Porsche turns 70 this year. Join us for an exclusive out-of-hours tour of LA’s Petersen Museum’s celebration
Porsche is embedded in the California landscape. Steve McQueen? Porsche man. James Dean? Say no more. And last summer, at the Pebble Beach Concours, the Petersen Automotive Museum’s chairman Peter Mullin announced an exhibition of 50 cars from the company’s history, marking its seven decades of engineering innovations.
Now it’s open. ‘The Porsche Effect captures the spirit of Porsche, showcasing its contributions to automotive engineering and the motor sports world,’ Mullin tells Octane. ‘It was over a year in the making.’
As well as cars, you can see historical documents and artefacts, illustrating the evolution of the marque from its engineering‐house beginnings via countless racing triumphs. Highlights on show include the 1938 Berlin-Rome Type 64 race car, a 906 racer, today’s 919 endurance racer, the Petersen Collection’s own 901 and Continental, a rare 964 X83 Turbo S Flachbau, a rally-spec Type 953 911, the world-beating Gulf-Porsche 917K, and the legendary Porsche 935 K3 Le Mans-winner belonging to Petersen vice-chairman Bruce Meyer. On exclusive loan from The Porsche Museum in Stuttgart is the 928 H50 study, a rare four-door prototype version of the 928.
You can see some of these and other Octane
favourites here. If you have the chance to visit in person, The Porsche Effect exhibition runs until 27 January 2019. For details, visit www.petersen.org.
1955 Continental Cabriolet
Pictured in the foreground, the Continental was conceived by New York importer Max Hoffman, who believed that the American market would embrace a car with an evocative name better than a number designation – but legal proceedings by Ford forced Porsche to re-badge it, as Ford had already trademarked ‘Continental’. Therefore few Continentals were produced – there were 228 Cabriolets – and the name was briefly changed to ‘European’, then back to 356. In the backgound is a 911 Sportomatic Targa.
1939 Type 64 60K10
On loan from Automuseum Prototyp in Hamburg, Germany, the Type 64 60K10 (body design 10 for the Type 60 VW Beetle) is the progenitor of all Porsches and the foundation of the Porsche aesthetic. It was built to compete in the 1939 Berlin-Rome endurance race, which was cancelled when war broke out. Three identical cars were built, each on a Volkswagen platform with a streamlined aluminium body designed by Erwin Komenda (see Gone but not Forgotten) and crafted by Reutter. This car was reconstructed using major components from the second Type 64, which had been dismantled after World War Two.
1973 917/30 Can-Am Spyder
Driven by Mark Donohue, the 1500bhp, turbocharged flat-12-powered 917-30 not only claimed the Can-Am championship but achieved a closed-course speed record of 221.120mph at Talladega. Winning all but one race in the series, the car was nicknamed ‘The Can-Am Killer’. Six were built, only three raced – 1974 rule changes saw to that.
1955 550/1500 RS Spyder
The mid-engine 550 Spyder was the first production Porsche specially developed for racing. Wind-tunnel testing honed the Spyder’s aluminium body, which with a tubular chassis reduced weight, and the 110bhp four-cam flat-four provided race-winning performance. This particular 550 Spyder finished second in its SCCA class for the 1956 season.
1966 906 Carrera 6
This car, chassis 134, won the 1966 Grand Prix de Paris. The 906 was the second in a series of lightweight racers developed by Ferdinand Porsche’s grandson, Ferdinand Piëch, and featuring such drag-reducing elements as the rounded windscreen, Kamm tail and covered headlights. Its tubular spaceframe replaced the steel chassis of the 904, supporting a lightweight glassfibre body. One of the original Ben Pon Racing Team Holland cars, chassis 134 was raced by Gijs van Lennep, later a Porsche factory driver and Le Mans winner.
1951 356 Le Mans
Not on show, but part of an exclusive sneak viewing in the basement, is this car, in which French drivers Auguste Veuillet and Edmond Mouche claimed victory in the 1100cc class at Le Mans in 1951, and finished an impressive 20th overall. It was the marque’s first foray onto the international motor sport stage, and the car wore a Gmünd-built aluminium body, fitted with covered wheelarches to make the most of its 45bhp. After the race, and fitted with a detuned engine, the car was exported to America by Max Hoffman and sold to Californian racer John von Neumann, who removed the roof to keep the car competitive. It has recently been restored to its Le Mans specification.
This car, chassis 015, won the 1970 Daytona 24 Hours. The 917 was developed from scratch to exploit new FIA regulations that allowed larger engines, built using advanced lightweight materials, and powered by an air-cooled flat-12 that generated nearly 600 horsepower. Aerodynamic lift at high speed caused potentially lethal handling problems in early cars, cured by new tail designs to improve stability. In 1970, a 917K delivered Porsche its first of 19 wins at Le Mans.
1967 Porsche 910
Originally built as a factory racer for the 1967 Targa Florio, this 910 won its class and finished ninth overall at Le Mans in 1969, driven by then-owner Christian Poirot. At the 1967 Nürburgring 1000km race, Porsche 910s famously finished 1-2-3-4, giving Porsche its third outright win at a major World Sportscar Championship event. Although derived from the dual-purpose 906, the 910 was a true prototype racer and the first of many to be built by Porsche.
1987 928 H50 Study
You’re looking at a precursor to today’s Panamera. Porsche’s first front-engined ‘family car’ was a one-off 928-based concept dubbed the 942. It had full seating for four but only two doors and was presented to Ferry Porsche by his staff for his 75th birthday in 1984. Three years later, Porsche expanded on the idea with this H50 Study, with four doors. It remained a one-off.
1951 Sauter Porsche 356 Roadster
Industrialist Heinrich Sauter and fabricator Hans Klenk worked with Porsche to build a more competitive 356 racer with a re-contoured body and a 1.5-litre engine to replace the stock 1.3. Thus modified, the Porsche won six of its seven races in 1952. Reverse-hinged doors gave the car a split-second advantage in Le Mans-style starts.
1985 959 Paris-Dakar
A modified 911 4x4 scored a victory in the 1984 Paris-Dakar Rally, Porsche’s first desert race. At the time, Porsche was developing a racer for the new Group B class (see page 76), and used its experience with the 911 4x4 to engineer the resulting 1985 959 rally car. The technically advanced 959 featured electronically controlled four-wheel drive and an innovative sequential turbocharging system – 959s finished first, second and sixth in the 1986 Paris-Dakar.
1968 911S Targa Sportomatic
The Targa’s body offered open-air motoring without sacrificing structural rigidity, and retained the 911’s characteristic silhouette. This car’s Sportomatic transmission – rare in a Targa – features an automated clutch, a feature Porsche expected to resonate with American buyers.
1949 356-2 ‘Gmünd’ Coupé
and 1979 911 Turbo Carrera Porsche design facilities had moved to Gmünd, Austria, in 1944. There, Ferry Porsche, engineer Karl Rabe, and body designer Erwin Komenda conceived the Type 356 using VW components. The prototype 356-1 roadster drew styling influence from the Type 64; the production 356-2 coupés and cabriolets followed, this example being the 50th and possibly the last Porsche built in Austria. Behind it is another icon: the 911 Turbo, a car that marked the rear-engined Porsche’s transition from sports car to supercar.
Words: Glen Waddington // Photography: Evan Klein