Porsche. History, Production Cars, Racing, Iconic Cars & More from “The” Sportscar Benchmark.

“I couldn’t find the sports car of my dreams, so I built it myself” – Ferdinand Porsche

The Porsche name has become synonymous with sports cars and race cars because that is what company founders Ferdinand Porsche and his son Ferdinand (“Ferry”) set out to build when they first set up shop with 200 workers in 1948.

While it is currently a thriving brand under the Volkswagen Automotive Group, standing alongside Lamborghini, Audi, and Bugatti this car company has a colorful history and iconic cars list that goes way deeper than most Cayenne, Macan and Panamera buyers will ever know.

Ferdinand Porsche’s first iconic vehicle was not under his own marque, but what we all know as “Volkswagen” or “The People’s Car”. The Volkswagen Beetle was his creation and was the stepping stone to a racing history with the 911 as a cornerstone. World War II changed things and the man was ousted out of the Volkswagen company, forcing him and his son to form their own car company, Porsche.

There first hit was the 356. Though sporting just 40 horsepower from a rear-mounted, slightly souped-up Beetle engine, the first Porsche quickly made its mark with agile handling, as well as attributes almost unknown among sportscars of the day — comfort and reliability.

Porsche introduced its own engines in the mid-1950s, along with more powerful versions of the 356. After the 356 came a true legend among modern automobiles, the Porsche 911. Ahead of its time when introduced in 1964, the rear-engine 911 has continued to evolve since then and is considered by most the ultimate sports car.

Porsche introduced a series of front-engine models in the 1970s, starting with the four-cylinder 924 (1976) and the unrelated 928 powered by the company’s first V-8 engine (1978). From the 924 sprang the more powerful and sophisticated 944 and 944 Turbo, and finally the 968 in the early ‘90s. Porsche retired both the 968 and 928 in 1995 to focus on development of the rear-engine 911 and mid-engine Boxster.

Porsche is also synonymous with racing, and Porsche cars began competing almost immediately. To date, Porsche cars have won an estimated 24,000 auto races around the world, including more than 50 class wins at Le Mans.

You can see why the way people talk about Porsche with reverence. No other car company has the same credentials. No other car company has so many hits. Porsche has built some of the most amazing cars ever.

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Porsche At A Glance

Founded: by Ferdinand Porsche in Germany in 1931
Corporate Ownership: VW Group
Headquarters: Stuttgart, Germany
Website: www.porsche.com
Social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube
Revenue: €21.533 billion (2015 annual report)
Number of Employees: 24,481

Porsche History

Don’t Forget to Read: Full Comprehensive (20k+ words) Porsche History 

The People’s Car

Ferdinand Porsche started his company as a consulting firm in 1931 but was assigned by the German government to design a car for the people. The company was to be called ‘Volkswagen’ or ‘The People’s Car’.

Given strict parameters such as keeping the car air-cooled so it’s easier to maintain, Ferdinand Porsche designed and concocted the Volkswagen Type 1, or what we know as the original ‘Beetle’.

Making Things Work

World War II then started, turning the Volkswagen factory to build military-spec versions of the Type 1, the Type 82 Kübelwagen and the amphibious Type 166 Schwimmwagen.

When World War II ended, Ferdinand Porsche was removed from the Volkswagen company and was arrested for war crimes. He was not tried and was released after 20 months of imprisonment to produce his first car under his own brand, the Porsche 356.

Since Germany was still recovering from the war, their Porsche parts were shared with the Volkswagen Beetle such as the engine case, transmission, and suspension. However, Porsche started manufacturing their own parts for the 356 as time went on and creating their own flavor of sports car dynamics. Their design philosophy has always been: “Put an engine in the back and make it work.” Make it work, they did.

The Evolution of a Sports Car Icon

In 1964, the 356 was in need of a refresh, so what they did was launch the 911: same engine layout, rear-mounted and air-cooled, but now with a flat-six cylinder engine. The 911 then took over the racing scene and the sports car scene as the ‘it’ car. There was still a small market for four-cylinder engines so they developed the 912, but the 911 was still the ticket to their success.

