine was essentially half of the 928’s 5.0 Liter engine, though few parts were interchangeable between the two cars. The smaller engine was developed and utilized for both its fuel efficiency and capability. Despite being a flat-four cylinder, the engine still produced a factory-rated 150 horsepower, outperforming the turbo engine utilized in the Porsche 924. The outward design of the 944 was similar to that of the Porsche 924 Carrera GT.
Porsche introduced the 944 as a production vehicle in 1982. In its first iteration, the car was just slightly faster than the 924, but it was also better equipped and more refined than its predecessor. It offered drivers better handling and stopping power, and was considered far more comfortable to drive. The car featured an almost balanced front-to-rear weight distribution (50.7% front /49.3% rear) thanks to a rear-mounted transaxle. It boasted a documented top speed of 137 mph (220 km/h).
The Porsche 944 Turbo
The Porsche 944 Turbo was introduced in 1985. Known internally as Type 951, the Porsche 944 Turbo featured a turbocharged and intercooled version of the base 944’s engine. So equipped, the car produced 217 brake horsepower (162 kW) at 6,000 rpms.
The Porsche 944 Turbo featured improved aerodynamics over the base model. It included a strengthened gearbox with a refined final drive ratio, external oil coolers for both the engine and transmission, sixteen-inch wheels (including optional forged Fuchs wheels) and a stiffer suspension designed specifically to support the car’s extra weight.
In 1987, the Porsche 944 Turbo received some minor, though significant, improvements. Most notably, the 1987 944 Turbo (North America models) were equipped with standard driver and passenger side air bags. It was the first production car in the world to do so. A low oil level light was added to the dashboard and the speedometer was modified to show a maximum speed of 180 mph (290 km/h) instead of 170 mph (270 km/h) as on earlier model years.
The Porsche 944 S
In 1987, Porsche introduced another variant of the 944 model – the Porsche 944 S. The S, which stood for “Super,” featured a high-performance, naturally aspirated, dual-overhead-cam 16-valve version of Porsche’s 2.5 L engine. Rated at 187 horsepower (140 kW), the car was a good deal more powerful than the base 944 version from which it was derived. The 944 S was also significant in the evolution of the model as it marked the first time that the 944 series featured an engine with four-valves-per-cylinder and the DOHC setup.
A Club Sport touring package (RPH M637) was introduced as was a set of lightweight 16-inch CS/Sport Fuch forged alloy wheels. The Club Sport, which was developed for use on the track, was showcased at racing events throughout Canada, Europe and the U.S.
Although production of the Porsche 944 S was limited to just the 1987 and 1988 model years, the popularity of the car, combined with it success on the race track, led Porsche to develop a second edition of the 944 S for the 1989 model year.
Porsche 944 Turbo S
In 1988, Porsche introduced an even more powerful variant to the 944 lineup – the Porsche 944 Turbo S. This latest variant of the 944 series featured a more powerful engine rated at 250 hp (186 kW) and 258 lb/ft of torque. The car boasted a 0-60 time of just 5.5 seconds, a quarter mile time of 13.9 seconds at 101 mph (163 km/h) and a factory top speed of 162 mph (261 km/h).
From 1989 on, the “S” designation was dropped from the 944 Turbo S, although all 944 Turbos built from then on featured the same enhancements previously introduced on the 944 Turbo S in 1988. The 944 Turbo S was recognized as the fastest production four-cylinder car of its era.
The Porsche 944 S2
In 1989, Porsche introduced the 944 S2. The car was an evolution of the 944 S and was developed around the same design and styling cues as the turbo version of the 944 model. While the 944 Turbo continued to utilize the 2.5 Liter engine featured in all earlier variants of the model, the 944 S2 received a normally aspirated, dual-overhead-cam, 16-valve 3.0 liter engine, the largest production four-cylinder of its time. The car boasted a 0-60 mph speed of just 6.0 seconds and a top speed of 150 mph (240 km/h) when equipped with a manual transmission.
As with the 1987-1988 Porsche 944 S, the Porsche S2 once more included a Club Sport Touring Package (RPO M637). The car was raced, including in the Porsche Motorsports Championship (a British racing event that was heavily sponsored by Porsche.)
In 1989, Porsche also introduced the 944 S2 Cabriolet, the first of the 944 series of cars to feature a collapsible (convertible) roof. The body of the 944 S2 Cabriolet was developed and built by the American Sunroof Company in Weinsberg, Germany. The car was not well received, due in large part to the complexity of the fold-down top, which reduced headroom considerably (compared to the 944 S2 coupe counterpart) when up, and created a significant blind spot for the driver when down.
In its first year of production, Porsche only manufactured sixteen 944 S2 Cabriolets for export to the U.S. automotive market. In 1990, production of the car improved only marginally, with a total of just 3,938 units being built for sale in all markets around the globe.
In February 1991, Porsche developed another convertible variant – the 944 Turbo Cabriolet. The car combined the body stylings of the Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet with the performance and power of the 944 Turbo. Porsche announced that just 600 examples of the Porsche 944 Turbo Cabriolet would be manufactured, but they ultimately built a total of 625 units. Interestingly, none of these were ever exported to North America.
The Porsche 959
Porsche’s first supercar was the Porsche 959 was developed and manufactured by Porsche from 1986 to 1993. The car was initially developed to function solely as a B rally car. Later, to meet FIA homologation regulations, Porsche developed a commercial production variant of the car, with the understanding that they’d produce at least 200 street-legal units to be in compliance with the race requirement.
When it was introduced in 1986, the Porsche 959 was immediately identified as the world’s fastest street-legal production car. The twin-turbocharged supercar was capable of producing a top speed of 195 miles per hour.
The Porsche 959 was one of the first high-performance sports cars ever to feature all-wheel drive, a concept that would be fully developed during the 959’s four-year production run. It would serve as the precursor for the all-wheel drive system utilized in the Porsche Carrera 4 model a few years later. Additionally, the performance of the all-wheel drive system was monumental, and led to the executive decision by Porsche’s top brass to make an all-wheel drive drivetrain standard on all Porsche 911 Turbos, beginning with the 993 model.
Development of the Porsche 959 (originally called the Gruppe B) began in 1981, shortly after Peter Schutz took office. Porsche’s head engineer had approached Schutz about a 911 model that he’d been developing. Schutz had recognized that Porsche needed a sports car that they could continue to rely on for many years to come, and encouraged Botts to move forward with prototyping a new 911. In turn, Bott’s convinced Schutz that development tests should take place for a new all-wheel drive platform. Schutz agreed and greenlighted the entire program.
