An industrial and sporting saga
If the creation of Porsche dates back to 1931, the production of cars of the same name did not begin until 1948, at the initiative of Ferry Porsche, the son of the founder of the company.
With the regrouping within the international industry, manufacturers who still bear their founder's name are becoming rare. Porsche is one of them, and it can be said that the German brand has had a major impact on the automotive industry in more ways than one since the mid-20th century. The philosophy of its managers and engineers has remained constant in both simplicity and perfectionism..
For Ferry Porsche, who took over the family business after the war, the car brand he founded must be closely linked to the competition. His idea is that Porsche buyers regularly see the Bavarian firm's models perform on all the circuits of the world. For him, auto racing is a formidable technologal laboratory that looks ahead to innovations that can then be applied to mass production. All models designed and built by Porsche follow this demanding approach of continuous innovation and improvement. Some models more or less deviated from this principle, but eventually Porsche continued to work in the spirit of permanent evolution as envisioned by engineer Ferdinand Porsche when he founded his mechanical design office in Zuffenhausen on April 25, 1931.
Launched in 1964, the Porsche 904 featured the 1.6-liter Type 547 Flat 4 engine, which was also fitted to the 356 Carrera 2. © IXO Collections SAS - All rights reserved. Photo credits © Archives & Collections Dominique Pascal
Taking back the torch
The "Dr. Ing. HCF Porsche AG" (limited company of honorary engineering professor Ferdinand Porsche) is at the origin of the famous Volkswagen, the "volkswagen" (people’s car) sought after by the Third Reich. In late 1944, the Stuttgart factory was subjected to Allied bombing, prompting Ferdinand Porsche to transfer his business to a former sawmill in the hamlet of Karnerau, in Gmünd, Austria. Until the end of the war, Porsche mainly worked on military projects and from 1946 he started designing light tractors, agricultural machines, winches and hydraulic turbines. The first car to bear the Porsche name, the 356, was born at the same time as the brand's founding in 1948, still in Gmünd, on the initiative of Ferry Porsche, Ferdinand's son. Its name comes from the fact that this is simply Porsche's 356th study project. With this innovative model, Ferry Porsche imposes its vision of a sports car in an aesthetically elegant and technically original way.
Dick Barbour’s Racing Porsche 935 Turbo finished 5th at the 1978 24 Hours of Le Mans. © IXO Collections SAS - All rights reserved. Photo credits © Archives & Collections Dominique Pascal
A sporty ambition
In April 1950, the Porsche factories returned to Zuffenhausen, a suburb of Stuttgart, where the company was renamed "Porsche Konstruktions GmbH". The country was under reconstruction and many hill climbing and rallies were organized, with the Porsche 356 prominently featured. However, the German brand's colours are still only defended by private customers because the factory was not financially strong enough to make any official commitments. Despite this, Ferry Porsche, who worked on the famous Grand Prix Auto-Union before the war, remains a strong supporter of the production of derived models. Since then, the entire Porsche production has perfectly integrated this industrial philosophy. The new Porsche 901 Coupé was presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1963. But in the fall of the following year it was renamed 911, because the Peugeot brand asserted its rights and Porsche forced the original name to change. The French manufacturer had officially registered the exclusivity of three digit numbers with a central zero for the designation of its cars.
The 1972 Carrera RS 2.7 liter is considered the most successful version of the Porsche 911. The Carrera name refers to Porsche's triumph at the Carrera Americana in 1954, while RS stands for Rennsport (racing). © IXO Collections SAS - All rights reserved. Photo credits © Archives & Collections Dominique Pascal
The Porsche 911 is launched not to replace the 356, but to complement it with a more powerful range. This car originated from an initiative of Ferry Porsche who entrusted the study to the engineer Erwin Komenda, the body design to his son Alexander "Butzi" Porsche while the engine design was done by Ferdinand Karl Piëch, his cousin. The Porsche 911 is part of the Automotive Hall of Fame and since its launch, no fewer than eight generations of 911s have succeeded each other. Almost 60 years after its inception, it is still in the manufacturer's catalog, and the Porsche design office has shown incredible ingenuity to make a multitude of changes to this model, most notably the 930-Turbo version in 1974. In the late 1960s, Porsche tried to break its single model culture with the 914 (1969), then the 924 in 1976 (the first Porsche with a front engine), the 928 (1978), the 944 (1981) or the 959 of a Group B prototype. More recent creations include the Boxster (1996) and the 4X4 Cayenne (2002) that contribute to the global success of the brand, which has become the most profitable in the world.
Talking about Porsche's success in competition is like telling the history of motorsport over the past 70 years. Since its inception, this brand has established itself around the world and in most disciplines. To date, the number of wins for a Porsche has risen to over 30,000, and there are no more 2nd and 3rd places ... Porsche has left its mark in prestigious events and in most categories, ranging from tourism to sports prototypes. Since 1970, it has won 19 wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 18 in the 24 Hours of Daytona, 4 in the Monte Carlo Rally, 11 in the Targa Florio and 2 in Paris-Dakar. In Formula 1, the McLaren Porsche team won the world championship in 1984 and 1985.
A brand of its own
Au début des années 1950, sur les premiers manuels du conducteur de Porsche, ainsi que les publicités de l’époque figurait le slogan de la marque : « Fahren in seiner schönsten Form », ce qui signifie « La conduite sous sa plus belle forme ». C’est bien là toute la philosophie que le constructeur allemand a voulu donner à ses modèles depuis le début. Pour la plupart des propriétaires de Porsche, le choix de cette marque n’est pas celui d’un simple objet fonctionnel, mais l’adhésion à une longue tradition technique et le choix d’un concept mécanique qui a peu changé depuis la 356 de 1948. À de rares exceptions, une Porsche, quel que soit le modèle, possède en effet un moteur à 4 ou 6 cylindres à plat, installé en porte-à-faux arrière et refroidi par air !