The 911 was a handful on the corners due to all the weight in the back, and physics is saying that this layout shouldn’t work. As Jeremy Clarkson, a famous car presenter once said, “It’s like looking at a horse and carriage and saying, ‘I know! Let’s put the horse in the back!’” Weight distribution is now compromised, with the weight behind the rear axles, shifting the center of gravity to the back. If you’re a novice, you could experience snap oversteer but to compensate, the rear wheels will get better traction so it’s all about race management and how daring you feel.

In 1975, they introduced a turbo version of the 911, creating the first ‘widowmaker’ sports car. It was known as that because the turbo lag is so great that if you’re not paying attention, the sudden power will send you and the 911 to the wall.

Everyone will have their stance on the 911 but we should all be fortunate that it still exists because there was a point in time where someone thought of Porsche without the 911 part of their future.

The (Failed) Changing of the Guards

Around the 1970’s, we were seeing a change for Porsche with their design philosophy: Front-mounted engines were now prevalent in the lineup. The 924 debuted, which featured a four-cylinder Volkswagen engine and was front-mounted.

1978 then brought the 928, which was a full-fledged 2+2 Grand Tourer, which featured a water-cooled, Porsche-developed V8 (their first V8 engine), and also front-mounted.

This was seen as a changing of the guard, and the 928 was intended to replace the aging 911. The design was a hit as it won the 1978 European Car of the Year and was seen as design-forward versus the competition. Here was the 928: a modern, water-cooled, pantheon of performance that appealed to the masses, going against the small, air-cooled, difficult 911 that was seen in some circles as a ‘squashed Beetle’.

Little did we know that this momentum would be halted, as 911 sales stayed strong and the rest is history. Here’s an excerpt from Peter Schultz, who was the Porsche CEO around this 928 vs. 911 battle,

“The decision to keep the 911 in the product line occurred one afternoon in the office of Dr. Helmuth Bott de:Helmuth Bott, the Porsche operating board member responsible for all engineering and development. I noticed a chart on the wall of Professor Bott’s office. It depicted the ongoing development schedules for the three primary Porsche product lines: 944, 928 and 911. Two of them stretched far into the future, but the 911 program stopped at the end of 1981. I remember rising from my chair, walking over to the chart, taking a black marker pen, and extending the 911 program bar clean off the chart. I am sure I heard a silent cheer from Professor Bott, and I knew I had done the right thing. The Porsche 911, the company icon, had been saved, and I believe the company was saved with it.”

A Modern Powerhouse

Nowadays, Porsche has a diverse lineup that would have been a pipe dream by Ferdinand Porsche. Beyond the 911, they offer a mid-engined coupe and convertible, the Cayman/Boxster/718, a four-door sports saloon, the Panamera, and two sports utility vehicles, the Cayenne and Macan.

Not only that, but they have gone head-to-head with the supercar brands and developed the Porsche 958, the most technologically advanced supercar of the 90s, and the 918, which fully embraces electric technology. The future looks great for the brand and with various vehicles covering many segments, it’s almost a guarantee that the 911 is here to stay for a very long time.

Continue Reading the Complete History Of Porsche…

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Porsche Production Model List

Porsche Models

In this section we focus on the production cars that made Porsche a household name.

First up is the Porsche 356 which was the first production model by the formal Porsche company. Lightweight and with awesome handling, this diminutive sports car was a hit. With an engine in the back and rear-wheel drive it was sporty and fun. Over the years four generations were built and the 356 had roadster, convertible, cabriolet, and split-roof variants.

No other model is more famous worldwide than the Porsche 911. Its rear engine, flat six boxer engine formula has been consistent since it was first built. With decades of continuous development it is the best sportscar in history. Air-cooled engines were core to 911 value proposition until the 996 in 1998 when the engines switched to being water cooled. The Porsche 911 has continued to drive innovation and stay on the cutting edge and hasn’t been afraid to embrace changes once thought sacred.