As engineering began, Botts recognized from his own experiences that the Porsche racing program was a perfect test-bed for new automobile models. He identified Group B rally racing as the perfect venue to test his new 911-concept mule and the all-wheel drive system he’d been developing. Once more, Shutz gave him the notice to proceed, and the Gruppe B began development for competition.
Over the course of the next two years, Botts (and his team of engineers and designers) set about fabricating the Gruppe B (Group B) prototype. It was decided by Porsche executives that the 1983 Frankfurt Motor Show should serve as the venue for its unveiling. The date, October 10, 1983 was set, and Bott’s team worked feverishly up to the deadline to complete the final touches on the prototype Porsche. This same prototype, dubbed “F3” was showcased to great acclaim in 1983, but was later destroyed in an early crash test during the development of the commercial variant of the car.
The road version of the Porsche 959 was introduced to the world at the 1985 Frankfurt Motor Show. The car was manufactured in two trims – “Sport” which corresponded to the race version of the car, and “Komfort” (comfort), which corresponded to the road version.
Upon its unveiling, Porsche accepted 250 orders for the Porsche 959 at a sell price of $225,000 per unit, with an initial deposit of $22,730 (U.S.) on each car. The price of the car was based on what Porsche calculated production of each car should cost, but the actual production cost was considerably higher than the initial estimate, meaning Porsche would suffer a financial loss on each car produced. However, since Porsche had entered into a contract on the 250 units they were committed to producing the cars.
First customer deliveries of the Porsche 959 began in 1987. Production ended in 1988 with a total of 292 Porsche 959’s rolling off the assembly line. In total, 337 cars were built, including 37 prototypes and pre-production models.
In 1992/1993, Porsche built eight Porsche 959s that were assembled from spare parts recovered from the 959’s manufacturing facility in Zuffenhausen, Germany. All eight were produced as the “Komfort” version of the car. These eight cars were sold to selected collectors and are recognized today as some of the most sought-after Porsche 959s.
The Porsche 968 was manufactured by Porsche from 1992 to 1995.
It was the third – and final – evolution of the front-engine, rear-wheel-drive series of sports cars that began with the Porsche 924 in the early 1970’s. It was also the last example of a front-engine sports-car manufactured by Porsche (although Porsche would introduce the front-engine Porsche Cayenne SUV in 2003.)
The Porsche 968 was developed as both a coupe and convertible. The car was the embodiment of both the outgoing Porsche 944, though it also has design elements that were lifted from the Porsche 928 and 959 models. The focus of the 968’s design was to include elements from all of the other Porsche production vehicles in the company’s stable to create a “family resemblance” between the 968 and the other models.
The car was powered by an updated version of the Porsche 944’s straight-four cylinder engine. The Porsche 968 included the addition of a new Vario-cam, variable-valve timing system, a newly optimized induction system, a dual-mass flywheel and updated engine electronics.
A new six-speed manual transmission replaced the outgoing 944’s five-speed, and Porsche’s dual-mode Tiptronic automatic transmission was offered as an optional upgrade. Although not developed for the 968 (it was originally introduced on the 1989 Porsche 911 (Type 964)), its success in the 968 platform would encourage Porsche engineers to continue to feature it in future iterations of the 911 platform.
Much of the Porsche 968’s chassis was a direct evolution of the Porsche 944 S2. It featured a number of small equipment and design upgrades from the Porsche 944, including a Fuba roof-mounted antenna, updated single lens tail lamps, “cup” style 16” alloy wheels, a greater selection of interior and exterior colors and a slightly-modified “B” pillar.
Porsche 968 Clubsport
For 1993 thru 1995, Porsche offered a light-weight “Club Sport” variant of the Porsche 968 which was specifically developed for owners looking to run their cars at the racetrack.
Much of the base model 968’s “luxury-oriented” equipment was stripped out of the car, or simply not offered to consumers purchasing the Clubsport edition.
Less sound deadening material was installed. Electrical options (like power windows and seats) were replaced by manually operated components, although Recaro racing seats were included – due to both their lightweight design and improved side-bolsters for improved driver restraint during track driving conditions.
Mechanically, the car was specially set up for use at the race track.
It featured wider wheels (17 inch instead of 16) and wider (225’s in both front and rear) tires than those found on the standard coupe. The suspension system was lowered by 20 millimeters and was revised for more optimal performance in hard corners. Internally, the steering wheel was bolstered, and featured a thicker-rimmed, three-spoke wheel without an airbag. The rear seats were deleted from the car.
Porsche leveraged the track-ready Porsche 968 to help bolster declining sales of the sports car. The car was named “Performance Car of the Year” in 1993 by United Kingdom-based “Performance Car” magazine.
The Porsche 968 Club Sport model was only officially sold throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, Japan and Australia, though examples of the car have since found their way into other markets around the world.
In 1994 and 1995, a UK version of the car, known as the Porsche 968 Sport, was offered that was essentially the Club Sport model, but with the inclusion of many of the creature comforts that had previously been deleted on the Club Sport variant of the 968 model – including power windows, power locks, and the rear seats.
A Porsche 968 Club Sport was driven in the 1993 “Sandown 6 Hours,” an Australian endurance race event. The car, driven by Peter Fitzgerald and Brett Peters, went on to win that event. The victory was especially sweet for Porsche as the event marked the Australian competition debut of the car.
968 Turbo S & Turbo RS
In 1993, Porsche Motorsports produced a turbo-charged version of their 968 model. The car was dubbed the “968 Turbo S.”
It shared the same body and interior as the Club Sport version of the car. Powered by a large 3.0 Litre engine (the same as that found in the Porsche 944 Turbo S model), the car could run a 0-60 mph time of just 4.7 seconds with a top overall speed of 175 miles per hour (282 kilometers per hour.) Despite its power and familiar “S-Type” branding, only 16 units were ever manufactured and distributed for sale throughout Europe.
Between 1992 and 1994, Porsche Motorsports Research and Development team also built a full race version of the Turbo S for Porsche’s customer race teams. Identified as the 968 Turbo RS, the car came in two versions: a German ADAC GT specified variant and an International Spec Version. Only four of the Porsche 968 RS models were ever built, making the car extremely rare.
The Next Generation of the 911
In 1990, even as production continued in earnest on the Porsche 944, and pre-production design was well underway on the upcoming 968 model, the executives at Porsche were preparing to unveil the latest iteration of the all-wheel drive 911 Carrera 4 and the rear-wheel drive 911 Carrera 2.
