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Porsche History and Notable Porsche Models

by Frank
porsche history and models

Nearly a century after its creator started designing cars, Porsche is still going strong and that is the end result of being the premier cure for a mid-life crisis like Harley-Davidson. Some of Porsche’s current model lineup includes the 718 Cayman, the 911 Carrera 4, the Taycan Turbo S, and the Panamera GTS. And when these vehicles are too expensive, Porsche also offers accessories like watches, luggage, and clothing bearing the Porsche name.

Through the years, Porsche transformed itself from serious money-loser into one of the most profitable car companies in the world, all this while other auto manufacturers toil over money incentives, market share, and strategies for the Chinese market. Porsche has always rolled out fresh products and despite the costs and risks is has quadrupled its annual unit sales in just under a decade. The latest introduction is the 2020 Taycan. And up to now, the key to their success appears to be the long product life cycles and the company plans to maintain this approach.

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Porsche: The Beginning

ferdinand porsche

It’s hard to say precisely which is the start of the Porsche narrative. It could be in 1950 when the famous Max Hoffman imported Porsche 356 into the USA. Or in 1948 when the first automobile to bear the title Porsche was built. But so as to understand Porsche’s heritage and its own doctrine we will need to return to 1875, when, in September, in the house of a tinsmith in the Bohemian village of Maffersdorf, a son was born. His name was Ferdinand Porsche.

Since his adolescence, Ferdinand Porsche revealed glimpses of technical genius: at age 18, he wired the family house for power in 1893. Still, he did not show any signs of a disciplined engineer which will eventually become his signature. Even if the “Doctor” is usually appended to his name, it’s in essence honorary, because his only formal technical training was as a part-time technology student in Vienna.

By age 25, the young Ferdinand Porsche had entered the area of automotive design. His first vehicle design was accepted by Lohner & Co. of Vienna. Over the next 20 years, Ferdinand Porsche, the temperamental but brilliant engineer succeeded in associating with every major car manufacturer in Germany. At exactly the same time, he made a dozen of the most technically important cars in history.

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Mercedes-Benz

1928 mercedes benz ssk

Working for Mercedes-Benz, Ferdinand Porsche helped create the most revered Mercedes-Benz automobiles of all time: the SSK series. For NSU, he designed the Auto Union Wanderer and the NSU Type 32, a precursor of the Volkswagen Beetle.

After being dismissed from Mercedes for disagreeing with the company’s staid engineering policies, Porsche decided to establish what afterward became Porsche A.G.: his own engineering consulting business. In a small office in Stuttgart, the senior Dr. Porsche assembled a select group of engineers to operate beneath the dramatic name, Doctor of Engineering Ferdinand Porsche, Inc., Construction Facility for Land, Air, and Sea Transportation. One of his workers was his young son, Ferry Porsche. His chief interest was one that any young man might select: sports and racing cars.

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Early Porsche A.G.

The senior Dr. Porsche and his staff had been kept extremely busy. The consulting company developed for Steyr, the Austria luxury sedan, but it didn’t progress past the prototype stage. They worked a lot for Auto Union, now Audi: the firm developed the world’s first front-drive car. They amazed Auto Union with the mid-engine Grand Prix cars and their supercharged V-12 and V-16 engines that, together with Mercedes-Benz racers, dominated European automobile racing for almost a decade.

Following that, the company created its best selling designs for NSU and Zundapp. The set of prototypes was characterized by Dr. Porsche’s patented torsion-bar suspension and a rear-mounted engine. Since neither firm moved rapidly enough to manufacture the designs, Porsche sold the concept to the German authorities. Then he oversaw the construction of a plant on Wolfsburg to fabricate the layout. His drawings called the car the Type 60. The world came to know it as the Volkswagen Beetle.

Following the Second World War, the Porsche Company began to create vehicles. Now, almost a century later, Porsche became the marque and the family that created outstanding, often unique and surely lasting contributions to automotive design and engineering.

