While I was driving from Dusseldorf back to Munich recently, I detoured to Stuttgart so that I could spend a couple of hours at the Porsche Museum. The headquarters of Porsche is in Zuffenhausen, Germany near Stuttgart. A striking museum building is set amongst the factory and office buildings. The museum exhibits prime examples of the fine automobiles Porsche has built over the last 70 years.
The company got its start in the 1930s. At first it was a design company and didn’t build its own cars. The German government hired Porsche to design an inexpensive car for the people. This became known as the Volkswagen Beetle, one of the most successful car designs of all time.
After the war, Porsche designed prototypes of a car it called the 356. The 356 was a rear-wheel-drive, two door sports car. Because the 356 proved to be very popular with American aviators, a special version of the 356 called the American Roadster was sold in the U.S. starting in 1953. Early designs were air-cooled, rear engine configurations.
Approximately 76,000 356s were manufactured from 1948 to 1965, with only about half of them still surviving. They are highly prized by collectors today.
Porsche next developed a coupe design called the 356 1500 Coupé which came out in 1954. The iconic and instantly recognizable shape of the 1500 Coupé would be carried forward to many future cars.
There were three evolutionary stages of the 356, denoted A, B, and C. In 1963, the 356 C Cabriolet was introduced. It was an instant classic.
In the same year, the first 911 was produced. The 911’s profile resembled the 1500’s shape and had a six cylinder “boxer” engine which produced 128 HP. While I was at the museum, there was a large exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 911. Customers were being admitted to the museum at a reduced rate for anyone who was born in 1963 or owned a 911. I missed on both qualifications.
The 911 evolved over the years but stayed true to its original sports car heritage. More power and more features were added as technology improved.
This year Porsche came out with a 50th Anniversary 911. It produces 560 HP, goes from 0 to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds, and hits a top speed of 197 mph, all for only $181,000 (layaway plan to pay for speeding tickets not included).