While these cars were badged as 911’s, they contained virtually none of their predecessor’s architecture. In fact, this latest version of the 911 Carrera shared a mere 15% of the parts found in the earlier iteration of the car.
Externally, the new Porsche 911 (Type 964) looked virtually the same as its predecessor, save for the introduction of aerodynamic polyurethane bumpers and an automatically-extending rear spoiler which replaced the “whale tail” found on the 911 throughout the 1980’s.
Looking inward, the interior was an almost entirely reimagined Porsche 911. The new model featured a design that was intended to blend performance with comfort. The new 911 featured many creature comforts that had been lacking in earlier versions of the car including: ABS, a Tiptronic automatic transmission, power steering, and airbags.
While the entire lineup of new Porsche 911 models was well received by consumers, it was the introduction of an all-wheel drive Carrera 4 model that really captured the attention of the automotive community as a whole.
The all-wheel drive option, while relatively commonplace today, was revolutionary for its time because it enabled consumers the opportunity to purchase a 911 that was far more adaptable to varying road conditions. When any of the drive wheels slipped during operation, the power was automatically transferred elsewhere, ensuring that the driver could maintain a greater degree of control whenever the driving environment became less manageable.
The 911 Turbo
In addition to the base model Carrera Coupe, Cabriolet and, Targa versions, the 1990 Porsche 911 offerings also included a Type 964 Turbo option. When first introduced in March, 1990, the 911 Turbo initially featured a turbocharged 3.3- liter boxer engine that was carried over (with updates) from the previous 911 Turbo model, albeit with reduced turbo lag.
However, in 1992, the Porsche 911 Turbo was upgraded to a more powerful 3.6- liter power plant. The updated engine produced 320 horsepower and could catapult the 911 Turbo to a top speed of 169 miles per hour, with a 0-60 mph (0-100km/h) of just under 5.0 seconds. The 3.6- liter engine would serve as the standard engine for the 911 platform for many years to come.
New Directions and the Birth of the “Boxster”
By 1993, with the production of the Porsche 944 winding down and the Porsche 911 (Type 964) and the front-engine Porsche 968 in full swing, the Porsche company was nonetheless still experiencing financial hardships as a company.
Recognizing that the company’s survival was contingent on the increased marketability of its brand around the world, the company made three significant decisions that year that would ultimately change its direction and save the brand from bankruptcy.
First, the Porsche company promoted Dr. Wendelin Wiedeking to Chairman of Porsche AG.
A mechanical engineer, Wiedeking had joined Porsche in 1983 and by 1991, had been promoted to head of production. In 1993, he was promoted to the position of Chairman (CEO) at Porsche as well as finding himself on the supervisory board of Volkswagen, due mostly to Porsche’s large shareholding with the sister-company.
Many industry analysts of that era believed that Porsche was not going to survive on its own. The Porsche 928, 968 and 959 platforms had all been deemed financial failures, and while the 911 continued to perform well in the market, its evolution – despite changes made to its current iteration – were still lagging on the global stage.
Wiedeking, a self-made millionaire in the real estate industry, accepted the challenge or “righting the ship.” At just 40 years old, the new Chairman began implementing a new management style to the company, utilizing a lean manufacturing system that he’d developed based on the processes used by the Toyota corporation.
Within two years of his appointment as CEO, Wiedeking had managed to turn the Porsche company around from the brink of bankruptcy. He had made the assertion that “every product must earn money. Otherwise, you are simply pursuing a hobby, which is no task for an automotive business.”
The second decision that revitalized Porsche was the decision to begin development of a mid-engine sports car that was dubbed “The Boxster.”
The origins of the Porsche Boxster actually began in October 1991, following Porsche executives visit to the Tokyo Motor Show that same year. Even prior to Wiedekings appointment as CEO, the company had recognized that it needed to create a new product to succeed the poor selling Porsche 928.
In February 1992, Porsche began development of the 928’s successor (then dubbed only Type 986). By June that same year, four proposals developed in collaboration between the 986 and the 996 (Porsche 911) design teams. From these, a proposal written by Grant Larson and Pinky Lai was selected as the official design from which a 986 prototype would evolve.
By August 1992, the decision had been made to develop the 986 concepts into a show vehicle. The intent was to have the show vehicle ready in time for the 1993 North American International Auto Show. The expectation was that the brand – a mid-engine cabriolet-style sports-coupe – would attract the interest of American automotive enthusiasts.
The concept vehicle received widespread acclaim from both the press and the public alike at its unveiling in January, 1993. However, the prototype design proved problematic when pre-production engineering on the car began, which resulted in considerable re-work of the design – including a lengthening of the hood. By the end of that year, as engineers continued to grapple with incorporating functional elements into the car’s final design, the 986 team began using modified Porsche 968 bodies to test the mid-engine powertrain of the 986 model.
By 1994, Porsche had developed proper prototypes of the 986. The car had been officially named the Porsche Boxster. By the second-half of 1995, the Porsche Boxster was ready for commercial production, pushing the series production dates up nearly a half-year of it’s mid-1996 production schedule.
The third decision that reshaped the company came from Wiedeking himself.
In 1995, with the development of the Boxster underway for a 1996 commercial release, the Porsche company made the decision to discontinue the unprofitable 928 and 968 models. Instead, the company’s focus would be re-doubled on overhauling the iconic 911 and revitalizing the world’s image of the company’s flagship vehicle.
Earlier decisions – such as discontinuing production of the 911 as an air-cooled sports car, had already been put into effect, and so new engine platforms were underway that would provide power to both the 911 and Boxster models.
Porsche 911 (Type 993) – The Last Air-Cooled Model
Considered by many Porsche enthusiasts as the “ultimate 911”, the type 993 represented a unique blend of power and simple elegance.
The car featured integrated bumpers which underscored the new, more streamlined look of the Porsche 911. The front end of the car is “lower slung” than earlier versions of the 911, due in large part to the poly-ellipsoid shape of the redesigned headlights. These headlights, which have become an integral part of the iconic and immediately-identifiable 911 brand, represent the integration of design elements that made the Type 993 such a refined automobile.
Even before its commercial introduction in 1995, the Porsche 911/Type 993 gained a reputation for exceptional dependability and reliability. The air-cooled engine was mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission – making the 993 the first-generation of 911 to feature a six-speed transmission (all earlier variants had either 4- or 5-speed gearboxes.) The Carrera, Carrera S, Cabriolet and Targa models were also available with an optional Tiptronic 4-speed automatic transmission (the same automatic first introduced in the Type 964 Porsche 911.
The Type 993’s optional all-wheel-drive system was revised, eliminating the three-differential setup that had been used in the Type 964 car and replacing it with a revised setup reminiscent of that found on the Porsche 959 supercar.
