CAL­I­FOR­NIA DREAM­ERS: PORSCHE AT THE PE­TERSEN

LA’s famed Pe­tersen Mu­seum cel­e­brates seven decades of iconic road and race cars

Motor (Australia) - - CONTENTS - BY CHRIS CHILTON + PICS JAMES LIP­MAN

IMAG­INE BE­ING ASKED to dis­til seven decades and mil­lions of cars from one of the world’s most sto­ried, win­ningest mar­ques into just 50 cars. It’s like ask­ing a Fab Four fan to pick the top three Bea­tles tunes, or a stoner to choose just one cho­co­late bar from the glit­ter­ing con­fec­tionery shelves at the 24-hour garage. Ei­ther could take days, and both would still be wracked with in­se­cu­rity at their fi­nal se­lec­tion af­ter­wards.

But that’s what the cu­ra­tors of Los An­ge­les’ re­cently re­mod­elled Pe­tersen Au­to­mo­tive Mu­seum tasked them­selves with putting to­gether – The Porsche Ef­fect, a year-long ex­hi­bi­tion show­cas­ing the best of Porsche’s first 70 years.

“This ex­hibit is about how Porsche has cre­ated a time­less sil­hou­ette; this mem­o­rable ap­peal with such a large fan base,” says the Pe­tersen mu­seum’s Brit­tanie Kinch.

And when your eyes fol­low the gen­tle curves of the very ear­li­est cars in the col­lec­tion you can see ex­actly how. Look­ing at the 1939 Type 64 in par­tic­u­lar is a strangely mov­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, the au­to­mo­tive equiv­a­lent of see­ing Len­nart Nils­son’s fa­mous 1965 pic­tures of em­bryos for the very first time. In the sil­hou­ette, the win­dow graphic and the way the body­work curves seam­lessly from flank to tail are clear sign­posts to the shape we know to­day as the 911.

The 911 in its var­i­ous forms dom­i­nates the ex­hi­bi­tion, but there are plenty of re­minders that Porsche de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing has fol­lowed dif­fer­ent paths, some of which – like the four-door 928 con­cept – turned out to be dead ends (al­beit tem­po­rar­ily). And there’s a clear em­pha­sis on the im­por­tance of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s shap­ing of the Porsche leg­end, from Steve McQueen’s 356 Speed­ster to Rob Dickinson’s own hotrod­ded 911 that in­spired his Singer Ve­hi­cle De­sign busi­ness.

In­evitably, Porsche’s mo­tor­sport achieve­ments also fea­ture heav­ily, from the lit­tle 550 Spy­der to the re­cently re­tired 919 Hy­brid. What im­presses isn’t merely the vol­ume of vic­to­ries but the va­ri­ety, the abil­ity of mar­que and driver to win at dis­parate dis­ci­plines – epit­o­mised by Vic El­ford stand­ing on the podium’s top step at the 1968 24 Hours of Day­tona in a 907 only days after com­ing home first on the Monte Carlo Rally in a 911.

Like the best fam­ily films, The Porsche Ef­fect works on sev­eral lev­els. You could grab your pop­corn and sim­ply see it as just a bunch of cool cars and come away with a big smile and a cam­era packed with In­sta­gram gems. Or you can dig deeper and find your­self blown away by the so­phis­ti­cated en­gi­neer­ing and de­sire to in­no­vate at a com­pany that’s oc­ca­sion­ally – and un­fairly – re­garded as con­ser­va­tive be­cause of its re­luc­tance to give up on a rear-en­gined lay­out laid down over 70 years ago.

Many com­pa­nies strug­gle to link a glit­ter­ing past with a more pro­saic present. But the fact that cars like the Type 64, RSR and 917 can sit cheek by jowl with a 991 Car­rera GTS 911 with­out any one of them ap­pear­ing out of place proves Porsche un­der­stands its her­itage, and how it got here.

ABOVE Orig­i­nal en­gi­neer­ing draw­ings and scale mod­els also fea­ture in the ex­hi­bi­tion at the Pe­tersen Mu­seum. But, given the price of clas­sic Porsche bits, you prob­a­bly still can’t af­ford one

TWO Evolved from the 906 and built in 1966 us­ing ei­ther a flat-six or flateight en­gine, the 910’s stand-out re­sult was a top-four clean sweep at the Nür­bur­gring 1000km. In the fore­ground: rac­ing and road (‘strasse’) ver­sions of the GT1

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