NIGHT AT THE MU­SEUM

It’s a lock-in at the shrine of Porsche’s her­itage: the com­pany col­lec­tion at Zuffenhausen

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - WORDS ANDY EN­RIGHT PHO­TOS STEFFEN JAHN

It’s a lock-in at the hal­lowed halls of Porsche’s col­lec­tion

T’S EASY to get over­whelmed at the Porsche Mu­seum. The pub­lic have left the build­ing and we’re led from the foyer through a labyrinthine se­ries of el­e­va­tors and cor­ri­dors, all fin­ished in un­adorned white, to a set of dou­ble doors. Our guide swipes her fob on the wall and there’s a mo­men­tary pause. The doors swing open and there right be­fore us is a plain black Bee­tle. Be­hind it is a 1939 Type 64 body, and peek­ing through a far set of stairs are rac­ing 911 RSRS and 936s. A Paris Dakar 911 and a race 944 to the left, the sec­ond 356 ever built to the right. For a mo­ment, I’m a bit over­loaded and just gawp, head swiv­el­ling in dis­be­lief.

Pho­tog­ra­pher Jahn’s a reg­u­lar here and he’s straight into it, but I need a mo­ment. Our guide asks if we’re okay and then leaves. They gen­uinely have left us alone in here with th­ese price­less cars. Kid, meet candy store. There’s a cer­tain flow to the 80 cars on show, start­ing with the ear­li­est and spi­ralling up three lev­els to the most re­cent, rep­re­sented by the cur­rent pro­duc­tion car range, the 918 Spy­der hy­per­car and the 919 Le Mans win­ner.

My foot­steps ring out on the white mar­ble floor tiles as I walk to the front of the mu­seum and look out. Day­light is fad­ing at the pic­ture win­dows and lights blink on in the apart­ment blocks of this eastern sub­urb of Stuttgart. Com­muters head home on the dual car­riage­way. I’m watch­ing them while sit­ting on the rear tyre of Alain Prost’s Mclaren MP4/2C F1 car, pow­ered by Porsche. I look into the cock­pit, keen to see what The Pro­fes­sor would see out of the car. Just one gauge, marked to 12,000rpm, a Per­sonal steer­ing wheel and a bur­nished gear lever at his right hand. It smells slightly funky, some bi­o­log­i­cal top notes among the oil and rub­ber.

Start walk­ing clock­wise and you’ll tick back in time through Porsche’s com­pe­ti­tion cars. The 919 looks like some gi­ant car­bon sar­coph­a­gus, pure func­tion, awe­some in its pur­pose­ful ug­li­ness. The RS Spy­der is its an­tithe­sis, all pri­mary colours and open cock­pit. The brake dust from the 911 GT1 is still baked hard onto the lou­vres on its front wheel arches. It’s been there for 20 years since this car raced at Le Mans, de­posited there by Bob Wollek on the big braking zones at Ar­nage and Mul­sanne.

Un­der­scor­ing Porsche’s com­pe­ti­tion suc­cess is a vast forest of tro­phies sus­pended on wires. There’s the dainty lit­tle opal head­scarf for the Paris Dakar, the big bowl of the Mille Miglia and there in the cen­tre is the tro­phy awarded to Le Mans 24 Hour win­ners.

Un­der­scor­ing Porsche’s com­pe­ti­tion suc­cess is a vast forest of tro­phies sus­pended on wires

There are cars here that are like trick ques­tions for Porsche fans

I feel com­pelled to touch it, this thing lifted by Car­roll Shelby, Bruce Mclaren, Jacky Ickx, Derek Bell, Gra­ham Hill and count­less other leg­ends of the sport. The en­graved panel only runs to Mike Hawthorn’s win in 1955, but the names prior to that in­clude Nu­volari, Vey­ron and Bar­nato.

Just op­po­site is a 956 mounted up­side down, il­lus­trat­ing the fact that this car makes enough down­force at 321.4km/h to stick it to the ceil­ing. The­o­ret­i­cally. There’s Bjorn Walde­gard’s Sa­fari Rally 911 SC, com­plete with dings in the front bar that tell of some un­for­tu­nate crea­ture meet­ing its maker. The ca­su­ally knot­ted bungee hold­ing the first aid kit in place on the par­cel shelf is but one charm­ingly hu­man as­pect to th­ese cars. Look in­side the 1962 Typ 804, Porsche’s only fully in-house For­mula 1 car, and you can see the light scratches on the gear lever caused by Dan Gur­ney’s wed­ding ring as he pi­loted the car about the pits.