The 993 also received a redesigned suspension system. This new suspension system was specifically developed to produce improved handling characteristics during inclement weather while retaining the stability offered by the aforementioned all-wheel drive system. The revisions made to the suspension system resulted in an overall weight reduction to the car.
The newest 911 was praised by critics for being incredibly agile, due toin the overall curb weight reduction from the previous 911 model (Type 964). The Porsche 911/Type 993 was sold between January 1994 and early 1998 (with U.S. based models going on sale from 1995-1998.)
A Turbo-version of the Type 993 Porsche 911 was also introduced in 1995. It featured a bi-turbo engine, giving the 911 the distinction of having the lowest-emission stock automotive powertrain in the entire world. The car also featured hollow-spoke aluminum wheels. These wheels had never been used before on any vehicle, and marked an important innovation when they were introduced on the 1995 Porsche Type 993.
The discontinuation of the Porsche 993 in 1998 officially marked the end of the air-cooled Porsches.
The Type 993 variant of the Porsche 911 has often been referred to as “the best and most desirable of the 911 series, not only because of its beauty, but also because of its great performance, even by modern standards.”
Much of the reverie behind this car is the air-cooled engine, though Porsche purists celebrate the 993 as “the last complete ‘modern classic.’” For many Porsche collectors, the 993 is also acknowledged and celebrated as the Holy Grail of any Porsche collection.
The Boxster (continued) and Type 996
Porsche AG celebrated a significant milestone on July 15, 1996. It completed assembly of its one-millionth Porsche model – a 911 Type 993. The car (at least as it was photographed by the press) was a U.S. model variant of the 911, which in itself would not be so unusual except that Porsche had made the decision to donate the car to the Stuttgart police department.
While the milestone was celebrated by all of the Porsche organization globally, the celebration was short-lived. The company had re-established its brand with the introduction of the Porsche 911 (Type 993). Further, it had garnered considerable interest in its Boxster brand and was diligently working to meet the demands of a market that was eager to buy the mid-engine Cabriolet. Lastly – and perhaps most significant of all – Porsche AG was working on their first all-new 911 model since the original was introduced decades earlier.
For Porsche, 1997 would prove to be another pivotal year for the brand.
The Porsche Boxster (Type 986) was introduced in late 1996 as part of Porsche’s 1997 model year lineup. The car featured the Porsche Type M96 engine – a water-cooled, 2.5-liter, flat six-cylinder engine rated at 201 horsepower. The flat, mid-engine layout provided the Boxster with a low center of gravity, near-perfect weight distribution, and neutral handling.
The Boxster was released ahead of its big-brother, the new Porsche 911 (Type 996), and the initial response the car received was an affirmation to the engineers behind the new 911 that they’d designed a car that would be incredibly well received.
The 986 Boxster shared many of the same body components as the new 911 including the same bonnet, front wings, headlights, interior and engine architecture.
The New 911 (Type 996)
The Porsche 911 (Type 996) was a new design developed by Pinky Lai. While the car incorporated the classic lines and tear-drop shape of all the 911’s earlier iterations, Type 996 was nearly a complete reimagining of the 911 sports car, and carried very little over from its predecessors.
Type 996 featured all-new bodywork, a reimagined interior, and the first water-cooled engine ever used in a 911. The only carry-overs were from the earlier 911 (Type 993) from which the front suspension, rear multi-link suspension, and a six-speed gearbox were repurposed after some revisions to make them current.
The 911/996 was introduced in early 1997, following the successful roll-out of the Porsche Boxster. Like the Boxster, it was well received and praised for “retaining all the character of its classic heritage.”
When introduced in 1997, the first 996 models were available as either a rear-wheel-drive coupe or cabriolet (convertible). Later development of the model would re-introduce an all-wheel-drive variant of both versions of the car.
The new 911 featured a 3.4 liter, flat-6, and a naturally-aspirated engine that produced 296 horsepower (224 kW), thanks to the introduction of its four-valve cylinder heads. Moreover, the new boxer engine broke new ground in terms of reduced emissions, engine noise, and fuel consumption.
Although Porsche had identified an opportunity to streamline production of both the Boxster and the 911 by the sharing of components between the two models, the initial response from 911 owners was the criticism that the “lower priced car looked just like theirs did.” This complaint would not register with Porsche for many years – although it ultimately resulted in some minimal design changes – including reimagined headlights – in 2002.
The 996 (and Boxster’s) most notable exterior feature were the new headlights. Unlike all earlier 911’s, which featured a round (or oval) shaped headlamp with a separate turn signal placed somewhere on the car’s bumper/fender assembly, the 996 featured an integrated assembly that housed both the headlight and the turn-signal. This design was considered controversial at the time, though it has since become a design standard copied by many automobile manufacturers around the world.
End of an Era
While 1998 would be another significant year in the growth of the Porsche brand globally, it would also be a year tinged with great sadness for the Porsche company and for Porsche enthusiasts around the world.
On March 27, 1998, Ferry Porsche passed away in the Austrian Town of Zell am See. Ferry was buried beside his parents and his wife Dorothea in the Schuttgut chapel on the Porsche family estate.
Throughout his career with Porsche, Ferry had been known for saying “the last car made will be a sports car.”
These were words he lived by.
“Ferry Porsche was always passionate about motor racing and was at Le Mans numerous times himself. In 1982, for instance, he was there when we swept the podium with the new 956, and he always supported us, even when money was at stake. He said, Porsche needs motor racing, Porsche grew up with motor racing, so keep it up.” – Peter Falk, Porsche Engineer and Race Director
The 996 Turbo and GT2/GT3 Platforms
The Porsche 911 (Type 996) Turbo debuted at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September 1999.
Unlike its naturally aspirated counterpart, the 996 Turbo featured a water-cooled, twin-turbocharged/intercooled 3.6- liter engine that was derived from the 1998 Le Mans-winning GT-1 Porsche 911. This new engine produced 415 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 415 lb-ft of torque.
The 996 Turbo featured all-wheel drive and came equipped with either a 6-speed manual or a 5-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission.
The 996 Turbo also featured revised body styling and a wider stance than its other 911 Carrera counterparts. It also came equipped with new bi-xenon headlamps.
Models exported to the United States featured a rear spoiler that would automatically ride at 76 mph (122 km/h) and lower at 36 mph (58 km/h). While the spoiler purportedly helped to reduce lift at higher speeds, the size and width of the spoiler were deemed too small to provide any beneficial downforce.