Porsche isn’t just about 911s either. Models like the 928, 944 on so on dotted its history.

More recently Porsche has grown its model range a lot. First was the Porsche Boxster which was soon followed by the Cayman which is basically the same car with a roof. Add the SUVs, the first of which was the Cayenne and now the Macan as well as the Panamera four door offering and Porsche is no longer just a sportscar maker.

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Detailed Porsche Model List

Porsche 911 Generations

Five decades of evolution: During all seven model generations, the 911 was always modern but never fashionable. As the successor to the Porsche 356, the 911 won the hearts of sports car enthusiasts from the outset. The diminutive rear engined flat six sports car started strong. Ten years after its launch, Porsche gave the 911 a big update with the G Series which ended up being produced from 1973 to 1989. Next up was the 964 in 1989 and this was an totally new platform with an air-cooled 3.6 litre flat six engine with over 250 hp and a modern design that is still coveted by collectors everywhere.

Perhaps the most popular and most-loved 911 is the 993 that was launched in 1993. Peopled loved the design and the 993 quickly gained a reputation for exceptional dependability and reliability. The defining 993 model was the epic Turbo with its twin turbo engine and all-wheel drive drivetrain. The 993 was also the end of the era as it was the last air-cooled 911.

The 996, which rolled off the assembly line from 1997 to 2005, represented a major turning point in the history of the 911. It retained all the character of its classic heritage, but was an entirely new car. This comprehensively redesigned generation was the first to be driven by a water-cooled flat engine. People hated the fried egg looking lights but loved the dynamics. Models like the 996 GT3 are still some of our favorites here at Supercars.net. 2004 was another update with the all new 997. With no more ugly lights and a cleaner and crisper design, it upped power, drivability and technology. The now 3.6 liter flat six was 325 hp in base model while the Carrera S got a new 3.8 liter engine with 355 hp.

That brings us to 2011 with the launch of the 991. A completely new chassis with modified wheelbase, greater track width and beefier tires, plus an ergonomically optimized interior produced an even sportier and more comfortable driving sensation. With its low, stretched silhouette, its bristling surfaces and precisely shaped details, the Porsche 911 Car. Once again, engines were more powerful, more efficient and significantly more advanced. Driver aids and advanced chassis tech were also launched. We also saw a big increase in the number of variants made, with the Targa and GTS models launched. In 2015 Porsche moved away from natural aspiration with the 911 now powered by a new 3.0-liter twin-turbo charged six-cylinder flat engine developed 370 hp in base trim.

Special 911 Models & Sub Categories

Porsche Supercars & Hypercars

Supercars are the pinnacle of automotive performance, design and technology. Our friends at Porsche are no strangers to building some of the most desirable supercars ever. Each decade or so we see a new Porsche supercar at the top of the automotive world and they are absolutely amazing, every single one of them.

We start with the Porsche 959, a car that was so far ahead of its time that we still see modern cars with less tech today. With less than 300 units ever made this car is rare and expensive and was jam packed with tech and advanced materials.

Next up is the Porsche 911 GT1, designed for competition and basically made to meet homologation purposes. Barely street legal, the GT1 Straßenversion is super rare (only 25 had to be made to certify it). Its 3.2 liter, twin turbo flat 6 was good for 0-6o in 3.9 seconds and top speed of 191mph.

The Carrera GT was powered by a 5.7 literV10 engine producing 603 hp and would accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds with a maximum speed of 205 mph. The V10 was a unit secretly built by Porsche for the Footwork Formula One team in 1992, but later shelved. The engine was resurrected for the Le Mans prototype and increased in size to 5.7 liters. Devoid of modern safety aids it became known as the widow maker amongst supercar aficionados and journalists who had trouble taming it.

