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In the beginning, I looked around and could not find the car I’d been dreaming of: a small, lightweight sports car that uses energy efficiently. So I decided to build it myself.
This quote gets to the heart of everything that makes Porsche what it is. As a brand, as a company and as an automotive manufacturer. It has been our guiding star – for more than 65 years. And it covers all the values that characterise Porsche’s work and vehicles. It’s no wonder, therefore, that no-one can describe this better than the person who created the very first sports car to bear the Porsche name: Ferdinand Anton Ernst – or Ferry Porsche, for short.
His dream of the perfect sports car has always driven the company throughout their history.The underlying principle is to always get the most out of everything. From day one, Porsche have strived to translate performance into speed – and success – in the most intelligent way possible. It’s no longer all about horsepower, but more ideas per horsepower. This principle originates on the race track and is embodied in every single one of Porsche cars. They call it “Intelligent Performance”.
A Porsche is immediately recognisable. This is thanks to the distinctive design idiom and contours: the roofline, the wings which are higher than the bonnet, the powerful shoulders. Features that every Porsche model has picked up on and reinterpreted for its own era and character – for more than 60 years.
Every Porsche is a sports car. Whether it has two, four or five doors, whether it has a front, centre or rear-mounted engine, or whether it is powered by petrol, diesel or hybrid technology. Porsche builds sports cars because, fortunately, they’ve done nothing else since 1948. In addition to being responsible for countless victories on international racetracks, their motorsport technology also proves its worth in their production vehicles.
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“Race on Sunday, drive on Monday” was the motto of many Porsche 356 drivers in the 1950s. The 356 could be a winner on the race track at the weekend and then go back to being a reliable everyday car again. Even today, a Porsche is not an everyday Sports Car. It is a Sports Car for every day and every type of weather. Incidentally, the 356 models were so popular that for many dealers it was a case of ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ – on account of the numerous Porsche racing victories.
Austrian engineer Ferdinand Porsche founded the company called “Dr. Ing. h. c. F. Porsche GmbH” in Austria in 1931, then moved to its main offices at Kronenstraße 24 in the centre of Stuttgart. Initially, the company offered motor vehicle development work and consulting, but did not build any cars under its own name. One of the first assignments the new company received was from the German government to design a car for the people, that is a “Volkswagen”. This resulted in the Volkswagen Beetle, one of the most successful car designs of all time. The Porsche 64 was developed in 1939 using many components from the Beetle.
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During World War II, Volkswagen production turned to the military version of the Volkswagen Beetle, the Kübelwagen, 52,000 produced, and Schwimmwagen, 15,584 produced. Porsche produced several designs for heavy tanks during the war, losing out to Henschel & Son in both contracts that ultimately led to the Tiger I and the Tiger II. However, not all this work was wasted, as the chassis Porsche designed for the Tiger I was used as the base for the Elefant tank destroyer. Porsche also developed the Maus super-heavy tank in the closing stages of the war, producing two prototypes.
At the end of World War II in 1945, the Volkswagen factory at KdF-Stadt fell to the British. Ferdinand lost his position as Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen, and Ivan Hirst, a British Army Major, was put in charge of the factory (in Wolfsburg, the Volkswagen company magazine dubbed him “The British Major who saved Volkswagen”). On 15 December of that year, Ferdinand was arrested for war crimes, but not tried. During his 20-month imprisonment, Ferdinand Porsche’s son, Ferry Porsche, decided to build his own car, because he could not find an existing one that he wanted to buy. He also had to steer the company through some of its most difficult days until his father’s release in August 1947. The first models of what was to become the 356 were built in a small sawmill in Gmünd, Austria.
The prototype car was shown to German auto dealers, and when pre-orders reached a set threshold, production (with Aluminium body) was begun by Porsche Konstruktionen GesmbH founded by Ferry and Louise. Many regard the 356 as the first Porsche simply because it was the first model sold by the fledgling company along with Porsche 360. After the production of 356 was taken over by the father’s Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche GmbH in Stuttgart in 1950, Porsche commissioned a Zuffenhausen-based company, Reutter Karosserie, which had previously collaborated with the firm on Volkswagen Beetle prototypes, to produce the 356’s steel body. In 1952, Porsche constructed an assembly plant (Werk 2) across the street from Reutter Karosserie; the main road in front of Werk 1, the oldest Porsche building, is now known as Porschestrasse. The 356 was road certified in 1948.
In post-war Germany, parts were generally in short supply, so the 356 automobile used components from the Volkswagen Beetle, including the engine case from its internal combustion engine, transmission, and several parts used in thesuspension. The 356, however, had several evolutionary stages, A, B, and C, while in production, and most Volkswagen sourced parts were replaced by Porsche-made parts. Beginning in 1954 the 356s engines started utilizing engine cases designed specifically for the 356. The sleek bodywork was designed by Erwin Komenda who also had designed the body of the Beetle. Porsche’s signature designs have, from the beginning, featured air-cooled rear-engine configurations (like the Beetle), rare for other car manufacturers, but producing automobiles that are very well balanced.