The 911 GT2 and GT3
Given the 911’s earlier successes in the GT-1 class at Le Mans, the Porsche 996 platform was used as the foundation for two lightweight, track-ready variants of the car.
The GT3 was based on the standard 996 Carrera, but it was stripped of any extraneous equipment to reduce the car’s overall weight. The car featured a stiffer, though adjustable, suspension platform as well as upgraded brakes. The bodyshell that was developed for the all-wheel-drive version of the 996 was selected because it provided greater front-end stiffening.
Two versions of the GT3 were manufactured.
The first, which is commonly referred to as the Mk.I GT3, was released in 1999 to all markets except North America. This version of the car featured a naturally aspirated 3.6L flat-six engine that produced 360 horsepower (270kW). This was the same engine that was shared with the 996 Turbo and was based on the engine used in the 911 GT1.
The Mk. II GT3 variant was based on the second generation of the Porsche 996. It featured updated aerodynamics and a more powerful version of the aforementioned 3.6L engine. This new variant of the engine produced 380 horsepower (280 kW). With this revised powerplant, the Mk.II GT3 could accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 4.0 seconds. Equally impressive was the 1.03g it produced on the skidpad.
This second variant of the GT3 platform had the unique distinction of being the first GT3 class Porsche marketed in North America
The second iteration of the racing-class Type 996 Porsche 911 was dubbed the GT2.
Like the GT3, the GT2 was a rear-wheel-drive variant of the current 911 platform. Also like the GT3, the reasoning behind a rear-wheel-drive (versus all-wheel-drive) configuration was two-fold. First and foremost, GT2 Class racing rules mandated the use of a rear-wheel drive platform. Second, and equally important, was the fact that the rear-wheel-drive solution weighed less than the all-wheel-drive option.
The GT2 996 received additional aerodynamic modeling to many of its body parts. It also received a re-tuned version of the 996 Turbo’s 3.6- liter twin-turbocharged engine which included larger turbochargers and intercoolers, a revised intake and exhaust system, and re-programmed engine control software. When tested, the GT2 996 produced 489 horsepower and 484 lb-ft of torque, which was enough to propel the car from 0-60 mph in just 3.9 seconds with a top speed of 198 mph (319 km/h).
Both the GT2 and GT3 variants of the 996 came equipped solely with a six-speed manual transmission.
The Porsche 911 GT3 became one of the highlights of the 996 era when it was introduced in 1999. It was celebrated by Porsche enthusiasts for “keeping the tradition of the Carrera RS alive. Conversely, the Porsche 911 GT2, the first car to be equipped with ceramic brakes as standard equipment, was marketed specifically as an extreme sports vehicle capable of track-level performance. It was released to the marketplace in fall, 2000.
Evolution of the 996
In 2002, the standard models of the Type 996 underwent minor re-styling (911 996.2 model name), which included switching out the integrated headlamps that had long been shared between the 911 and Boxster models) with the Turbo-style headlamps. All variants of the car also received a new front fascia.
Mechanically, all variants of the 996 were standardized on the 3.6- liter engine, which yielded gains of 15 horsepower to the naturally aspirated models.
Also in 2002, Porsche introduced both the 996 based Targa, which featured a sliding glass roof reminiscent of the one found on the 911’s Type 993 predecessor. That same year, Porsche also introduced the Carrera 4S model. The C4s, as it has become known, shared the same wide-body look of the 996 Turbo as well as the same braking and suspension systems previously introduced ion that model.
Cayenne – A Porsche Sports Utility Vehicle?
Upon the passing of Ferry Porsche in 1998, then Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking almost immediately discontinued the development efforts the racing division of the company had been investing into the Le Mans racing program in favor of investing those resources into the development of a four-door, 2.2-ton SUV program.
The idea was received with vary degrees of acceptance. After all, Porsche had always been recognized for producing a world-class sports car. It had been the vision of both Ferdinand and Ferry Porsche that the company would develop vehicles that could compete (and win) on the world stage, and that racing was the centerpiece of the Porsche brand.
At the same time, Wiedeking recognized that the sport-utility-vehicle market was growing globally and recognized that adding an SUV to the Porsche stable would potentially enable the company to reach thousands, or even tens of thousands, of consumers who might not have considered buying a far less practical two-door, mid- or rear-engine sports car.
Development of the (as then un-named) Porsche SUV program began in earnest in early 1999 with the expectation that the vehicle, which was to be developed by Porsche and shared with Volkswagen, would be debuted in time for the 2002 model year.
The Porsche Cayenne (Type 9PA) was introduced in Europe as scheduled for the 2002 model year as a mid-sized luxury crossover sports utility vehicle. It was the first Porsche automobile to feature a V-8 engine (Cayenne S) since the Porsche 928, which had been discontinued seven years earlier. It was also Porsche’s first four-door and off-road sport vehicle.
The Porsche Cayenne was introduced to North American Porsche dealerships in 2003. The Cayenne was initially met with mixed levels of anticipation. However, it quickly developed a solid reputation amongst consumers as a performance vehicle, a leader within the SUV market, and was praised for its exceptional handling, its powerful engines and its high-level of driveability.
The base model featured a 3.2- liter VR6 engine that produced 247 horsepower (184 kW). While not on-par with the 911 or even the Boxster, the Porsche Cayenne still demonstrated a respectable 0-60 time of 7.5 seconds when equipped with a manual transmission and 8.1 seconds when equipped with the Tiptronic S automatic.
By comparison, the Porsche Cayenne S model, which was introduced in conjunction with the base model SUV, featured a more powerful 8-cylinder engine with a dry-sump lubrication system and variable valve time. The Cayenne S engine produced 335 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration in the Cayenne S was considerably more impressive with a 0-60 mph time of just 7.1 seconds and a top speed of 150 miles per hour!
Cayenne Turbo and Turbo S
Introduced at the same time as the Cayenne and Cayenne S models, the first-generation Cayenne Turbo featured a turbocharged version of the V8 engine introduced with the Cayenne S. So equipped, the Cayenne Turbo produced approximately 445 horsepower (331 kW) and accelerated from 0-60 miles per hour in just 5.3 seconds!
A Turbo S version of the Cayenne was built in 2006 to compete with the Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG. The Cayenne Turbo S featured a twin-turbocharged 4.5-L V8 engine that produced 513 horsepower and 530 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration in the Cayenne Turbo S was truly impressive – even by the standards of many sports cars – with a 0-60 mph time of just 5.0 seconds and a top speed of 171 mph!
Both the Cayenne Turbo and the Turbo S featured a low-range transfer case, a locking differential, and height-adjustable, off-road suspension. Both came equipped standard with a six-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission.
