speed Rules! r R Inside the World’s Hottest Cars
The Ultimate Speed Machine porsche o
By Paul W. Cockerham
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Series ISBN: 978-1-4222-3828-8 Hardback ISBN: 978-1-4222-3836-3 EBook ISBN: 978-1-4222-7961-8
First printing 1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2
Additional text by Bob Woods.
Cover photograph by NaturSports/Dreamstime.com.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file with the publisher.
speed Rules! r R Inside the World’s Hottest Cars
BMW C orvet te
F errar i J aguar L amborghini M erc edes -B enz M ustang P orsche
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I NT RODUC T I ON
T wo momentous events defined the summer of 1996 for Porsche AG. In June, Porsche-powered cars reigned supreme at the 24 Hours of LeMans, capturing the top three finishing positions, and all three class titles. Then on July 15, the one-millionth Porsche sports car rolled out of the company’s assembly plant at Stuttgart- Zuffenhausen, to considerable fanfare. Sports-car enthusi- asts who noted the occasion no doubt observed, with consid- erable irony, that the 285-horsepower vehicle was a police version of the venerable Porsche 911, and would be utilized by the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg, where it would patrol the autobahn for speeders. Still, the police could not be blamed for wanting to level the playing field. Porsche AG has had a long and proud tradition of designing and producing high-performance vehicles exclusively for the sports car market. The First Million The first sports car to carry the Porsche name, the 356, was built forty-nine years ago in Austria. Production was quickly moved to the suburbs of Stuttgart after the first fifty examples were manufactured, and over the next fifteen years, approximately 77,000 356 coupes and convertibles were delivered to customers around the globe. The 356 was replaced in 1963 with the vehicle that defines the Porsche legend: the 911. Over 419,000 units of the 911 and its derivatives have been produced to date, and it remains one of the most desired of automotive conveyances. From 1969 to 1975, the company made 118,000 Porsche 914 mid-engined cars, which, because of its powerplant, was looked down upon by so-called true Porschephiles as being little more than a glorified Volkswagen. The 914 was replaced by the front-engined 924; it, and its successors, the 944 and 968, have accounted for 325,000 cars over the years.
The 356 was a responsive car with excellent road manners;
with engine mass in the
rear, however, drivers had to be vigilant about turning under acceleration.
Because of limited capacity at the Stuttgart plant, these 4-cylinder models have nearly all been built at Audi’s factory in Neckarsulm. Rounding out the company’s million-car tally is the prestigious 928. The only sports car of its time to be awarded the accolade of “Car of the Year,” the Porsche 928 was bought by 61,000 customers during its 1977–95 production run. The company’s achievements over the past fifty years are hard to ignore, and a flood of innovations have emerged from the engineering concepts underlying the original 356, many first found on the company’s racing machinery. As time has progressed, the concept of what constitutes the ultimate Porsche driving experience has been refined. Dr. Porsche But it all began with the genius of Ferdinand Porsche (1875-1951). He was the son of a tinsmith, born into a world built upon centuries of respect for craftsmanship. At the time of his death, only the first few production examples of the 356 had rolled off the assembly line, but by then he had established himself as a true visionary, one of the few great designers who was able to visualize and create a car in its entirety. His name first appeared on a vehicle that created a sensation at the Paris Exposition of 1900. The Lohner-Porsche was a battery-powered two-seater, with electric motors driving its front hubs. Porsche had designed those motors, as well as the car’s lightweight chassis. Even then, his designs had a sporting purpose, and there were plans for a racing version of the car, targeted for a then-incredible 37-miles-per-hour top speed. By 1906, the thirty-one-year-old designer moved on to Daimler Motor Co., where he served as technical director. Thus began an association that lasted for two decades. He designed several notable automobiles, and ultimately was rewarded with the position of chief engineer in 1923. The company was known
Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, the son of a tinsmith, was born into a world built upon centuries of respect for craftsmanship.
A stripped-down racing version of the magnificent, supercharged Mercedes SSK, a Porsche design that became one of the most coveted automo- biles ever built, on both sides of the Atlantic.
Porsche was a noted race car
designer during the 1930s. Here, an Auto Union grand prix car, with a monstrous V-16 engine located in the rear, is shown in-flight at Britain’s Donington Park race course in 1937.
by then as Daimler-Benz, and one of Dr. Porsche’s Mercedes designs brought fame to the factory when it won the Targa Florio race in 1924. Later that decade Porsche designed some of the most incredible automobiles ever created—the Mercedes-Benz S series. Coveted by gentlemen and sports- men seeking speed and comfort, the great S, SS, and SSK models graced roads on both sides of the Atlantic. They were particularly popular with Hollywood celebrities, such as Zeppo Marx, who owned one of the thirty-one rare, super- charged SSK roadsters that were produced. But a breach between Porsche and the Daimler-Benz board of directors soon developed. Porsche wanted to engineer a Mercedes-Benz for the common man, mass produced and affordable. Then, as now, conscious of its image as a maker of prestigious transportation, Daimler-Benz turned the request down; Porsche, frustrated by the company’s conservatism, quit. “My father found that when he signed a contract with a firm, they could live another ten years on his designs, but he couldn’t,” said Ferry Porsche, the son and successor of Dr. Ferdinand, many years later.
