Written in 1965
THE name of Porsche is among the elite of the sporting world. Behind it is the story of the continued development of an outstanding basic design.
Although Dr Ferdinand Porsche had wanted to produce a sporting version of the Volkswagen before World War II, it was not until the early post war years that this idea was fulfiIled under the impetus of his son Ferry.
At the end of the war, the Porsche design offices were at Gmund, in Carinthia. The supply of components and materials was meagre, confined to the wartime version of the VW; Austria was too impoverished to absorb a series of sports cars so that, in the face of international currency restrictions, export markets had to be found; to stimulate interest prototypes were built.
Early in 1948 a chassis had been made. Suspension, steering and gearbox were standard VW assemblies; the 1,131 cc VW engine had a modified head, single carburettor and a compression ratio of 7:1. Although the original intention had been to make a fixed head coupe, the first car was an open two seater weighing only 12cwt. With the poor quality petrol then available the engine developed only 40bhp but with a power to weight ratio of 34lbs per hp, the car had a lively performance when it first ran in the spring of 1948. All horsepower figures quoted, incidentally, are nett. This first car was sold in Switzerland but was subsequently bought back and is now in the Porsche museum.
The fixed head coupe foIlowed shortly after. The engines now had two carburettors; both open and closed cars were made of light alloy, the work of one panel beater. The coupes weighed only a little more than 13cwt and the aerodynamic shape gave very little drag so, in consequence, the cars had a top speed of 88mph with exceptionally good fuel consumption. The dimensions of wheel base, front and rear track, overall height and width were almost unchanged up till the autumn of 1963.
This was the birth of the type 356, one of which was favourably reviewed in the Swiss "Auto mobil-Revue" of July 1948. Export orders followed and smaIl scale production started at the rate of five cars a month.
In the meantime a new contract was signed with the Volkswagen works, which in broad outline is still current. Porsche engineers are available to VW in an advisory capacity, Porsche patents are available to VW, free of charge and in return Porsche receive a royalty on each VW leaving the works, Porsche may use VW components and service facilities but may not design a car for another company which is likely to become competitive with the current VW types.
In 1949, the type 356 was shown at the Geneva motor show, where it evoked immediate interest as the first of the Gran Turismo type of car, offering sustained high speed motoring in compact closed coachwork from a relatively small engine. At the show, orders were secured from a number of notables from all countries of Europe; the light alloy series were quickly sold, except four which were retained, later to make sporting history. The essential export markets had been won.
This early success meant that the "Works" at Gmund, with an entire staff of only 300 were quite incapable of reaching the required productive capacity. Negotiations were started to move back to the original Porsche works at Stuttgart, then occupied by Allied Military Government. As temporary measures, the Beutler body works at Thun in Switzerland made drop head coupe bodies and cars were produced in a part of the Reutter workshops. On this shop floor of only 500 square metres, production rose from eight to the surprising figure.of 80 cars a month. Reutter were given a contract to built bodies but the cars were still very much hand made. One fitter, for example, would assemble an engine in about 25 hours, and then stencil his initials on the crankcase.
Complacency did not follow this quick success, for Porsche pursued the policy of continuing development and detailed improvements to the basic designs. At the end of 1950, the 1300cc engine was introduced to give 44bhp and a top speed of over 90mph. Whilst the "crash" type of gearbox was retained, two leading shoes brakes were fitted in front and the rear brake drums were given cooling' fins.
Although the works did not enter for sporting events, some private owners entered their cars in raIlies and the name of Porsche figured for the first time in International victories.
In this year Dr Ferdinand Porsche celebrated his 75th birthday and Porsche owners from all over Germany assembled at Castle Solitude near Stuttgart to greet him. This first impromptu token of allegiance and respect to the genius of design has so developed that the owner of a Porsche to-day is a member of an international coterie.
