Porsche Turns 60
Sixty years ago, one man realised his dream and an iconic marque was born. That man was Ferry Porsche – and it all started when he tried, and failed, to find his perfect car. So he decided to build it himself: the result was the mid-engined 356 prototype.
The very first car to carry the Porsche badge, prototype 356-001, received official approval and homologation on June 8th, 1948. Within weeks, 356-001 scored the first-ever Porsche racing success (a class win in the Innsbruck City Race). But few could have predicted that, over the next six decades, the Porsche design company – a small family business – would become one of the world’s leading performance car manufacturers, with Ferry Porsche’s dream shared by enthusiasts across the globe.
Production began in earnest in 1949 and, as successive models were born, Porsche drove into the history and record books. The legendary 911, in its various incarnations and derivatives, has enjoyed the longest production run of any sports car – ever. But then anyone who has a feel for Porsche will have their own, particular, favourite model.
Porsche’s notable racing achievements include the marque’s unrivalled history at Le Mans, taking overall victory in the 24-hour race 16 times to date (and seven times in a row from 1981 to 1987). Equally remarkable is this relatively small manufacturer’s dominance in so many different areas of motorsport, from the 908 which took the World Sportscar Championship in 1969 (and the 917 achieving the same in 1971 and ’72), through stunning performances by 4WD 911s and 959s in the Paris-Dakar Rally, to the marque’s success in CanAm, TransAm and IMSA. And Porsche engines played a significant role in the McLaren team’s success in the Formula One World Championship in the 1980s.
Over the decades, the company has faced financial challenges and some models have enjoyed less success than others, but on-going innovation, commitment to quality, and efficiency have made Porsche one of the most successful and profitable automobile manufacturers in the world. It is also one of the most respected, twice taking first place in the J. D. Power ‘Initial Quality Study’, three times heading J. D. Power’s ‘Appeal’ study (proving its popularity with American drivers), and also being voted the company with the best image by readers of Germany’s ‘Manager Magazin’ five times in a row.
Porsche’s engineering heritage continues to pay dividends. The first authorised emissions test in Europe was performed using a 911, and Porsche subsequently set up a separate department to test emissions for other manufacturers. Over the past 15 years, the company has reduced fuel consumption and CO2 emissions in its new cars by an average of 1.7 per cent each year. By 2012, the fuel consumption will be reduced by a further 20 per cent, thanks to new, innovative engine technologies and the hybrid drive for the Cayenne and Panamera Gran Turismo.
And let’s not forget that Porsche is now the largest shareholder in Volkswagen: a very fitting association, since the original VW was designed by Ferdinand Porsche – Ferry’s father.
Text - Classic Driver
Photos - Porsche
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