Ferdinand Porsche founded the company called “Dr. Ing. h. c. F. Porsche GmbH” in 1931, with main offices at in the centre of Stuttgart. Initially, the company offered motor vehicle development work and consulting, but did not build any cars under its own name. One of the first assignments the new company received was from the German government to design a car for the people, that is a “Volkswagen”. This resulted in the Volkswagen Beetle, one of the most successful car designs of all time. The Porsche 64 was developed in 1939 using many components from the Beetle.
At the end of World War II in 1945, the Volkswagen factory fell to the British. Ferdinand lost his position as Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen, and Ivan Hirst, a British Army Major, was put in charge of the factory. On 15 December of that year, Ferdinand was arrested for war crimes, but not tried. During his 20-month imprisonment, Ferdinand Porsche’s son, Ferry Porsche, decided to build his own car, because he could not find an existing one that he wanted to buy. The first models of what was to become the 356 were built in a small sawmill in Austria. The prototype car was shown to German auto dealers, and when pre-orders reached a set threshold, production (with aluminium body) was begun by Porsche Konstruktionen GesmbH founded by Ferry and Louise. Many regard the 356 as the first Porsche simply because it was the first model sold by the fledgling company. In 1952, Porsche constructed an assembly plant the oldest Porsche building, is now known as Porschestrasse. The 356 was road certified in 1948.
Porsche’s company logo was based on the coat of arms of the Free People’s State of Württemberg of former Weimar Germany, which had Stuttgart as its capital. The arms of Stuttgart was placed in the middle as an inescutcheon, since the cars were made in Stuttgart. On 30 January 1951 Ferdinand Porsche died from complications following a stroke.
In post-war Germany, parts were generally in short supply, so the 356 automobile used components from the Volkswagen Beetle, including the engine case from its internal combustion engine, transmission, and several parts used in the suspension. The 356, however, had several evolutionary stages, A, B, and C, while in production, and most Volkswagen-sourced parts were replaced by Porsche-made parts. Beginning in 1954 the 356s engines started utilizing engine cases designed specifically for the 356. The sleek bodywork was designed by Erwin Komenda, who also had designed the body of the Beetle. Porsche’s signature designs have, from the beginning, featured air-cooled rear-engine configurations (like the Beetle), rare for other car manufacturers, but producing automobiles that are very well balanced.
In 1964, after a fair amount of success in motor-racing with various models including the 550 Spyder, and with the 356 needing a major re-design, the company launched the Porsche 911: another air-cooled, rear-engined sports car, this time with a six-cylinder “boxer” engine.
The design office gave sequential numbers to every project (See Porsche type numbers), but the designated 901 nomenclature contravened Peugeot’s trademarks on all ‘x0x’ names, so it was adjusted to 911. Racing models adhered to the “correct” numbering sequence: 904, 906, 908. The 911 has become Porsche’s most well-known and iconic model – successful on the race-track, in rallies, and in terms of road car sales. Far more than any other model, the Porsche brand is defined by the 911. It remains in production; however, after several generations of revision, current-model 911s share only the basic mechanical configuration of a rear-engined, six-cylinder coupé, and basic styling cues with the original car. A cost-reduced model with the same body, but with 356-derived four-cylinder engine, was sold as the 912.
Porsche 911 (964), introduced in 1989, was the first to be offered with Porsche’s Tiptronic transmission and four-wheel drive.
Porsche’s 2002 introduction of the Cayenne also marked the unveiling of a new production facility in Leipzig, Saxony, which once accounted for nearly half of Porsche’s annual output. In 2004, production of the 456 kilowatts (620 PS; 612 bhp) Carrera GT commenced in Leipzig, and at EUR 450,000 ($440,000 in the United States) it was the most expensive production model Porsche ever built.
In mid-2006, after years of the Boxster (and later the Cayenne) as the best selling Porsche in North America, the 911 regained its position as Porsche’s best-seller in the region. The Cayenne and 911 have cycled as the top-selling model since. In Germany, the 911 outsells the Boxster/Cayman and Cayenne.
