After seventy years in the sports car business, Porsche is known for its durability, handling and performance.
A well respected and known marque in the realm of speed, we go back over its history, and look at three of its most phenomenal cars.
This was the car that made Porsche’s name. Ferdinand Porsche (winner of Automotive Engineer of the Century) had been driving and working in the Automotive Engineering fields since the early 1930s and increasingly realized that a small, powerful car was much more enjoyable to drive then a large one. Only there weren’t many small sports cars available in the 1930s, so he sat down and began to create the 356. The design was penned by Erwin Komenda, while Porsche used his experience from the VW Beetle design to shape the mechanicals. Initially known as a 2-seater (although it can accommodate four at a push) the first car was produced in 1948. Much of the car was built by hand, and many components shared with its older sibling, the VW Beetle. It quickly became known for its sporting performance, and Le Mans class win in 1951 helped. Three main model groups were produced, namely the 356A, B and C as well as several different shapes, with the Speedster being most popular in California. The rarest of these are the first 50 “prototypes” ever produced, between the years 1948-1950 with a trademark split windscreen, and the 356 “continental” produced only in 1955, as Porsche got sued by Ford for using the moniker. The 356 has been ranked by Sports Car International as one of the top 10 sports cars of the 1960s.
Originally supposed to be called the 901 (until Peugeot sued – I think I see a pattern here), the 911 featured Porsches new air-cooled 6-cylinder Carrera engine at its debut in 1963. Since then it has been involved in racing, rallying and general street use. Another winner from the same stable as the 356, it has won notable races such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 24 Hours of Daytona. It achieved a 5th place in the Car of the Century poll, and continues to push the envelope of Automotive Engineering, often pioneering new areas such as the now collectible whale tail and duck tail spoilers prevalent on the 1970’s models. In 1998 the model finally made the switch from air-cooled to water cooled motors, making pre-1998 models more valuable as time progresses. One of the first cars to feature alloy “mags” in the iconic and instantly recognizable five spoke star design from Fuchs. The car styling is largely attributed to the genius of Ferdinand’s son, named after his father.
Up until 2002 Porsche was known as a sports car manufacturer, so it is understandable that the introduction of their Cayenne model was viewed with trepidation. It’s my opinion though that to be innovative one needs to move with the trends of the marketplace, which is partly the reason that Porsche began production in the first place. As an SUV, the Cayenne quickly became known for its performance and handling. While possibly not as rugged as contenders from Toyota or Land Rover, it is still often the most affordable, which is commendable given Porsche’s taste for solid build quality. Porsches incremental refinement policy holds true to all its models, and was once again proven by their new S Class diesel which pulled a 285-ton Air France Airbus earlier this year.
These are only a tiny glimpse of the many sensational cars that Porsche has produced, there are so many other models to mention, such as the 912 VW collaboration or the Porsche Super Diesel Tractor. Constantly on the edge of innovation, and always willing to try something new, Porsche has spent the last 70 years carving itself a niche in automotive history.