The stain­less steel 911

There’s an ul­tra-rare 911S on dis­play at the Deutsches Mu­seum, Mu­nich, with a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to al­ter­na­tive body ma­te­ri­als. To­tal 911 in­ves­ti­gates its story…

Total 911 - - Snapshot In History: The Stainless Steel 911 -

Just when you think you’ve got a han­dle on the 911 and its his­tory, some­thing comes along and sur­prises you. This car cer­tainly does that. What makes it so un­usual, you see, is that the body­work is fash­ioned from stain­less steel. It’s also the only such ex­am­ple in ex­is­tence.

As the 1960s wore on it seems that the

Ger­man TÜV – the or­gan­i­sa­tion re­spon­si­ble for test­ing cars, among other things – was be­com­ing in­creas­ingly con­cerned about the de­fects caused by cor­ro­sion, so it made sense to in­ves­ti­gate the use of al­ter­na­tive ma­te­ri­als for car bod­ies.

En­ter the In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre for Stain­less

Steel (ICSS), based in Düs­sel­dorf, who de­cided to test the longevity of their cho­sen ma­te­rial by us­ing it to body this S. De­pend­ing on the ac­count you read – and in­for­ma­tion is scarce to say the least – three of them were built, with two writ­ten off. Given the dif­fer­ing reg­is­tra­tion num­bers that ap­pear in im­ages and the fact that cars are pic­tured sport­ing both steel wheels and Fuchs items, it seems rea­son­able, though lit­tle about this car is as straight­for­ward as it first ap­pears.

This ex­am­ple cur­rently re­sides in the fas­ci­nat­ing Deutsches Mu­seum in Mu­nich. The project it­self dates back to Au­gust 1967, and by the fol­low­ing month an ex­am­ple went on dis­play at that year’s In­ter­na­tional Auto Show in Frank­furt. It – or one of the cars at any rate – was then handed over to ICSS man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Heinz Todt­mann, who used the car over the course of seven years and 150,000km to prove the longevity of the stain­less-steel fin­ish. In 1972, and after 100,000 of those kilo­me­tres had been cov­ered, he ap­par­ently re­ported that there was no trace of rust. Once the test had been com­pleted, pre­sum­ably with all par­ties sat­is­fied that stain­less steel was in­deed a use­ful ma­te­rial for cars, the Porsche was handed over to the Mu­seum in Oc­to­ber 1974, where it has been ever since.

Doc­u­men­ta­tion says it was man­u­fac­tured from cold-rolled steel, the pan­els made by both hand and ma­chine, and it was pol­ished and brushed with no paint ap­plied. No me­chan­i­cal changes ap­pear to have been made, and there were no plans for main­stream pro­duc­tion – it was in­tended just to show that it could be done and to prove the cor­ro­sion-re­sis­tant prop­er­ties of the ma­te­rial. That cer­tainly rings true, as the cost would prob­a­bly have been astro­nom­i­cal at the time, and Porsche would go on to use gal­vanised steel in­stead. It’s also in­ter­est­ing that older re­ports of the project high­light the 1,030kg kerb weight, ex­press­ing sur­prise that it ap­peared lighter than a con­ven­tional ex­am­ple, al­though our data shows that to be the nor­mal weight for a

911S of the pe­riod.

But who ac­tu­ally built it? Ac­cord­ing to the Deutsches Mu­seum, the one-time cu­ra­tor of its ‘traf­fic cen­tre’, Frank Stein­beck, did at­tempt to un­earth the car’s story, but his find­ings were in­con­clu­sive. Porsche it­self was un­able to shed any light, but his ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tions led him to a Ger­man com­pany by the name of Blanco. Formed in 1925, they still ex­ist, and have a rep­u­ta­tion for pro­duc­ing high-qual­ity stain­less steel kitchen equip­ment. At first they seemed to ad­mit to hav­ing a hand in this rather spe­cial Ne­unelfer, but pressed fur­ther they were un­able to pro­duce ac­tual ev­i­dence.

The trail looked to have gone cold un­til fur­ther dig­ging by Stein­beck un­earthed doc­u­men­ta­tion that pointed in the direc­tion of Reut­ter, the com­pany that had pro­duced 356 bod­ies. That cer­tainly seemed more likely, given their skills and the Zuf­fen­hausen con­nec­tion, so was it mys­tery solved? Un­for­tu­nately not, and with con­crete proof re­main­ing elu­sive the story had reached a dead end. And that’s how things re­main to­day, the true facts be­hind this un­usual 911 still tan­ta­lis­ingly out of reach. As with all mys­ter­ies, per­haps that’s ex­actly how it should be.


Thanks to the Deutsches Mu­seum, Mu­nich, for their help with this ar­ti­cle.

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