The big-ticket rac­ers like the 956, the 917 and the achingly beau­ti­ful 908 are all well doc­u­mented. A more fas­ci­nat­ing as­pect of the mu­seum is the weird and won­der­ful, the cars that never made pro­duc­tion or were one-off gifts. The very first 911 Turbo was a present to Louise Piech for her 70th birth­day. You have to stop for a mo­ment to let that one sink in. This one­off, nar­row-body 911 Turbo, the ar­che­typal scary road car of the 1970s was given to a 70-year-old woman as a birth­day gift? Like­wise one of only two eight-cylin­der 914s ever built is on dis­play, a gift to Ferry Porsche on his 60th. With 221kw at its el­bow, this lit­tle thing, built in 1969, must have been se­ri­ously rapid, its out­put only be­ing eclipsed by the in­tro­duc­tion of the 3.3-litre turbo ver­sion of the 911.

There are cars here that are like trick ques­tions for Porsche fans. The Porsche 968 Club Sport Cabri­o­let, for ex­am­ple. Or how about the 1981 911 Turbo 4x4

Cabri­o­let. Yep, this G-se­ries is the first rear-en­gined Porsche with all-wheel drive as well as be­ing the first 911 cabri­o­let. Fin­ished in pearl white with pearl white leather, it used a short­ened 928 prop shaft to bring torque to an adapted 911 Turbo diff on the front axle. This en­gi­neer­ing study proved an evo­lu­tion­ary dead end, a pearl white ele­phant, but it’s ut­terly in­trigu­ing nev­er­the­less.

There’s so much here to stop you in your tracks. I don’t know a great deal about Rolf Stom­me­len, but I know that in 1968, this un­be­liev­ably brave Ger­man gent strapped him­self into a 909 Bergspy­der hill­climb­ing car that weighed 384kg, thanks to its thin plas­tic shell, beryl­lium brake discs and alu­minium frame, which ap­peared to have the crash­wor­thi­ness of a bath­tub. The tiny eight-cylin­der 1981cc en­gine be­hind his head made 202kw for a power-to-weight fig­ure of 526kw/tonne, bet­ter than some­thing like a Bu­gatti Vey­ron Su­per Sport.

Be­hind the Bergspy­der is the 917 PA Spy­der, a gi­ant white re­cep­ta­cle for a nor­mally as­pi­rated flat-16 en­gine, the driver propped ahead of it seem­ingly as an af­ter­thought. Un­sur­pris­ingly, this one never made it be­yond the test fa­cil­ity at Weis­sach. Run­ning on a mez­za­nine above is the ugly mug’s ball, a se­ries of five cars that were never go­ing to win any beauty con­tests. The Porsche 915 Pin­in­fa­rina Holz­mod­ell is prob­a­bly the most un­gainly; a 1969 at­tempt to build a long­wheel­base 911 sedan. Think of it as the Panam­era’s great gran­dad.

Next to it is the rough-edged and strangely pro­por­tioned 924 Wel­treko­rd­wa­gen, an abortive at­tempt to set a world mark of 250km/h for 10,000 miles. The 984 Pro­to­typ is the fore­run­ner to the

ABOVE: THE 718 OF THE LATE ’50S AND EARLY ’60S DE­LIV­ERED A BEST OF 8TH AT LE MANS IN W-RS FORM (AS PIC­TURED) IN 1963, AND, IN VAR­I­OUS INCARNATIONS, THREE TARGA FLORIOS

ABOVE, FROM LEFT: BIRCH GEARKNOB FROM V10-POW­ERED CAR­RERA GT OF 2004-2007; 908 RACE CAR BODY FROM 1968 WEIGHED JUST 130KG; COCK­PIT VIEW OF THE TYPE 804 F1 CAR FROM 1962, WHICH WAS POW­ERED BY A 1.5-LITRE FLAT EIGHT

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