Relationship with Volkswagen
The company has always had a close relationship with, initially, the Volkswagen (VW) marque, and later, the Volkswagen Group (which also owns Audi AG), because the first Volkswagen Beetle was designed by Ferdinand Porsche.
The two companies collaborated in 1969 to make the VW-Porsche 914 and 914-6, whereby the 914-6 had a Porsche engine, and the 914 had a Volkswagen engine. Further collaboration in 1976 resulted in the Porsche 912E (US only) and the Porsche 924, which used many Audi components, and was built at Audi’s Neckarsulm factory, which had been NSU’s. Porsche 944s were also built there, although they used far fewer Volkswagen components. The Cayenne, introduced in 2002, shares its chassis with the Volkswagen Touareg and the Audi Q7.
Production and Sales
The company has been highly successful in recent times, and indeed claims to have the highest profit per unit sold of any car company in the world.
The current Porsche model range includes sports cars from the Boxster roadster to their most famous product, the 911. The Cayman is a coupé otherwise similar to the Boxster. The Cayenne is Porsche’s mid-size luxury sport utility vehicle (SUV). A high performance luxury saloon/sedan, the Panamera, was launched in 2009.
Note: models in bold are current models
• 911 4-seat coupe, targa and cabriolet
• 911 GT1 Straßenversion
• 918 Spyder
• 928 4-seat grand tourer
• Boxster (986,987,981,982) 2-seat roadster (Base, S, GTS, Spyder)
• Carrera GT
• Cayman (987,981,982) 2-seat coupe (Base, S, R, GTS, GT4)
• Cayenne SUV
• Macan SUV Crossover
• Panamera 4-seat sports sedan
• 360 Cisitalia
• 550 Spyder
• 909 Bergspyder
• 911 GT1
• 919 hybrid
• Porsche-March 89P
• WSC-95 / LMP1-98
• LMP2000 (never raced)
• RS Spyder (9R6)
• Porsche Type 110
• Porsche AP Series
• Porsche Junior (14 hp)
• Porsche Standard (25 hp)
• Porsche Super (38 hp)
• Porsche Master (50 hp)
• Porsche 312
• Porsche 108F
• Porsche R22
Hybrid and Electric Vehicles
In 2010 Porsche launched the Cayenne S Hybrid and announced the Panamera S Hybrid, and launched the Porsche 918 hypercar in 2014, which also features a hybrid system.
Porsche developed a prototype electric Porsche Boxster called the Boxster E in 2011] and a hybrid version of the 911 called the GT3 R Hybrid, developed with Williams Grand Prix Engineering in 2010.
In July 2014 Porsche announced the launch by the end of 2014 of the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid a plug-in hybrid, which will displace the Cayenne S Hybrid from the line up. The S E-Hybrid will be the first plug-in hybrid in the premium SUV segment and will allow Porsche to become the first automaker with three production plug-in hybrid models.
Porsche has a record 19 outright wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Porsche is currently the world’s largest race car manufacturer. In 2006, Porsche built 195 race cars for various international motor sports events. In 2007, Porsche is expected to construct no fewer than 275 dedicated race cars (7 RS Spyder LMP2 prototypes, 37 GT2 spec 911 GT3-RSRs, and 231 911 GT3 Cup vehicles).
As Porsche only had small capacity road and racing cars in the 1950s and 1960s, they scored many wins in their classes, and occasionally also overall victories against bigger cars, most notably winning the Targa Florio in 1956, 1959, 1960, 1964, and every year from 1966 to 1970 in prototypes that lacked horsepower relative to the competition, but which made up for that, with reliability, low drag, low weight and good handling.
