Porsche is first and foremost synonym of a rich history, filled with success, as much in terms of competitions on the racetrack as it is on the open roads. This history is extremely inspiring; it tells the tale of a brand that has done everything needed to remain loyal to its roots while being driven by innovation, even before becoming a full-fledged manufacturer.
Porsche has always brought its new innovations to the world of motorsports, as a way to test them out and make them reliable; once this was accomplished, they could then be transferred onto the road-legal models. From the very beginning, the Zuffenhausen manufacturer has been offering extremely capable vehicles on all fronts, while also providing drivers with an extraordinary driving experience and rock-solid reliability. Now celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary, rediscover the manufacturer’s incredibly rich history with Porsche Rive-Sud!
75 years as a manufacturer, but Porsche roots date back even further
Porsche became a full-fledged manufacturer in 1948, which means that this year marks its seventy-fifth anniversary. However, when we take a closer look into who most influenced the brand and allowed it to truly flourish, it is clear to see that the German manufacturer’s history dates back much further.
Ferdinand Porsche, born on September 3rd 1875 in Maffersdorf (which was a North Bohemian town at the time, but is now Liberec, in Czech Republic), was a very curious child whose curiosity was only rivaled by his intelligence. An incredibly gifted child, very early on he became passionately invested in the great innovations of his times, which was the case for electricity and how it was applied. At 15 years of age, he even created an electric generator for his home. As a result, it became the very first house in his hometown to have electricity.
Electricity also played a very important role at the beginning of his career, since Ferdinand created the very first hybrid car in automotive history, the Lohner-Porsche, produced from 1900 to 1905. He later became the Chief Designer for Austro-Daimler, then the Technical Director for Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, where he created race cars with compressors, which quickly dominated in competitions.
In 1929, due to an internal conflict, he left his job at Daimler-Benz to create his own automotive design firm in 1931, after a quick pit stop at Steyr. This is why, according to true Porsche aficionados, Porsche was really founded in 1931 rather than in 1948. His son, Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche, nicknamed “Ferry” to avoid any confusion with his father, also joined the family business in 1931, after having worked at Bosch from 1928 until that time.
Ferry Porsche quickly became his father’s right hand and worked with him on major projects such as the Type 360. He also participated in the emblematic Volkswagen Beetle’s design, which served –a few years later- as the base for the very first Porsche ever, the 356. Born in 1948, the 356 was a result of Ferry’s undying passion for sports cars. Unable to find the car of his dreams, he decided to create it himself. This decision changed Porsche destiny forever, turning the brand into a full-fledged automotive manufacturer.
The 356, the car that made Porsche a full-fledged automobile manufacturer.
Simply said, this is how we can summarize the 356’s role: it was the very first vehicle to bear the Porsche name. It does, however, represent much more than that for the brand and for Ferry. In fact, this decision to design the very first car under the manufacturer’s name does not only stem from Ferry Porsche’s will.
It was also the result of one of Ferry’s observations. In fact, he decided to create the 356 after having seen Cisitalia – whom he knew quite well – produce a compact sports car equipped with a FIAT engine. Ferry then thought that he would be able to complete a similar project but with VW parts. This was easy for him, given that Porsche had already completed a similar project with the Porsche Type 64 that was supposed to enter the Berlin-Rome race in 1939. This competition never actually took place, even though three units had been produced. Among other things, they had aluminum bodies that were hand made by Reutter, better known today as Recaro.
Research and development for the Porsche 356 began in spring of 1947, a period during which Ferry laid down the bases for the new project. Just like for the Type 64, the body was first made from aluminum, while the body type was that of a roadster. Several parts obviously came from Volkswagen, like the flat-four engine, the transmission and the suspension. Equipped with this 35 horsepower engine in a center-mounted position and a very light weight of only 1,289 lbs (585 kg), the 356-001 could reach a maximum speed of 135 km/hr. The new Porsche sports car was officially certified for the road on June 8th 1948, which transformed Porsche forever, taking it from a design firm to a full-fledged manufacturer.
The very first copies of the new model came out of the Gmünd workshop, in Austria, during the second semester of the same year. The body, at the time, was also made from aluminum. However, contrary to the Porsche 356/1 Roadster, the engine was rear-mounted, in order to create space for cargo behind the first row of seats. Mass production began in 1950 in Zuffenhausen, a borough of the city of Stuttgart. Porsche took advantage of the change of venue to modify the body to a steel construction, which was both more affordable and easier to work with.
As time when by and the 356 evolved (with different evolution: pre-A, A, B and C series) Porsche perfected the car by making engines more powerful, improving the suspension and brakes, and perfecting the aesthetics. The model evolved and birthed several variations, such as cabriolets, coupes and even competition versions. One of the most popular variations of the 356 is the Speedster, which was introduced in 1954. Designed for the American market, it offered, among other things, bucket seats and simplified equipment so as to reduce its weight and general costs.