Displacement of the 911’s base engine had been raised to 3.0 liters by 1973. Such an engine pow- ers this 1976 Carrera Targa. FOLLOWING PAGE:
Everyman’s Car Rounding up backing from a group of investors, Dr. Porsche went into business for himself, and the Porsche Konstruktionburo fur Motoren-Fahrzeug-Luftfahrzeug und Wasserfahrzeug- bau came into being on March 6,1931. The Stuttgart-based firm readily found work for the design of car, aircraft, and ship engines from Germany’s reawakening military sector, which had already coalesced around the deadly charisma of Adolf Hitler. Hitler himself became an enthusiastic backer for Porsche’s pet project, the car for Everyman, and soon Porsche and his designers were creating sketches for the car that would ultimately become known as the Volkswagen. Prototypes emerged through the mid-1930s—proto- types that reflected the creator’s philosophy of starting with a radical design, and then slowly, through painstaking evolution, affirming the engineering integrity underlying each component. The engine for what would later be known as the “Bug” is an example of this. Porsche’s original vision saw a 4-cylinder, horizontally opposed, air-cooled engine, mounted in the rear, powering the people’s car, an engine that was sturdy and simple to maintain. Still, Porsche designed, built and tested twenty different engines before returning to his original concept. The integrity of this process can be seen in the overwhelming popularity the Volkswagen achieved in the 1950s and 1960s, a popularity largely attributed to the car’s sturdiness. Sixty years later, “Bugs” are still being manufactured in Volkswagen’s Latin America facilities. And it was in the Volkswagen that the seed for the idea of today’s Porsche sports cars grew. Aerodynamic coupes of the cars, three of them, were built to compete in the Berlin-Rome rallies of the 1930s, and the visual similarities between these vehicles and today’s Porsches are so striking that some historians consider them prototypes. World War II and Beyond The year 1938 saw Porsche relocate his company to new facilities in Zuffenhausen, just outside of Stuttgart. As the war broke out, the company moved from designing tractors to engines for the feared “Tiger” tanks that filled the Panzer divisions. At war’s end, Porsche was finally freed of distractions from his central dreams. Work on the “people’s car” continued under a separate company, largely directed by British personnel; as for Porsche’s own company, his son, Ferry, and daughter, Louise Piech, were, by now, involved with his plans for a sports car based on the Volkswagen design.
The Porsche Type 32, shown here in a 1934 photo, was a prototype for a “people’s car” that would ultimately evolve into the beloved Volkswagen.
The Porsche Speedster, introduced in 1954, ignited America’s love affair with the marque. A 1956 edition in the rear is shown with a Speedster of 1990 vintage—an ele- gant illustration of how the company is constantly building on tradition.
The 356 benefited from constant refine- ments in engine, transmission, braking, and bodywork components being per- formed “on the fly” on the assembly line.
C h a p t e r O n e
T H E 3 5 6 , AND I T S E VO L U T I ON I NTO T H E 9 1 1 P erformance was always a paramount concern when Dr. Ferdinand Porsche took on an automobile design, and the first car to bear his name, the legendary Type 356, had it in spades. Production began in the spring of 1948 in Gmund, Austria, where the company had temporarily relocated towards the end of World War II. The Birth of the 356 The 356’s rounded aluminum bodywork itself was designed by Erwin Komenda, who would ultimately pen many of the company’s future works. It was a light, aerody- namic, shape; underneath, Porsche had created a rear-engine configuration off of an independently suspended floorpan. The car was very responsive and had excellent road manners, although it, and nearly every rear-engine Porsche since, demanded a degree of vigilance on the driver’s part when turning under acceleration, lest the rear location of the engine mass encourage lurid slides that Porschephiles have always considered part of the car’s considerable charm. The soundness of these performance characteristics was soon demonstrated. The company’s first motorsports victory came in 1948 in a race at Innsbruck, Austria— a first-in-class for the 1,500-cubic-centimeter car. The following year saw the car prominently displayed at the Geneva Salon, which generated orders for forty-six 356 coupes that were produced at Gmund. The com- pany soon returned to Zuffenhausen and started accepting outside contracts for design work, a practice that supported the company in its infancy and one that con- tinues to this day. By 1950, the 356 was setting class endurance records at 4,000 and 10,000 kilome- ters, reaffirming the car’s reputation for ruggedness. Variations in the design started to emerge, including steel-bodied coupes, and convertibles, built by the adjacent coach-building firm, Reutter. Dr. Porsche died the following year at seventy-six years of age, and his son, Ferry, took control of the company. The 356 competed for the first time at the 24 Hours of LeMans, taking victory in the 1,100-cubic-centimeter class, and also set a new world record in a seventy-two-hour endurance test, at an average speed of 94.6 miles per hour. This car was immediately rushed to the Paris Salon—dead flies, dirt, and all— and drew huge crowds to the Porsche exhibit.
America and Porsche: A Love Affair Another, more significant, event for the company happened in 1951: Max Hoffman, an American car dealer based on the East Coast, who helped create the American sports-car craze, first imported the Type 356. The American love affair with Porsches was launched. Hoffman’s first imports sported some significant design alterations, including a two-spoke steering wheel that would become a company trademark. In its center was the company’s new crest, which Ferry Porsche had originally sketched on a cocktail napkin; the crest carries a symbol of the family’s love for Stuttgart. Meanwhile, the company’s design-consultancy work helped Porsche land a half-million-dollar contract with Studebaker, the American car concern. With the proceeds, the company began construction on a modern factory at Zuffenhausen. Porsche 356 SL 1.1s took first in class at LeMans and the Mille Miglia in 1952, while a specially modified private car, the Glockler-Porsche, won the German sports-car championship. Inspired, the factory created a new race car for the
This Porsche 356 SL 1.1 is shown as it might have competed in SCCA E-production class events.
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