In 1964, after a fair amount of success in motor-racing with various models including the 550 Spyder, and with the 356 needing a major re-design, the company launched the Porsche 911: another air-cooled, rear-engined sports car, this time with a six-cylinder “boxer” engine. The team to lay out the body shell design was led by Ferry Porsche’s eldest son, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche (F. A.).
The design office gave sequential numbers to every project (See Porsche type numbers), but the designated 901 nomenclature contravened Peugeot’s trademarks on all ‘x0x’ names, so it was adjusted to 911. Racing models adhered to the “correct” numbering sequence: 904, 906, 908. The 911 has become Porsche’s most well-known and iconic model – successful on the race-track, in rallies, and in terms of road car sales. Far more than any other model, the Porsche brand is defined by the 911. It remains in production; however, after several generations of revision, current-model 911s share only the basic mechanical configuration of a rear-engined, six-cylinder coupé, and basic styling cues with the original car. A cost-reduced model with the same body, but with 356-derived four-cylinder engine, was sold as the 912.
F. A. Porsche founded his own design company, Porsche Design, which is renowned for exclusive sunglasses, watches, furniture, and many other luxury articles.
Porsche’s company logo was based on the coat of arms of the Free People’s State of Württemberg of former Weimar Germany, which had Stuttgart as its capital (the same arms were used by Württemberg-Hohenzollern from 1945-1952, while Stuttgart during these years was the capital of adjacent Württemberg-Baden). The arms of Stuttgart was placed in the middle as an inescutcheon, since the cars were made in Stuttgart. The heraldic symbols were combined with the texts “Porsche” and “Stuttgart”, which shows that it is not a coat of arms since heraldic achievements never spell out the name of the armiger nor the armigers home town in the shield.
Württemberg-Baden and Württemberg-Hohenzollern became part of the present land of Baden-Württemberg in 1952 after the political consolidation of West Germany in 1949, and the old design of the arms of Württemberg now only lives on in the Porsche logo. On 30 January 1951, not long before the creation of Baden-Württemberg, Ferdinand Porsche died from complications following a stroke.
The Porsche Museum
Immediately next to the headquarters of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, you can today find one of the most spectacular car museums in the world. The Porsche Museum, where you can get inspired by over 80 vehicles on 5,600 square metre exhibition area.
The Viennese architects office Delugan Meissl Associated Architects were chosen from over 170 entries from all over Europe in the competition that was held to find a design for the museum. Actual construction began in October 2005. The opening of the Porsche Museum took place on Saturday 31 January 2009.
The building designed by Delugan Meissl is a bold statement. Supported on just three V-shaped columns, the museum’s dominant main structure seems to float above the ground like a monolith.
This bold and dynamic architecture reflects the company’s philosophy. It is designed to convey a sense of reception and approachability in order to welcome visitors in a friendly manner.
“The Porsche Museum creates a space that gives architectural expression to the company’s confident outlook and discerning standards, while also capturing Porsche’s dynamism. Knowledge, credibility and determination are as fundamental to the philosophy as courage, excitement, power and independence. Every idea is treated as an opportunity actively to tackle fresh challenges and probe the limits, yet still remain true to yourself. This museum endeavours to reflect all that,” declares architect Delugan Meissl in his dedication.
More than 80 vehicles and many small exhibits are on display at the Porsche Museum in a unique ambience. In addition to world-famous, iconic vehicles such as the 356, 550, 911, and 917, the exhibits include some of the outstanding technical achievements of Professor Ferdinand Porsche from the early 20th century. Even then, the name of Porsche stood for the commitment never to be satisfied with a technical solution that fails to fully meet or exceed all of its requirements, including opportunities for further improvement.
From the lobby, visitors ascend a spectacular ramp to the entrance of the spacious exhibition area, where they can gain an initial overview of the impressive collection.
Here the visitor can choose whether to start with the company history before 1948 or head directly into the main area of the exhibition which represents Porsche`s product and motorsport history in chronological order. Both areas are interlinked by the “Porsche Idea” section, which forms the backbone of the exhibition.
The Idea section explains what makes the various themes and exhibits so unique. It tells of the spirit and the passion that motivate the work at Porsche, and pays tribute to the company as well as the people behind the product.
As a living automobile museum, the Porsche Museum presents numerous special exhibitions on specific topics or meaningful anniversaries. As a result, exhibits are changed on a regular basis and visitors always find something new to discover.
The new interactive „Porsche Touchwall“ is waiting for the visitors at the end of the museum’s tour. The 12 meter long installation covers nine decades of exciting automobile history on the basis of 3.000 pictures, drawings and technical data allowing the visitor to explore almost all Porsche street- and race cars.