The 356 was produced until 1965 and totaled close to 76,000 copies built. Other than its commercial success, it allowed Porsche to build its stellar reputation in motorsports and competitions. The brand won several races, both in rally and endurance, thanks to the 356 and its variations. It was also the very first Porsche to win the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans race in the 1,100 cm3 category, in 1951.
During the 1960s, Ferry Porsche and his team worked on the 356 successor, the Porsche 911. First introduced in 1963, the 911 quickly became the brand’s emblematic model, thanks to its elegant silhouette and performance levels that were increasingly impressive. To this day, the 911 remains a sports car icon, also symbolizing Ferry Porsche’s heritage.
Ferry Porsche managed the brand up until 1972, when he became chairman of the Porsche AG Supervisory Board. Under his tutelage, the brand met with remarkable success, both in international markets and motorsports, with iconic models such as the 917 and the 959. Ferry Porsche passed away on March 27th 1998, leaving behind a rich and indelible heritage in the automotive industry.
Today, Porsche is a brand known for performance, design and innovations. The manufacturer keeps pushing boundaries by developing cutting edge technologies, while also entering prestigious competitions such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans or the Formula E championship. Porsche cars, no matter if they are sports cars, SUVs or electric, keep Ferry Porsche’s vision alive, aiming at offering their owners no less than an unparalleled experience at the wheel.
The Porsche 911, still in its peak after 60 years
Despite an impressive track record, the 356 began showing signs of age in the early 1960s. This is when Porsche began working hard to build its successor. It had to be faster, more comfortable and offer more interior space. The first sketches of what would become the most popular sports car ever, appeared as early as 1959, drawn by “Butzi’s” hand, a nickname given to Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, son of Ferry Porsche.
The 911 was officially presented as a preview, at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1963, under the name “901”.
Porsche, however, was forced to change names for “911” because of Peugeot, who claimed to have the rights to any model name, in France, composed of three numbers with a zero in the middle. Faced with having to make a quick decision, Porsche decided to simply replace the zero in the center with another “1”, easier and quicker to deal with than having to figure out an all-new number.
Despite this setback, the 911 met with instant success. From the time of the launch to 1967, 10,000 copies were sold. This success is due, in part, to the 2+2 seat design of the 911, which was extremely rare for a vehicle of its category, usually only offering two seats. Just like the 356, the 911 maintained the trunk at the front and the flat rear-mounted engine.
This configuration also allowed to reduce loss of traction during accelerations, one of the 911’s traditional features. The engine’s weight over the rear-wheel drive setup minimizes loss of traction by transmitting power more efficiently to the ground. This is why the 911 excels in races when traction conditions deteriorate, like under the rain or in rally (1st place at the Monte-Carlo Rally in 1968, 1969 and 1970).
Another decisive factor is the evolution of the flat-six engine, which went from 130 horsepower in its first version to 640 horsepower in the current 911 Turbo S. The innovations that are tested in competitions are often adapted to the mass-produced vehicles. Moreover, the 911 offers a version for every type of driver (ex. The GT3 for the track, 911 Dakar for dynamic off-road driving). So, it comes as no surprise that the 911 was produced to over one million units!
Many events to take place worldwide to celebrate Porsche’s 75th anniversary.
To celebrate 75 years of Porsche sports cars, several events have been organized around the globe. They will bring forth the brand’s avant-garde spirit and passion for motorsports. Indeed, Oliver Blume, Chief Executive Officer of Porsche AG and of the entire VW Group, is how it wanted the festivities to be.
Several celebrations have already begun in Germany, like with the "Driven by Dreams. 75 years of Porsche Sports Cars" exhibition, accessible since January 27th 2023 at the "DRIVE. Volkswagen Group Forum" in Berlin, and will be until September 10th 2023. Visitors will be able to discover Porsche’s rich history and share their own dreams, thanks to a digital module.
Porsche has also created a concept-car for its 75th anniversary, named the “Porsche Vision 357”, also presented in Berlin. This concept will be celebrating the 356 by answering the following question: “What would Ferry Porsche’s dream sports car look like today?” This magnificent sports car concept perfectly combines the past –with its compact size –, the present –being based on the current GT4 RS platform – and the future –thanks to design elements that give us a sneak peek into what Porsche stylistic DNA might look like in the future. This is exactly what Michael Mauer, Porsche Chief Designer, had in mind. We are glad to report that his vision is a success!
Celebrations for the 75th anniversary of Porsche will also take the shape of exhibitions in the biggest automobile museums throughout the world, like in the Petersen Automotive Museum (Los Angeles) and the Swiss Museum of Transport (Lucerne, Switzerland). A truck has also been specially designed for the occasion, and will visit no less than sixty destinations in America and Europe. Festivities will come to a close with the "Rennsport Reunion" event, which will take place in California from September 28th to October 1st 2023.
Would you like to find out more about Porsche Canada celebrations, both in the province and in the country? Come and visit us at Porsche Rive-Sud, your Porsche dealership in St-Hubert and Longueil, on the South Shore of Montreal! We will be happy to share with you all the things we know about these upcoming events, along with our passion for the German brand and its sports cars. We are looking forward to meeting you soon at our dealership!