The 918 Spyder is the latest Porsche hypercar. With a plug-in hybrid drivetrain with a total of 887 hp and all wheel drive, its performance is incredible, destroying the Nurburgring record at the time with a time of 6:57 second time. Just 918 units were made.

More Porsche Supercar Stuff…

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Porsche Race CarsPorsche Race Car List

Lots of automakers like to brag about how their “racing heritage” informs their production vehicles, but nobody does it like Porsche.

Porsche started racing with lightweight versions the 356 but things really took off with the “giant killer” 550 Spyder.  Dedicated race cars like the 550, 718, RS, and RSK models were the focus of Porsche’s race program through the mid-1960s .

Porsche first expanded its 8 cylinder flat engine to 2.2 liters in the 907, then developed the 908 with full three liters in 1968. Based on this 8 cylinder flat engine the 4.5 liter flat 12 917 was introduced in 1969. The Porsche 917 is considered one of the most iconic racing cars of all time and gave Porsche their first 24 Hours of Le Mans win. The 917 went on to destroy the competition in the cutthroat Can-Am racing series.

Porsche has had success with 911 racing variants since the beginning of that models history, winning the Monte Carlo rally. In the 1970s Porsche won the Targa Florio, Daytona and Sebring with the Porsche 911 Carrera RSR. The 911 also went on to win Le Mans in 1979 in the Porsche 935. Since then the 911 has campaigned both by Porsche and by privateers in thousands of motorsports series with great success. Even today, Porsche churns out specific racing models that enthusiastic buyers can snap up and drive in global races in addition to its formal race programs it competes in.

We could go on but we’d run out of room. For the full story on Porsche’s racing history and the best Porsche racing cars ever, check out our List of the Best Porsche Racing Cars (With History & Videos)

Best Porsche Racing Cars Ever

The Porsche Legends

We think that based on our coverage below, you can tell that we at Supercars.net are huge Porsche fans. Definitely, the iconic car from this storied brand is the 911: it’s what every person, car fan or not, associates with when they hear ‘Porsche’. However, there are other iconic cars in the lineup, such as the first water-cooled V8 Porsche, the 928, or the Cayenne, which started the luxury SUV segment.

Check out our coverage!

See Our Special “The Best Porsches Ever” Post

Porsche Concepts & Prototypes

Several cars started out as prototypes, which became part of the Porsche lineup. Concepts are when technology and artistic minds go hand-in-hand to create a masterpiece. When it comes to Porsche we have found that their concepts are not just fanciful ideas, but very real visions of what the future holds for Porsche’s production cars.

Over the years, Porsche has debuted more than a handful of different concept cars. First and most important is the 911 concept. Add some four door Porsche concepts over the years that sent a message about the Panamera’s direction as early as the 1980s. Add some crazy models like the C88 and Panemerica and Porsche really has some “unique” concepts we’ve seen over the years.

Of course, no Porsche concept list would be complete without the 918 Spyder. The 918 Spyder was first shown as a concept at the 80th Geneva Motor Show in March 2010. That was well before people thought a mid-engined plug-in hybrid sports car was even conceivable let alone an absolute future classic. Powered by a naturally aspirated 4.6-litre V8 engine, developing 608 bhp with two electric motors delivering an additional 279 bhp for a combined output of 887 bhp, the 918 blew us all away.

Finally, we have the latest and greatest Porsche concept, the Mission E sedan, Porsche’s first all-electric car. Electrification is here and our favorite carmaker is going in head first. The Mission E concept shows what the first purely electric sports car in the brand’s history could look like. it’s a sports car. There’s no doubt about that. But it’s not the sports car you might expect. Two permanent magnet synchronous motors similar to those in the 919 Hybrid that won Le Mans, propel the car and recover energy when braking. One of them powers the rear axle, the other the front axle. With a combined output of more than 600 hp, they catapult the Mission E to 60 in less than 3.5 seconds, and to 124 miles per hour in less than 12 seconds. The future looks good indeed.

Whether that becomes production cars or not is left on the hands beyond their control, but let us show respect for the ones that flourished:

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