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Notable Porsche Models

porsche models

What is possibly among the best automakers in the world today, Porsche the German car giant has gone from being a small-time sports car maker that appealed to the enthusiast into an automobile powerhouse making automobiles for a broad cross-section of consumers.

Porsche’s utter dominance of motorsport has been well documented. Not only are they a very successful LeMans team, but Porsche has also won races in virtually every kind of track-based – and even sometimes some off-road motorsport. So this is what I believe are the best Porsche automobiles ever made. Have another list or think I missed from some iconic Porsches? Leave a comment below tell me what you think!

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Porsche 64

porsche 64

Many believe the Porsche 64 (also known as the VW Aerocoupe, Type 64 and Sort 64K10) as being the very first automobile by Porsche. It was constructed mainly from components from the Model 64 VW Beetle. Its flat-four engine generated 50 bhp and gave a top speed of 160 km/h.

Porsche designed the entire body following wind tunnel tests made for the Type 114, a V10 sports car that was never produced. Dr. Porsche wanted to enter the car in the 1939 Berlin-Rome race. The bodywork company Reutter constructed three cars in shaped aluminum. Out of the three, one was crashed in early World War II by a Volkswagen bureaucrat. The two remaining were utilized by the Porsche family. Later on, they put them in storage and used just one.

In May 1945 American troops discovered the one put in storage, cut the roof off and used it for joyriding for a couple of weeks until the motor gave up and it was scrapped. Pinin Farina restored the remaining Porsche 64 in 1947, as it was owned and driven by Ferry Porsche. In 1949, the Austrian racer Otto Matte bought it and won the Alpine Rally in 1950 in it.

Porsche 356

porsche 356 convertible

The Porsche 356 is the first Porsche production automobile and it was sold from 1948 through 1965. Although many believe the Porsche 64 as being the very first automobile created by the German company, the 64 was never mass-produced and it was only a drivable test-mule. The 356 was made by Ferdinand Porsche and his son, Ferry Porsche, designed by Erwin Komenda and its engine features derived from the Volkswagen Beetle, designed by Mr. Porsche Senior.

The models available were initially coupe, cabriolet (luxury convertible) and then roadster (a stripped-down convertible). Before being withdrawn in 1965, it went through several changes. The most desirable versions were 356 “Carrera”, “Super 90” and “Speedster”. In the late ’50s, the initial selling price for a Porsche 356 was $4,000.

In 1954, Max Hoffman, the only importer of Porsches into America needed a lower price, racier version for the American market. Therefore, Porsche created the 356 “Speedster” that became an instant hit thanks to the low, raked windshield (easily removable for weekend racing), bucket seats, and a minimum folding top. These days, this car is still quite appreciated as it’s sold for more than $100,000 and it’s been used in a number of films, including 48 Hours, its sequel — Another 48 Hours and Top Gun. In 1957, the Speedster production peaked at 1,171 cars. In 1959 it was replaced with the Convertible D model, which featured a taller, more practical windshield, glass side windows, and more comfortable seats.

Porsche 550 Spyder

porsche 550

In 1953, Porsche needed a race car stronger than the 356. They created the 550. This was the first true competition car from Porsche. It was lightweight, it had two bucket seats, an aluminum body, a tubular frame, and an open-top. The initial pair of 550s dominated their class at Le Mans finishing one-two from the 1500cc division. Then, one of those two cars won its category in the famed Pan Americana Mexican road race.

Later Porsche 550’s carried on what the first 550s had started. They were fitted with the four-cam Carrera flat four-cylinder engine. They soon became dominant cars worldwide. During races, the 550 was fast and easily maneuvered so no other automobile stood a chance. The public loved it buying every one of these quick little cars they could find.

In 1956, Porsche began to create the 550A, a slightly modified Spyder. It was a hit, shocking the whole world by winning the Targa Florio, a brutal road race. Additionally, it humbled well-known and stronger rivals like Ferrari, Maserati, and Jaguar. In the following five years it won nearly all of the races in which it competed. It turned into a car that brought more attention because of its occasional losses compared to its nearly nonstop victories.

