Man’s World

Porsche, 70 years of dream cars

Porsche 911 restoration

In June 1948 the first prototype of the Porsche 356 was licensed in Austria, the first chapter of an incredible story.

June 1948, prototype of the Porsche 356

Seventy years ago, Europe was struggling to rebuild after the dark years of the Second World War. Car manufacturers were striving to meet the new needs of a continent that needed cheap, robust and reliable vehicles. And some customers wanted sports cars. And so one day, Ferdinand Porsche, after having invented Volkswagen – in those days, there was just the brand name, it was only in 1963 that its principal model acquired the name ‘Beetle’ – started considering a sports variant. His drawings became reality in June 1948, when the first Porsche was licensed with the plates K 45.268, in Carinthia, Austria – to where the company had relocated during the war years, returning to Zuffenhausen, near Stuttgart, in 1949. That model was the prototype of what would later become the 356: a two-seat sports car with rear-mounted boxer engine of just 1.1-litre capacity, producing 40 HP. But the car’s total weight was less than 600 kg and even with its low power, it could reach 140 km/h.

 

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1963, the Porsche 911 by “Butzi” Porsche

The series version was introduced a few months after, representing the start of the 356 production history that continued until 1966, with many changes in bodywork and increasingly powerful engines. 1963 saw the start of the second chapter in the Porsche story, with the 911 designed by Ferdinand “Butzi” Porsche, the founder’s grandson. The model number has an unusual history: it was originally identical to the project number, 901, but it led to a complaint from Peugeot who, for the French market, had registered all three-digit numbers with zero in the middle. Instead of changing the car’s name for that market, Porsche’s management decided to change the number to 911. The car remained virtually identical for 34 years, up to 1997, the last year of production of the air-cooled engine that precluded the adoption of by then essential technical features such as four valves for each cylinder. The 996 series represented a complete change, building on the foundations of the 911 and continuing its incredible success.

1996, the Boxster mid-engine two-seat roadster

In addition, between the 1970s and the early 1990, Porsche had introduced a different sportscar pattern, with models featuring a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive configuration, comprising the 924, 944, 968 and 928 series, initially designed with the Volkswagen Group for the Audi brand and subsequently developed independently. In 1996, the Boxster was launched, a mid-engine two-seat roadster that became the Porsche entry-level car. Soon after, the brand set out on a new approach: by means of industrial synergies with the Volkswagen Group, the SUV Cayenne was introduced, the perfect response for the premium market that in those years was in rapid development. The first decade of the new millennium saw the introduction of the flagship Panamera, and more recently the compact SUV Macan.

This is a very brief overview of Porsche’s glittering history, but we have to mention that it was accompanied by a remarkable series of motorsport successes in just about all categories. In addition, Porsche has presented many true supercars, such as the legendary 959 and the Carrera GT. Today the latest challenge is the electric car… obviously in a sports format. Read more about Porsche at the official website

Alessandro Vai