In 2008, an updated Turbo model was introduced which featured a larger 4.8L engine. The vehicle was first introduced at the Beijing Auto Show. The larger, more powerful engine helped shave another tenth of a second off the Turbo models already impressive 0-60 times. In addition to the updated Turbo model, a new Turbo S was also introduced. The second-generation Turbo S engine now produced 550 horsepower and was capable of a 0-60 time of just 4.7 seconds.
On February 4, 2008, the 200,000th Porsche Cayenne rolled off the assembly line in Leipzig, Germany. The model was a Cayenne GTS, which had been unveiled that same month at the Chicago Auto Show and had been scheduled for a spring launch.
The Porsche Carrera GT Supercar
While Porsche had developed some of the finest high-performance production vehicles the world had ever seen, it had never been identified as a manufacturer of a “super-car.” That’s not to say that Porsche hadn’t dabbled in the development of ultra-high performance. The Porsche 959 demonstrated unequivocally (at its time) just how far Porsche could push the performance envelope when it so chose.
Of course, everything changed in the mid-2000’s when Porsche introduced the world to the Porsche Carrera GT, a mid-engine sports car that was manufactured by Porsche between 2004-2007.
The development of the Porsche Carrera GT began with the 911 GT1 and some of the technologies being developed by Porsche’s racing division in the late nineties. Because of changes to FIA and ACO rules in 1998, both the GT1 program and development plans of an LMP1-98 race car were discontinued, despite earlier plans to develop a new Le Mans prototype race car for the 1999 racing season.
While the racing program was discontinued, much of the technology developed by that program remained. It was decided that at least some of that technology should – and would – become integrated into a new, as-yet-unnamed, production car program.
Drawing from what had been developed already, the team behind the Porsche Carrera GT initially decided to utilize a turbocharged flat-6 cylinder engine as the powerplant for the new sports car. This early decision was overturned and the platform design was modified to support a new V-10 engine, though modifications of this magnitude would push the planned completion date back into the year 2000.
The V-10 prototype that was to be used had been built in secret by Porsche for the Footwork Formula One racing team in 1992, but had ultimately been shelved. This same engine, already resurrected from that earlier program, had been the basis of the powerplant for the Le Mans prototype, though it had been increased in size to 5.7 liters.
The car was developed to a point where a prototype was developed and by 1999, the car was ready for preliminary testing. Unfortunately, the development of the prototype peaked at the time of Ferry Porsche’s passing, and then CEO Wendelin Wiedeking had made an executive decision to postpone further development of the car in favor of beginning development of the Cayenne SUV – a collaborative design which he had intended to foster as a cooperative between Porsche, Volkswagen, and Audi.
Because of this decision, the project was suspended on the second day of vehicle testing. By mid-year 1999, all of the engineering expertise that Porsche had assembled for its motorsports division was temporarily reassigned to the development of the Cayenne. There is some speculation amongst the automotive community that then VW-Audi chairman Ferdinand Piech had leveraged the Cayenne cooperative in exchange for an understanding that Porsche would not build a car to compete with Audi’s new Le Mans Prototype, the Audi R8.
While endeavors to build a new production sports-car had been suspended, Porsche did keep the project moving forward by utilizing the 5.5L V10 engine from the Carrera prototype in another Carrera GT concept car that was showcased at the 2000 Paris Motor Show. The decision to showcase the engine in the concept vehicle was to prove to Porsche executives that the public would have a lot of interest in another Porsche sports-car model.
The gamble worked.
The concept vehicle drew a massive amount of positive interest at the Paris Motor Show. Given its success at the show and the Cayennes almost-immediate success in the marketplace, Porsche recognized that public interest in new Porsche products was far more certain that it had been even a decade earlier.
This realization motivated Porsche to continue production of the Carrera GT model, and development of a street-legal version began again in earnest. As the car took shape, Porsche decided two things: 1.) The car would be produced in small numbers and, 2.) the car would be manufactured at Porsche’s new facility in Leipzig, Germany. The first production run of the new Porsche Carrera GT was scheduled to begin in late 2003 as a 2004 model year vehicle, and units were shipped with an MSRP of $448,000.00. The first Carrera GT went on sale in the United States on January 31, 2004.
The production version of the Carrera GT was powered by a 5.7- liter V10 engine that produced 603 horsepower (450 kW). Porsche promoted the cars performance capabilities, boasting a 0-60 mph time of just 3.5 seconds and a top speed of 205 mph (330 km/h). The only available transmission was a six-speed manual.
The Carrera GT was offered in five basic colors including: Guards Red, Fayence Yellow, Basalt Black, GT Silver and Seal Grey, though custom colors were offered later in the car’s three- year production run.
The Carrera GT featured large side inlets and air dams that helped cool the large V10 engine, a carbon fiber rear bonnet, a composite brake system, 15-inch disc brakes, 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels, and an automated rear wing spoiler which would automatically deploy at speeds greater than 70 miles per hour.
The interior of the Carrera GT feels similar to a racecar in its form and function. The pedals (gas, brake, and clutch) were all bottom-travel style, the same as those found in all Porsche racing vehicles. The bucket seats were lined in leather but proved to be more rigid than the seats found in other Porsche models.
The ignition switch is to the left of the steering wheel. In keeping with racing tradition, the placement of the ignition switch was deliberate. It enabled drivers to start the car with their left hand while putting the car into gear with their right hand.
A total of 1,270 Porsche Carrera GT’s were built between 2004 and 2007. While this is less than the originally planned production run of 1500 units, the official reason for the car’s premature discontinuation centered around changing airbag regulations in the United States. Whether this is true or whether declining sales of the Carrera GT account for the discontinuation of the brand, production was officially discontinued on May 6, 2006.
Porsche Type 997
In July, 2004, Porsche again unveiled another iteration of the 911 Carrera and 911 Carrera S models. Known as the Porsche Type 997, the car featured the same classic silhouette as all earlier variants of the Porsche 911, and included design cues – most especially a return to the clear, oval headlights with separate blinkers – that were found on older 911 models.
While the Porsche 911 Type 997 featured a refined, race-inspired appearance, the car was hailed for being a true high-performance vehicle. The base Carrera featured a 3.6- liter boxer engine that produced an impressive 325 horsepower while the new 3.8- liter, six-cylinder engine found in the Carrera S produced an incredible 355 horsepower.
At the Geneva Auto Show in 2006, Porsche introduced the 911 Turbo, the first gasoline-powered production automobile to include a turbocharger with variable turbine geometry, a technology that allowed the aspect ratio of the turbo to be altered as conditions changed.