Porsche 914

porsche 914

Introduced in September 1969, the Porsche 914 was a sporty, mid-engined two-seater with a Targa top and a 4 cylinder boxer engine. The concept of this new model came up as Volkswagen and Porsche collaborated to create a new car. VW would take 914 bodies and finish them as 914/4s, and Porsche would take their portion of the body cubes, and build 914/6s. When marketed in North America, however, all 914s would be considered Porsches.

The Porsche 914 is not like other Porsches. It has pop-up headlamps, a vertical rear windshield, and a horizontal deck lid covering the rear engine and trunk. It has no backseats so when you sit down, you are practically on the pavement.

The inside of the 914 is rather straightforward, not luxurious but with necessities. There is not too much space other than the passenger seat. The transmission is like the 928’s with 1st down and to the left side. The 914 has a Targa top, also like 911’s, it stores in the trunk. But if you remove the top and roll down the windows, the Porsche 914 is a fairly nice small roadster.

Porsche 911 Turbo

porsche 911 turbo

Back in 1975 Porsche created the very first Porsche 911 Turbo. The engineers designed this modern engine and Chairman Ernst Fuhrman determined they could use a turbocharger in the production automobile. The initial prototype was exhibited at several European venues in 1973. In 1974,  the “911 Turbo” went on the market and it had a 3.0 liter 260 bhp engine.

The new 911 Turbo was filled with luxury. The Turbo had air-conditioning, electric windows, tinted glass, headlamp washers, leather seats, and Bilstein shocks. Originally, it was supposed to be a limited edition, with just 500 versions to be sold. The demand was so large that over 1000 cars were sold. It was clear that Turbo would have a secure future.

What attracted so many buyers was its huge rear wing, widened wheel arches, and big tires. This fantastic look along with the powerful engine made the Turbo look faster than any other 911.

Porsche 928

porsche 928

The Porsche 928 is a luxury grand tourer created by Porsche AG of Germany from 1978 to 1995. Originally intended to replace the company’s legendary 911, the 928 combined the capability, poise, and handling of a sports automobile together with the refinement, relaxation, and equipment of a luxury sedan. Porsche executives thought such a flagship could have broader appeal than the compact, quirky and sometimes tricky to drive 911. The 928 has the distinction of being the company’s first front-mounted V8 engine.

When designing the 928, which went into series production as of the model year 1978, the attention was on a lightweight structure. The doors, front wings and bonnet were consequently made from aluminum instead of sheet steel. Behind the plastic bumpers incorporated from the body contour, there were also aluminum profiles that could withstand an accident at up to 8 km/h (5 mph) with no harm.

The 928 had round, electrically operated pop-up headlights that were integrated into the front bumpers. The rounded fastback was dominated by the huge window of the rear lid. The 928 models were powered with a water-cooled V8 motor using a 90° arrangement. The displacement of the power unit was increased from an initial 4.5 liters to 5.4 liters.

Porsche 968

porsche 968

The Porsche 968 is essentially the successor of the Porsche 944. The 968 has a very low nose and wide wheel arches which helps to accentuate the gorgeous lines of the traditional silhouette that is a real head-turner. It’s also the timeless GT front-engine, rear-wheel-drive design with the extra benefit of a rear transaxle giving virtually ideal 50/50 weight distribution.

The motor is a variant of this first used on the 944 S2: it’s a 4 cylinder, 3 liters of displacement and 16 valves. The setup in the 968 included VarioCam for optimal performance throughout the speed range. The engine made 240 HP at 6200 rpm and a torque of 305 Nm at 4100 RPM. For its time, it was a striking motor, obtaining the maximum displacement per cylinder of almost any engine as well as the maximum torque output of any naturally aspirated 3-liter engine. Certainly, Porsches’ investment with this engine paid off.

The rear-mounted gearbox is a 6-speed manual or 4-speed Tiptronic. It’s the very first ever mounted onto a production automobile. The chassis has nearly perfect weight distribution and very rigid features.

