This summer I had planned to tick off two major boxes on my automotive to-do list. One was the Hungary F1 race, and the other was the BMW Welt and Museum in Munich. I'll post about those later, but today I’m documenting my spur of the moment visit to the Porsche Factory and Museum in Zuffenhausen near Stuttgart.
This wasn’t the first time I have visited the architectural feat that is the Porsche museum, but at Porsche, no two visits are ever the same. 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the 911, which debuted at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1963 - and received very little to no enthusiasm from the Porsche fanatics in love with their prettier (and much cheaper) 356s. The anniversary meant that the entire museum was wiped clean of Boxters, Caymans, Panameras, and even their best selling car, the slightly better looking in new guise, Cayenne. Just plain 356, 911, and race car goodness.
As always, a visit to the any museum begins in the parking lot. And what a lot! GT3s piled to the rafters with a smidge of vintage and tequipment rarities dotted in between. Forget the Nikki Beach parking in Monte-Carlo, forget the Ritz’s underground at Place Vendome, you can find the World’s most interesting garage right underneath the Porsche museum.
But our time was limited if we were to make our overnight stop, Munich, by dusk. After a deliciously crispy sandwhich and a litre of Weisbier consumed with a view of Porsche’s museum workshop and their historical archive (for cultural, business, social, and cultural matters relating to Porsche AG and its subsidiaries), we purchased some tickets from a lovely girl who raved about Vancouver, and proceeded to the first car in line and subsequently, Porsche’s history – a ‘Typ 64’ from 1939 with a mere 33 horsepower.
The first production Porsche on display debuted in 1948 and featured a 40 horsepower 4-cylinder capable of a (wobbly) 140 km/h. They called it the 356/2 Coupé. 52 cars were made by hand in Austria and it allowed for Porsche’s first move in to motorsport. Quite an iconic car, then. We then got to the first car that rolled out of the Stuttgart factories. It happed on the Thursday before Easter 1950 and it was of course a Type 356, or as the engineers called it “a test bench on wheels.”
As the 356 was ordered around the world, the North American market, or more specifically US-American Porsche importer Max Hoffman, demanded not only a roadster model, but a roadster that could be sold for less than $3,000. Dubbed the “America Roadster,’ it was quite a bit lighter than the 356 Coupé at a astonishing weight of only 605 kilograms made possible by extensive use of aluminum body panels. Eventually, Porsche further sorted the car and the spartanly furnished 1954 356 Speedster was born. A gorgeous little car that to this day is still being sold as replica.
But we still haven’t reached the 911. But we’re close. As next in line was the T7. Quite an ungainly prototype that featured free-standing headlights and a flat, sloping hood with underneath a 4-cylinder Boxer engine that was capable of a big 200kmh. Tall windows and a light notchback certainly didn’t turn it in to a concours d’elegance champion, but none of that takes away from the fact that this was the unofficial 911 predecessor.
The last 356 that sort of completes the lead up to the 911 is the 1956 Porsche 356 A 1600 S Coupé. With only 75 measely horsepowers it reached a top speed of 175km/h. Can you picture an Autobahn fly-by in the mid 1950s at 175km/h? Insanity. Consequently, this particular Porsche model was a huge success at the Mille Miglia race.
It wasn’t until 1963 that the 911 as we know it was introduced to a crowd of wincing spectators. And it must be said that parked next to a 355, a 901 looks like a BMW M6 parked next to a Lamborghini Miura. Both great designs, but you know which one you’d want to park inside your living room. Anyways, the 911 had it’s market launch in the fall of 1964 and featured a new engine, frame, and suspension. Inside it featured a larger more comfortable interior with a boot that fit a golf bag. (hello, target market). Over the next 9 years, a 912 in S,T,L and E versions hit the streets in addition to a Targa and a very collectible Carrera RS 2.7 model. And so the success of the 911 began.
That's it for today, let's crack a beer and enjoy the last bit of summer.