The Porsche 911 Type 997 received another update in late-fall 2008 (called the 997.2). Porsche engineers further improved the car’s fuel efficiency by introducing direct fuel injection and a dual-clutch transmission.
Never in Porsche’s long history of building incredible driving machines had the company allowed as many owner-selectable preferences as they had with the Type 997, and with the Carrera, Targa, Cabriolet, rear or all-wheel drive, Turbo, GTS, special edition models and road versions of the GT race cars, the Porsche 911 stable was now comprised of 24 different model versions.
The Boxster (Concluded) and the Cayman
The Porsche Cayman was a mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive, 2-seat fastback coupe sports car derived from the second-generation Porsche Boxster 987. The Porsche Boxster 987 was first introduced at the 2004 Paris Motor Show alongside the Porsche Type 997.
Aesthetically, the second-generation Boxster remained very similar to its predecessor. The most obvious design change was to the car’s headlights, which shared a design profile similar to those found on the Carrera GT. Elsewhere on the car, the side intake vents were increased in size with more pronounced horizontal slats that were finished in a metallic silver, regardless of the car’s paint color. The wheel arches were increased to allow larger wheels to be installed on the car (up to 19 inches in diameter).
However, the most significant updates to the new Boxster were made to the car’s interior. A new dashboard with a circular-themed gauge cluster sets the tone for the overall design of the 987’s interior. According to Porsche, the new interior only shared about 20% of the components from its predecessor.
The base engine for the new 987 Boxster was a 2.7 liter, flat-6 cylinder engine that produced 240 horsepower. By comparison, the second-generation Boxster S model received a 3.2- liter engine that produced a more impressive 280 horsepower.
For 2007, the base model Boxster received a revised engine that increased output by 5 horsepower. This same engine was used in the Cayman. Similarly, the Boxster S engine was upgraded from a 3.2L to a 3.4L, resulting in an increase of 15 horsepower (11 kW). Once more, this same engine was featured in the 2007 Cayman S.
Like the Porsche Boxster, most Caymans were assembled in Finland for Porsche by Valmet Automotive, though some were assembled in Zuffenhausen, Stuttgart, Germany. Porsche’s Deputy Chairman, Holger P. Haerter, had once stated that the contract between Valmet Automotive and Porsche would end in 2012 and that, from that point onward, the Cayman model would be outsourced to Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria.
However, on July 5, 2012, Volkswagen purchased the controlling shares of Porsche, effectively taking control of the brand. Upon this acquisition, the decision was made to move production of both the Cayman and the Boxster lines to the former Karmann plant in Osnabruck, Germany. This same plant was used for the production of the 2012 Golf Mk6 convertible.
The third-generation of the Porsche Boxster and Cayman models – Type 981 – was announced on March 13, 2012, at the Geneva Auto Show. Porsche, which had planned the new models as part of their 2013 model year line-up, began taking orders for both cars in Summer, 2012.
The Porsche Type 981 was considered a significant advancement in the vehicle line, featuring a revised engine and more stringent transmission specifications, a new body, a new chassis, a wider front and rear track, a longer wheelbase, an overall weight reduction and a 40 percent increase in overall structural rigidity. To say the car was superior to earlier versions of the Boxster (and Cayman) was an understatement.
The standard 981 (Boxster and Cayman) was fitted with a new 2.7 liter, flat-6 engine whereas the Boxster S and Cayman S was re-fitted with the same, existing 3.4- liter engine, though revised for improved performance. Both engines came equipped with either a standard 6-speed manual gearbox or an option 7-speed PDK automatic transmission.
In March, 2014, a GTS derivative of the Type 981 was introduced. The cars featured slightly altered front and rear bumpers and received a 15 horsepower boost thanks to modifications made to their 3.4- liter engines.
Introduced in 2016 for the 2017 model year, the Porsche Boxster and Cayman were renamed the Porsche 718 Boxster and Porsche 718 Cayman. The naming convention “718” is actually a homage to Porsche’s racing tradition and moreover, to the Porsche 917 race car that Porsche manufactured (and raced) from 1957 to 1962.
Moreover, because the 2017 Porsche Boxster and Cayman models were redesigned to utilize a turbocharged four-cylinder engine (instead of a naturally-aspirated six-cylinder engine, as with earlier generations of the Boxster/Cayman series), the new naming convention was also intended to evoke the memory of a racing series that was won by light, nimble Porsche race cars that outmaneuvered the more powerful cars.
The exterior of the Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman is very similar to the third generation model, and is considered by most as an evolution of the earlier design. The most notable changes to the car are at its rear end, which now includes a long, gloss-black trim piece that connects the two taillight assemblies. Additionally, the headlights and the bumpers were reworked, and the exterior rear-view mirrors were redesigned, taking elements from the mirrors used on the GT3 and GT4 Boxster models.
Despite the loss of two cylinders, the new 718 models are actually faster than the previous models.
Porsche 911 Type 991
As with the earlier generations of the Porsche 911 that had come before it, the Porsche Type 991 was a revolutionary step forward for the 911 brand. The car continued to feature the same characteristic teardrop shape for which the 911 is immediately recognizable to just about any automotive enthusiast. However, two unique design principles were followed that helped refine the character of the car.
First, the arch of the roofline was reduced and re-design to taper gradually to the rear of the car. Second, the front wings (the assembly that includes the headlight and surrounding structure) were now placed higher than the lid.
Compared to the outgoing 997, the 991 was a slightly larger vehicle, with a wheelbase that was increased by approximately 3.9 inches (100 millimeters), and the overall height was increased by 2.8 inches (70 millimeters).
A new transaxle was developed so that the rear wheels could be moved 3 inches (76 millimeters) backward in relation to the position of the engine, which dramatically improved the car’s weight distribution and cornering performance.
Carrera and Carrera S (2011-2016)
Base models were introduced in September 2011 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The Carrera came equipped with a 3.4- litre boxer engine with direct fuel injection, 345 bhp (257 kW) at 7,400 rpm and 288 lb⋅ft at 5,600 rpm. The Carrera S received a 3.8- litre engine with 395 horsepower (294 kW) at 7,400 rpm and 325 lb⋅ft at 5,600 rpm. The convertible model of the 991 was announced in both Carrera and Carrera S versions, at the LA Motor Show in November 2011.
In September 2012 at the Paris Motor Show, all-wheel-drive variants – the Carrera 4 and 4S, were added to the line-up.
