If you think about it, there aren’t that many instantly recognizable products, out there – things that you would look at and right away know their identity and character. For a car to achieve that status, of being a global icon, it has to be something really special. And that is everyone respects and admires Porsche. It is the automobile equivalent of the Coca-Cola bottle, or the iPhone.
Now, that quality of being a highly recognizable icon – a celebrity car, if you will – belongs only to the 911, which is the face of Porsche. But over the past 70 years the German manufacturer has made a great number of other amazing sports cars that deserve, at the very least, a salute. That’s what we’re going to try to do here. We want to pay homage to the greatest car maker of them all through a brief look at Porsche’s history and evolution.
Yes, yes, that puts us in the Porsche camp rather than the Ferrari camp if a division is absolutely necessary. But we reckon an unbiased, objective observer of facts would still give that lofty title to Porsche.
Ferrari is often praised as being the vision of a genius taken to amazing heights. Well, that is also the case with Porsche. For something to become iconic it needs to be the vision of just one man and not the work of a committee. 70 years ago Ferry Porsche made his vision a reality by making the 356. A groundbreaking sports car by the standards of its time, the 356 featured a four-cylinder VW Volkswagen flat engine – granted, not the most glamorous of choices, but something that went on to achieve cult status. Since the beginning Porsche knew he wanted to form a proper business, as shown by the fact even his first model came in a bunch of variants such as coupe, cabriolet, and speedster, a tradition that continues to this very day with every single model the company produces.
People also talk about Ferrari being a family business. Porsche is also like that, though it’s not talked about very often. For instance, did you know that when they decided to return to Stuttgart from Gmünd, where they’d set up shop at the outbreak of World War II, the first Porsche office was established in the family villa? These little anecdotes are what make this brand so cool. In any case, the return to Stuttgart marked the beginning of Porsche’s legend. Here the iconic crest was formed, and here was born what was to become the king of all sports cars, the most recognizable automobile in history. It was the 911, though it wasn’t called that in the beginning. When it was first designed, the signature Porsche sports car was called the 901. But objections from Peugeot who had dibs on all monikers with a 0 in the middle forced Porsche to rename it. So I guess we have to thank Peugeot for their obnoxiousness!
Over the years the 911 has got a lot of stick for remaining stubbornly rear-engined. There has been even more complains about the design, which in spite of some serious changes has remained pretty much the same shape as it was first conceived. What a lot of haters don’t realize is that very stubbornness is the reason Porsche 911 is such an icon today. If it were to go with the trend and change drastically with every new version to please the public’s taste it would have been yet another faceless, characterless cars, utterly forgettable. That is not to say Porsche have been hard-headed about it. For example, being air-cooled has always been a defining feature of the 911. But when that technology had ran its course they set it aside and employed more efficient methods. That is happening again today with the hybridization and electrification of the new models.
So the 911 went to conquer the world, become the poster on many a young man’s walls, the sweetest dream, the ultimate sign of success. Owning a 911 is a social statement now. It is conclusive proof that you have made it. Of course, depending on what version of the car you choose, you are ranked on the social ladder, but that is beside the point. So large is the shadow of the 911 that for many many years it was thought by many to be the only Porsche model they made. The 914s, the 944s, the 928s, all great cars, were buried under the 911’s heavy clout. It changed, obviously, with the arrival of the modern flock of Porsche – stuff like the Boxster, the Cayenne and the Panamera. But the reason these models were successful at getting out of the 911’s shadow was because they were conceived or inspired by the 911. The Panamera is the four-door 911. And the Cayenne is the 911 SUV.
We hope this brief eulogy succeeded at shedding some light on why we think so highly of Porsche and how the brand came to be the icon that it is today. There is no time or space here to go into details about every model, or to give an account the brand’s glorious motorsport history. Suffice to say, even those who are firmly established themselves in the opposition camp cannot help but marvel at the excellence of Ferdinand Porsche’s original vision.