Porsche Carrera GT

porsche carrera gt
Unofficially, the Porsche Carrera GT is a racecar, a racecar built for the street. What makes it a racecar is not always the huge power generated by its V10 engine or the carbon fiber construction that keeps all very lightweight — although those features certainly make it a fast car. It’s more the sum of its parts that make this car value every bit of its $440,000 price tag.

The Carrera GT has unique attributes, among which are a 5.7 liter, 605 horsepower V10 engine, monocoque chassis with Porsche-patented engine and transmission mounts made of carbon-reinforced plastic and also the first use of a ceramic composite clutch in a production car. A crucial aspect is the Carrera GT is secure and stable at speeds up to 205 mph, thanks to the aerodynamic and race-bred suspension package.

The design of the suspension is so complicated that the architecture of its components enhances the Carrera GT’s aerodynamics. The designers used lightweight materials such as magnesium for the wheels and tires as well as the frames of its distinctive sport seats, the consequence being a faster and safer car. The Carrera GT accelerates from a standing start to 62 mph (100km/h) in only 3.9 seconds reaches 100 mph (160 km/h) in under seven seconds, 125 mph (200 km/h) in less than 10 seconds, and can achieve a track speed of 205 mph (330 km/h).

Porsche Cayenne

porsche cayenne

20 years ago, the idea of a Porsche SUV would have seemed absurd. And the reason isn’t that Porsche lacks expertise with off-road automobiles since their engineering has developed AWD army vehicles. It is more that, compared to General Motors, Toyota or Daimler-Chrysler, the automotive giants, Porsche represents a very small fraction of their production volume. For decades, the business has generated quick, nimble, small sports cars, or in other words, the contrary of  SUV’s. When Porsche made a decision to invest in an SUV and a factory to build it, it became clear the times, as well as our taste, have shifted.

And today, after producing the most anticipated Porsche in decades, the organization is proud that its SUV is what many expected it would be: technically slick and remarkably fast, with on-road handling that belies its bulk. Additionally, the Cayenne provides what most SUV buyers demand, including decent cargo space, more than enough capability for casual off-road usage, and impressive towing capacity.

When it comes to pricing, Cayenne is a true Porsche. A very expensive Porsche. With tax and license, a loaded Cayenne Turbo can crack the $150,000 barrier, and that alone will knock it off most shopping lists. But for the connoisseurs, the Porsche Cayenne will be truly appreciated for its performance and driving satisfaction.

Porsche Panamera

porsche panamera

In 2010 the company came out with a four-door, four-seat coupe, known as Porsche Panamera. The vehicle, powered by a modified version of the 4.5L V8 found at the Cayenne, equipped with a front-engine and rear-wheel-drive setup.

The Porsche Panamera is built in the new plant at Leipzig along with the Cayenne. It’s the first V8-engined sports car built by Porsche since 1995 when the 928 was discontinued and some consider it a suitable successor to the two-doored 928.

Like Porsche Carrera’s name, the Panamera’s derives its name from the Carrera Panamerican race. Before the Panamera, there were additional four-door sedans prototypes, like the 1991 Porsche 989 prototype or the even earlier 4 door model in line with the 911, but they never went to production.

Final Thoughts

Coming from humble beginnings, Porsche history dates back to 1948, where founder Ferdinand Porsche established the Porsche brand with only 200 workers. The very first Porsche version was created later that year, called the Porsche 356, and 52 automobiles were subsequently generated in 1949 in a small garage. A couple of years later, in 1952, the automaker introduced its most popular model yet, the 550 Spyder, and the brand only continued to grow from there, with the 10,000th Porsche vehicle hitting the streets by its 25th anniversary.

Today, when enthusiast drivers consider the Porsche brand, they think of luxury and high performing vehicles — and rightly so. Porsche now produces many distinct versions that deliver strong engine performance and extend a variety of special comfort and convenience features that differentiate the Porsche brand.

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