911 Carrera GTS (2014–2015)
Introduced in November, 2014, at the LA Motor Show, the 991 Carrera GTS was developed as the mid-level model between the Carrera S and GT3 edition 911s.
Base options included a 424 horsepower (316 kW) PowerKit, a Sport Chrono Package, a Sport Exhaust System, Dynamic Engine Mounts, 10mm lowered suspension, Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTM) system, LED daytime running lights with Porsche Dynamic Lighting System (PDLS), Sport Design Front Spoiler, Sport Design Rear Mirrors, GTS badging, and 20″ Centerlock wheels. When optioned with PDK, 0–60 mph is achieved consistently at 3.8 seconds with the help of Launch Control.
911 Targa 4 and 4S (2014–2015)
At the Detroit Motor Show in January 2014, Porsche introduced the Targa 4 and Targa 4S models. These new derivatives came equipped with an all-new roof technology that still incorporated the original Ttarga design, now with an all-electric cabriolet roof along with the B-pillar and the glass ‘dome’ at the rear.
On January 12, 2015, Porsche announced the 911 Targa GTS at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Similar in appearance to the existing Targa 4 and 4S models, the GTS added the 424 horsepower (316 kW) engine plus several otherwise optional features.
The Porsche Panamera is a four-door luxury hatchback sedan. The car featured a front-mounted engine and either a two-wheel drive configuration (standard) or an optional all-wheel-drive version.
The Panamera earned its name, much like the Porsche Carrera line, from the Carrera Panamericana race.
Much like the Porsche Cayenne SUV (which, incidentally, has become Porsche’s best-selling vehicle to-date), the arrival of the Porsche Panamera initially upset many Porsche purists. As before, it was argued that Porsche had defined itself for nearly a century as a manufacturer of two-door sports cars. The Panamera, by contrast, was seen as an attempt by Porsche to broaden the company’s mass appeal to consumers who might not consider purchasing a less-practical 911 or Boxster model.
The Panamera is a full-size luxury car, with a curb -weight of nearly 4,000 pounds. The car has four doors and a front-mounted engine. Ironically, the car looks more characteristically Porsche than many of the company’s earlier offerings (including cars like the 914, 924 and 928 models). In fact, many compare the Panamera to a stretched Porsche 911.
However, while the Porsche 911’s singular focus in unbridled power and handling at the racetrack, with a sparse interior and mechanical appointments that do little else but push the car’s limits, the Porsche Panamera is packed to the gills with modern technological amenities and a welcoming, comfortable interior that wraps the occupants in luxury and comfort.
The V8-powered Panamera S, 4S, and Turbo models were the first versions that debuted in 2009. In addition to the 4.8L Twin Turbo 500 bhp (373 kW) V8, Porsche launched two additional models in 2010: the Panamera and Panamera 4 both of which were powered by a 3.6-litre V6 engines that produced 300 bhp (224 kW).
Porsche 918 Spyder
As Ferdinand Porsche had once envisioned an electric hybrid vehicle a century earlier, it is fitting that one of the most current entries in the recent history of the Porsche brand once more involves an electric-hybrid vehicle. And just as that early electric hybrid was considered cutting edge for its era, so too does the Porsche 918 define the standard of what was, and is, possible out there on the frontiers of automotive technologies.
The Spyder was powered by a naturally-aspirated 4.6-liter V8 engine that was capable of producing 608 horsepower (453 kW). Paired with this engine are two electric motors that deliver an additional 279 horsepower each, for a cumulative combined total of 887 horsepower (661 kW.)
Production on the Porsche 918 began on September 18, 2013, with the brand’s first deliveries scheduled to begin in December 2013. Each car had a starting price of $845,000 (U.S.), yet the Spyder sold out quickly in December, 2014. Production of the brand ended entirely in June, 2015.
The Porsche 918 Spyder was first introduced as a concept at the 80th annual Geneva Motor Show. After the car received 2,000 declarations of interest, the Supervisory Board of Dr. Ing. h.c.F Porsche AG, Stuttgart, gave the green light for the development of the 918 Spyder. The production version was unveiled at the September, 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show.
An RSR racing variant was also unveiled at the 2011 North American International Auto Show. The racing variant combines hybrid technology that was first introduced in the 997 GT3 R Hybrid – a hybrid technology that had been tested at a number of racing events during the 2011 American Le Mans series.
In an independent series of speed tests performed by Car and Driver Magazine, the Porsche 918, achieved a 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) of just 2.6 seconds, a 0-100 mph (0-161 km/h) time of 4.9 seconds and a 0-180 mph (0-290 km/h) time of just 17.5 seconds. It is one of the fastest accelerating cars on the planet and its top speed is up there too with the fastest cars in the world.
Epilogue – In His Own Words
In the early 1900’s, Ferdinand Porsche started with a vision of what he thought automotive technology should look like. He had an idea for a car that would revolutionize the way we think about transportation, of how we would achieve ever-greater amounts of speed and how we expand our universal excitement and our unabated passion for driving.
His son Ferry, driven as much by necessity as ambition, took what his father has started and transformed it into an automobile manufacturing dynasty that few companies have been able to match. And from those ambitions, he launched an automotive dynasty that has spanned a century and has created some of the most iconic automobiles this world has ever known.
Yet, through all of the many successful brands and iterations, through all the technological advances that contributed to an increase in power, performance or handling, through all the victories and celebrations and, indeed, through all of the hardships and heartaches that unfolded in in the course of their lifetimes, there was a simple principle, a “guiding star” if you will, that served as the singular motivation for everything that the Porsche family did when they sat onat their drawing boards, or when they fabricated the earliest prototypes of their next automobile.
Their motivation was this –
These words were spoken by none other than Ferdinand Anton Porsche – Ferry Porsche, for short: “In the beginning, I looked around and could not find the car I’d been dreaming of: a small, lightweight sports car that uses energy efficiently. So I decided to build it myself.”
This is PORSCHE.
References Used in Our Research
Wikipedia.org – Ferdinand Porsche
Stuttcars.com – Ferry
Biography.com – Ferdinand Porsche
Porsche USA – 914
Porsche USA – 924
Wikipedia – Porsche
Wikipedia – Porsche 356
Hagerty – Porsche 356
Wikipedia – Porsche 911
Road & Track – Porsche History
Porsche Press Release
Wikipedia – Porsche 914
Wikipedia – Porsche 924
Wikipedia – Porsche 928
Wikipedia – Porsche 944
Wikipedia – Porsche 959
Porsche International – 928
Automobile.com – Porsche 928
Jalopnik – Why You Need A Porsche 944
Road & Track – Untold Story of 959
Wikipedia -Porsche Panamera