In­side Porsche’s back cat­a­logue

From rare road cars to price­less rac­ers, the Petersen mu­seum in Los An­ge­les is cel­e­brat­ing Porsche’s 70th birth­day in style

CAR (UK) - - Contents - Words Chris Chilton | Pho­tog­ra­phy James Lip­man

The home of Porsche? It’s Los An­ge­les, dar­ling

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’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 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 hot-rod­ded 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 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 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.

The Porsche Ef­fect runs un­til 27 Jan­uary 2019 at the Petersen Au­to­mo­tive Mu­seum in Los An­ge­les and is well worth a visit. For tick­ets and info go to pe­tersentick­ets.org

The 911’s cir­cuit suc­cess is leg­endary, but com­pact di­men­sions and ex­cel­lent trac­tion made it a rally star, too.911s won the Euro­pean Rally Cham­pi­onship in ’67 and ’68, the year it took the irst of four Montewins. This is a ’73 Car­rera RS.

Evolved from the906 and built be­tween ’66 and ’67 us­ing either a lat-six or lat-eight 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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