Porsche started racing with lightweight, tuned derivatives of the 356 road car, but rapidly moved on to campaigning dedicated racing cars, with the 550, 718, RS, and RSK models being the backbone of the company’s racing programme through to the mid-1960s. The 90x series of cars in the 60s saw Porsche start to expand from class winners that stood a chance of overall wins in tougher races where endurance and handling mattered, to likely overall victors. Engines did not surpass the two litres mark until the rule makers limited the capacity of the prototype class to 3 litres after 1967, as the four-litre Ferrari P series and the seven-litre Ford GT40 became too fast. Porsche first expanded its 8-cyl flat engine to 2.2 litres in the 907, then developed the 908 with full three litres in 1968. Based on this 8-cyl flat engine and a loophole in the rules, the 4.5-litre flat 12 917 was introduced in 1969, eventually expanded to five litres, and later even to 5.4 and turbocharged. Within few years, Porsche with the 917 had grown from underdog to the supplier of the fastest (380 km/h at Le Mans) and most powerful (1580 hp in CanAm) race car in the world.
Five Decades of Porsche 911 Success
Even though introduced in 1963, and winning the Rally Monte Carlo, the Porsche 911 classic (built until 1989) established its reputation in production-based road racing mainly in the 1970s.
• Porsche 911 Carrera RSR, winner of the Targa Florio, Daytona and Sebring in the mid-1970s
• Porsche 934
• Porsche 935, winner in Le Mans 1979
Due to regulation restraints, the 911 was not used very much in the 1980s, but returned in the 1990s as the Porsche 993, like the GT2 turbo model. The water-cooled Porsche 996 series became a success in racing after the GT3 variant was introduced in 1999.
24 Hours of Le Mans Successes
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, while open-top versions of it dominated Can-Am racing. After dominating Group 4, 5, and 6 racing in the 1970s with the 911-based 934 and 935 and the prototype 936, Porsche moved on to dominate Group C and IMSA GTP in the 1980s with the Porsche 956/962C, one of the most prolific and successful sports prototype racers ever produced.
Porsche scored a couple of unexpected Le Mans wins in 1996 and 1997. A return to prototype racing in the US was planned for 1995 with a Tom Walkinshaw Racing chassis formerly used as the Jaguar XJR-14 and the Mazda MXR-01 fitted with a Porsche engine. IMSA rule changes struck this car out of the running and the private Joest Racing team raced the cars in Europe for two years, winning back-to-back Le Mans with the same chassis, termed the Porsche WSC-95. This is a feat Porsche had also achieved in the 956 era, contrasting with the 1960s and 1970s where most cars ran only one or two races for the works before being sold on.
Between 1998 (when Porsche won overall with the Porsche 911 GT1-98) and 2014, Porsche did not attempt to score overall wins at Le Mans and similar sports car races, focusing on smaller classes and developing the water-cooled 996 GT3. Nevertheless, the GT3 and the LMP2 RS Spyder won major races overall during the period. Porsche returned to top-tier Le Mans racing in 2014 with the 919, but both cars experienced unknown engine issues with an hour and a half left to go and retired just as the #20 car was chasing down the #1 Audi in first place.
In 2015, a Porsche 919 Hybrid car driven by Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Nico Hülkenberg won the 83rd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Porsche LMP1 program went on to win the overall victory in the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship. The 919 program has also gone on to win the 84th running of Le Mans (2016) in a 919 driven by Neel Jani, Romain Dumas, and Marc Lieb, taking the lead with just over 3 minutes left. Porsche completed a hat trick by winning the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans with drivers Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber, and Brendon Hartley.
In mid 2017, Porsche announced that they would close their LMP1 program at the end of the year.
Teams and Sponsorship
Recently, 996-generation 911 GT3s have dominated their class at Le Mans and similar endurance and GT races.
The various versions of the Porsche 911 proved to be a serious competitor in rallies. The Porsche works team was occasionally present in rallying from the 1960s to late 1970s. In 1967 the Polish driver Sobiesław Zasada drove a 912 to capture the European Rally Championship for Group 1 series touring cars. Porsche took three double wins in a row in the Monte Carlo Rally; in 1968 with Vic Elford and Pauli Toivonen, and in 1969 and 1970 with Björn Waldegård and Gérard Larrousse.
Jean-Pierre Nicolas managed to win the 1978 Monte Carlo Rally with a private 911 SC, and Porsche’s second, and so far last, WRC win came at the 1980 Tour de Corse in the hands of Jean-Luc Thérier. In the European Rally Championship, the 911 was driven to five titles, and as late as 1984, Henri Toivonen took his Prodrive-built and Rothmans-sponsored 911 SC RS to second place behind Carlo Capone and the Lancia Rally 037. In 1984 and 1986, the Porsche factory team won the Paris Dakar Rally, also using the 911 derived Porsche 959 Group B supercar.
