It is exactly 70 years ago this year that the very first Porsche, which was based on the on the Volkswagen Beetle 356, delivered its very first meters in the Austrian city Gmünd. How did Porsche succeed in becoming one of the few post-war brands to become one of the most reputed car manufacturers in the world? OPENLANE went browsing in the richly filled Porsche archives, and hit 7 major milestones.
The Start: 356
Legend has it that Ferry Porsche did not find any car shortly after the Second World War that could meet his high expectations … and so only started to build one himself. The result followed in 1948 with the 356 named after him, a sports car leaning on Volkswagen foundations with air-cooled 1.1 liter boxer engine. Soon after the start of the series production (in 1950, ed.), the car with a weight of only 585 kilograms made name and fame with its unprecedented handling capacity for that time. The 356 would remain in production until 1965, with a total of 79,000 copies being built.
The Breakthrough: 911
In 1963 already, Porsche proposes a successor to the 356: the 901, equipped with a 2-liter six-cylinder of – hold on – 130 hp. After a complaint from Peugeot that had registered all name types with a 0 in the middle, the car is renamed to 911, a figure that is now once and for all connected to the most complete sports car that the world has ever produced. With the 911, Porsche illustrates how strong the basic concept behind its sports cars is: for more than 50 years and 1 million copies later, the über-Porsche is in almost unchanged form. This is also the reason why it has become throughout the years the ultimate Porsche icon worldwide. With all its consequences for the prices on the second-hand market. Feel free to check the current offer of Porsche 911 on OPENLANE.
The Glory Years
The introduction of the 911 is the start of a golden era for Porsche, which sets itself as the benchmark for sportsmanship and technological craftsmanship. The Germans showcase their mastery in almost every conceivable racial discipline, with resounding victories in endurance races such as Le Mans, the Targa Florio and the 24 Hours of Daytona. In 1984, Porsche can even add Paris-Dakar to its palmares with a converted 911 Carrera 4×4. Two years later they would do the same trick again, this time with a sand-eating 959.
The Transaxle period
In the 1970s, Porsche wanted to generate growth through industrial scale expansion, in line with the current Volkswagen policy. There is a collaboration with Volkswagen for the production of the 914 – commonly known as the Volkswagen Porsche – but the large volumes remain. Meanwhile, the oil crisis is severely affecting the European car industry, the cooperation between Volkswagen and Porsche for the planned successor – the 924 – is in doubt. Porsche, however, refuses to give up the project and starts in 1976 the production of the 924. The model exchanges the mid-engine of the 914 for a transaxle set-up (with front engine and rear transmission), and thus heralds the start of a successful transaxle generation that is completed with the 928, 944 and 968.
At the end of the 1980s, after the 924 was renounced, Porsche must suddenly deal with a limited and fragmented range. The production costs increase, but the volumes remain unused. In addition, Porsche is hit hard by the 1987 stock market crisis, where the sale of the 911 is completely collapsing … and a bankruptcy threatens. When CEO Peter Schutz leaves in 1987, Porsche is on the verge of financial collapse. Financial director Heinz Branitzky takes over. There is even being considered to sacrifice the 911. Fortunately, this is not the case, after the thorough restructuring under the leadership of Wendelin Wiedeking, the brand is just getting back on time.
It is also the same Wiedeking that, with the support of the Porsche family, is pushing to add an SUV to the portfolio. Nearly the whole world screams murder and fire when the Cayenne is introduced to the world in 2002, and it gets even worse when it turns out that a diesel engine is being used. To this day, the Cayenne remains a thorn in the eyes of many purists, yet no one can deny that the SUV has been of vital importance to the survival of the brand. Without the Cayenne, the Panamera and the fiercely contested hybrid variants of both models, the 911 might have been a thing of the past today …
Like all car manufacturers, Porsche is today on the eve of an unprecedented transformation. With the support of the Volkswagen Group, itself a major pioneer in electromobility, Porsche is finalizing the Taycan – better known under the project name “Mission E” – an electric saloon scheduled for 2019 that, according to Porsche, embodies the future of the sports car. The four-seater has 600 hp under the hood and promises a radius of action of more than 500 km, a sprint from 0 to 100 km / h in 3.5 seconds and a charging time of just 15 minutes to recharge the batteries up to 80%. For the time being, the Porsche 911 continues to swear by his delicious sounding “flat six”. The only question remains: for how long?