The history behind the beautiful models that form part of Porsche’s 2020 lineup wasn’t always as smooth as their excellent PDK transmission. Nearly entering the new millennium bankrupt and being snatched from the jaws of the ‘little grey men’ by the cracker Cayenne and Boxter models, from the 356 onwards, Porsche has had an interesting history.
By far one of the most fascinating periods of this was the 1970s-2000s when their aging air-cooled designs and classic sports car shapes were beginning to lose appeal with the emerging market that wanted something more ‘rad’. This forced Porsche to ‘top-up’ it’s bank account by entering into all sorts of interesting collaborations. Let’s take a look at six cars that spawned during this period and beyond:
Never officially produced in the U.S., this firecracker is what you get when you pair Audi drive-trains (who were then at the forefront of all-wheel drive with their quattro system) and Porsche engine modifications.
Suddenly the market had a practical estate car that could turn heads (it had Porsche cup wheels and branded brake calipers). The RS2 could get your heart racing while still taking the kids to school. What isn’t there to like?
Surprisingly Mercedes have sometimes struggled to create a performance image for some of their models.
Being firmly rooted in people’s minds as a luxury brand known for more grand cruiser style autos than their closest more performance-oriented competitor, BMW. They were faced with a serious problem in the early 90’s, known simply as the BMW 5 series.
Their answer to this was Porsche. Commissioned to squeeze their thumping V8 into the smaller 500’s chassis, Porsche completely redesigned the Benz, creating what is now widely known as a modern classic. Much of the car was hand assembled at the Porsche Zuffenhausen plant. The best is, these were actually brought into the U.S. from ‘92-’94.
Renault Clio V6 ‘Renault Sport’
A throwback to the mid engined Renault 5 Turbo (related to the Renault Le Car that we got in the US during the 80s) the Clio RS is a true ‘pocket rocket’. Renault weren’t completely happy with the PSA V6 used in the ‘phase 1’ variant, so called on Porsche to do a little tuning. What resulted was the truly terrifying ‘phase 2’ with a larger power output of 255 break horsepower. Couple this to go kart like handling and you’ve got a tiger by the tail.
Ford Mondeo V6
Ironically the Ford Duratec engine used in the ’93 Mondeos is actually a Porsche design. They sold the design to Ford who proceeded to use it in several of their own cars (including the ST24 and ST220) and licensed it on to the British marques Jaguar and Morgan.
Ernst Furman, the president of Porsche in the 1970s, wanted to somehow compensate for the damage Germany did to the USSR during the second world war. He suggested a partnership with the major (and only) Russian passenger car producer at the time; Lada. The drafted framework resulted in a collaboration and from 1976-78 Lada engineers were present at the Porsche manufacturing facility in Germany.
Together the companies designed aluminum body panels for the well-known Lada Niva as well as restyling their city car; the Samara. Together they also produced a spirited 1.3 power plant, a variant of which the Spanish company Seat later went on to use in their similar looking first-generation Seat Ibiza.
Unlike the Russians (who had their own pride) the Spaniards chose to license a ‘system Porsche’ rocker cover which no doubt attracted prospective buyers. Both cars have become classics and are still much respected by the ‘Facebook generation’.
Strangely enough, the German-East European connection goes further back, and to end at the beginning, much of the design of VW’s first ever production car was thanks to Dr. Ferdinand Porsche.
He collaborated closely with Hans Ledwinka; an Austrian automotive engineer whose designs were well before their time. Together they laid the groundwork for the Beetle. This was carried forward by Porsche’s son, ‘Ferry’ and led to the establishment of the companies we know today as VW and Porsche.