Despite Ferdinand Porsche having designed Grand Prix cars in the 1920s and 1930s for Mercedes and Auto Union, the Porsche AG never felt at home in single seater series.
In the late 1950s the Porsche 718 RSK, a two-seater sports car, was entered in Formula Two races, as rules permitted this, and lap times were promising. The 718 was first modified by moving the seat into the center of the car, and subsequently proper open wheelers were built. These 1500 cc cars enjoyed some success. The former F2 cars were moved up to Formula One in 1961, where Porsche’s outdated design was not competitive. For 1962, a newly developed flat-eight powered and sleek Porsche 804 produced Porsche’s only win as a constructor in a championship race, claimed by Dan Gurney at the 1962 French Grand Prix.
Having been very successful with turbocharged cars in the 1970s, Porsche returned to Formula One in 1983 after nearly two decades away, supplying water-cooled V6 turbo engines badged as TAG units for the McLaren Team.
For aerodynamic reasons, the Porsche-typical flat engine was out of the question for being too wide. With turbo power being the way to go in F1 at the time a 90° V6 turbo engine was produced. The TAG engine was designed to very tight requirements issued by McLaren’s chief designer John Barnard. He specified the physical layout of the engine to match the design of his proposed car. The engine was funded by TAG who retained the naming rights to it, although the engines bore “made by Porsche” identification. Initially, Porsche were reluctant to have their name on the engines, fearing bad publicity if they failed. However, within a few races of the 1984 season when it became evident that the engines were the ones to have, the “Made by Porsche” badges began to appear. TAG-Porsche-powered cars took two constructor championships in 1984 and 1985, and three driver crowns in 1984, 1985 and 1986. The engines powered McLaren to 25 victories between 1984 and 1987, with 19 for 1985 and 1986 World Champion Alain Prost, and 6 for 1984 Champion Niki Lauda.
Carrera Cup and Amateur Racing
Porsche has always been a popular marque for amateur racing GT and Production Sports Car racing in Europe, America and Asia, particularly the Porsche 911. Stock and lightly modified Porsches are raced in many competitions around the world; many of these are primarily amateur classes for enthusiasts.
Porsche has and continues to build models based on road cars but optimised for competition, most famously the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. Porsche has established and supported several motor racing series, many of them single-model series for Porsches, or specific models of Porsche. Porsche Carrera Cup has featured in several countries and today variations of Carrera Cup have been held in Asia, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Japan, the Middle East, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Scandinavia as well as originating IROC in the United States. A professional series evolved from these, the European-based Porsche Supercup.
Porsche dropped its factory motorsports program after winning the 1998 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Porsche 911 GT1 for financial reasons.
Porsche made a comeback in the LMP2 category in 2005 with the new RS Spyder prototype. Based on LMP2 regulations, the RS Spyder made its debut for Roger Penske’s team at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca during the final race of the 2005 American Le Mans Series season, and immediately garnered a class win in the LMP2 class and finishing 5th overall. The nimble albeit less powerful (due to the regulations) RS Spyder clearly possessed the pace to challenge Audi and Lola LMP1 cars in the ALMS. Penske Racing won the LMP2 championship on its first full season in 2006 and against Acura in 2007 and 2008. 2007 was the most successful year for the RS Spyder, winning 8 overall races and 11 class wins. The car debuted on European circuits in 2008 and dominated the Le Mans Series; Van Merksteijn Motorsport, Team Essex and Horag Racing taking the first three places in the LMP2 championship. Van Merksteijn Motorsport took a class victory at the 2008 24 Hours of Le Mans and Team Essex won the LMP2 class at the 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In a survey conducted by the Luxury Institute in New York, Porsche was awarded the title of “the most prestigious automobile brand”. Five hundred households with a gross annual income of at least $200,000 and a net worth of at least $720,000 participated.