Porsche, makers of some of the most desirable sports cars in history, celebrate their 70th anniversary this year. To celebrate this remarkable brand and the constant pursuit of driving pleasure that Porsche stands for, here's our tribute to arguably the best that Germany has to offer to enthusiasts.
Porsche's logo traces its origins back to the coat of arms of the state of Wurttemberg of Weimer Germany, which called Stuttgart its capital. The Porsche factory calls Stuttgart its home, and the horse at the centre of the coat of arms represents the stud farm around which the city was built.
Ferdinand Porsche – from dictator's puppet to genius engineer
Ferdinand Porsche, son of Anton Porsche, a master panel-beater, never got a higher degree in Engineering, instead relying on the few night classes he attended at the Imperial Technical School in Reichenberg and whatever he learned on his own after sneaking into the local university in Vienna after work. He showed great promise in engineering design – as far back as 1898, Ferdinand designed the world's first petrol-electric hybrid vehicle – the Lohner Porsche Mixte, which employed an internal combustion engine which powered the generators that fed the wheel mounted electric motors.
After the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I, he chose Czechoslovakian citizenship but largely worked in Germany. From serving as the chauffeur to the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination would spark World War I, to being appointed technical director of Daimler, Ferdinand had come a long way. In 1934, Adolf Hitler's government made him a naturalisedcitizen and the Fuhrer himself appointed Ferdinand to lead the development team for the KDF-Wagen, the German “people's car”, which roughly translates to “Volks-wagen”. Used as a ruse to get the German people to work towards owning a motor car and hand over their savings to the Nazi government, the Volkswagen would not see the light of day till World War II was over. During the war, Ferdinand Porsche's immense talent and engineering prowess had a heavy input on the killing machines employed by Hitler's war effort – infamous names like the Tiger and Panzer and V1 proved, unfortunately and destructively, Porsche's abilities. Some called him a mad-scientist, most called him the Great German Engineer. Medals from the infamous SS and the Nazi government proves how enamoured they were by his work.
After the war, Ferdinand continued development on the Porsche 356, which he had started making by hand in a saw mill in Gmund. Returning to Stuttgart and deciding on it to be his new company's base of operations, the 356 was funded by royalty he received from Volkswagen for the Beetle and more than 78,000 Porsche 356s were made in a 17 year long production run. In 1951, following a stroke and unable to recover, he died.
In 1996, Ferdinand Porsche was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and in 1999 was posthumously declared “Car Engineer of the Century”.
Porsche, despite his ties to a regime that orchestrated some of the worst war crimes in human history and known for laying down unimaginable destruction across entire continents, had a drive and passion that has to be admired. He was obsessed with machines, finding out how they worked the way they did, and how to wring out a design till it was as efficient as possible. For designing the car that brought motoring to the masses and for creating the blueprint for what may be the world's best driving car, Ferdinand Porsche deserves our respects.
Porsche – greatest hits
356 – Porsche's first was sleek,
but critics say it handled like
loaded trucks. Cemented the rear engine, rear drive layout for the 911.
In the 1970s, the global oil crisis led to the fitting of a turbocharger to the flagship 911. The rest is history. Cocaine fueled America loved the laggy turbo.
The 928 was a forward thinking V8 powered GT that was meant to be a replacement for the 911. It wasn't, but Porsche learned the performance of luxury.
959 was Porsche's first attempt at a supercar. Employing clever adaptive suspension and AWD in 1988, the 959 ventured into the unknown and conquered it.
Mid-90s saw the last air-cooled 911 – the ferocious, track focused GT2 was the perfect end to an era. Later GT2s are faster, but this had charm and performance.
Porsche took the British roadster concept and added German precision and reliability to it. The Boxster wasn't macho, but like Mazda's MX5, it was a hoot to drive.
Porsche's Le Mans racer for the road was a RWD V10 maniac that claimed quite a few lives, including Paul Walker's. Carrera GT demanded laser focus.
Long before Jaguar, Bentley and the lot tried their hand at SUVs, Porsche was providing footballers the ability to go off-road with the Cayenne.
The latest 911 GT3 RS epitomises nearly 60 years of evolution of the 911. The cutting edge of performance gets defined by every focused GT3, and this one's no different.
Mission-E teases the future – using green tech for performance. Nothing new – Ferdinand Porsche created the first petrol-electric hybrid.