In 1951 the Porsche made its first appearance in Britain. Three 1300cc cars exhibited at the London Motor Show created tremendous interest but because of currency restrictions, they were not for sale. An extract from a road test report by the "Autocar" in the issue of 20th April 195 I is interesting: "It is not the easiest thing in the world to step down into a closed car which is only waist high but, once inside, the main impression is one of astonishment that such comfortable accomodation for two people, with headroom for the average man to wear a hat and a completely flat floor underneath, can be provided in a little streamlined coupe which in only 51.25 inches high and has a ground clearance of 7 inches.
"Even a short run serves to give the characteristic impression of a really well streamlined car. The acceleration above 50mph is quite beyond what would normally be expected from the engine size and is accomplished in extraordinary quietness; The noise of the air-cooled rear engine dies to a barely perceptible whisper and the wind noise is remarkably low. About 60mph is available in third gear and the manufacturer's claim for a maximum speed in the region of 85mph does not appear unduly optimistic.
"It is a car, rare these days, on which the designer has gone all out for certain great qualities with the limited means at hand and has accepted certain accompanying disadvantages instead of trying to achieve a well-balanced mediocrity.
"In the lower speed ranges, fairly full use of the gearbox is called for and the Volkswagen box is not by any means quiet nor is it a very easy one on which to change gear. The combination of a rear engine' and swing-axle rear suspension on a short wheel base car produces pronounced oversteer. Moreover a well-streamlined car is always sensitive to wind forces and a rear engine layout is particularly vulnerable in this respect. As a result some concentration is required in steering at high speeds.
"It is not a car to everyone's tastes, but it offers a unique combination of comfort, performance and economy for which some people will pay a very good price. They are numerous enough to support a steadily rising production at the Porsche works which turned out 88 cars in March".
In this year the name of Porsche came to the fore in the big international sporting events. One of the light alloy series, entered by the works and driven by Veuilletand Mouche won its class at Le Mans. In the Liege-Rome-Liege Rally two cars were entered, one with a 1l00cc engine and the other with a new 1500cc engine. The latter won its class and was placed third overall.Before the Paris Motor Show, three cars appeared at Montlhery to attack long distance records including that for 72 hours which had stood at 80.71mph, established by a three-litre Citroen in 1935. The long standing records were broken by a substantial margin; the one-and-a-half litre car averaged 100mph far 24 hours and 95mph far 72 hours.
With the appeal of the car firmly established, arders flawing in and with no indicatian of when the Americans wauld return the aid Porsche warks, it was decided to build new works at Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, nat very far fram the aid warks.
The 1952 Liege-Rame-Liege Rally braught Porsche into the limelight. Porsche secured an autright win and there were five Porsche in the first ten finishers; as a result Germany won the Club Team Prize, the Marque Team Prize and the Natianal Team Prize.
A catalague of major campetitian successes wauld be wearisame to. the reader, but enaugh have been mentianed to show the way in which the Porsche drew the attentian af the sparting matarist. Today the list af campetitian successes secured by Porsche drivers all aver the warld each year runs to 45 pages. The cars have always been in demand by sparting drivers; there are naw few drivers who. have nat driven a Porsche-Jim Clark started his career in one; there are others who. have learned from a Porsche that their physical limitatians were a bar to success.
At this stage of development, the technical journalists were loud in praise of the cars road-holding. By present day standards, however, it was fairly mediocre; the cars were extreme oversteerers and a characteristic attitude of the competing Porsche was a controlled tail-slide.
With the introductian af the 1500cc engine in 1951 which gave 60bhp and a tap speed in excess af 100mph same improvement to the brakes and gearbox were desirable. New brakes were designed with a drum diameter of over 11 inches and the drums were finned. A gear box of the type originally fitted to the Cisitalia racing car was modified for the Porsche. All faur speeds were synchranised by means of rings which led to a very fine and campact unit. From this date onwards the gearbox has been one of the out standing features of Porsche cars; gear changes can be made as fast as the hand can move the short stocky lever.
In the following years a number of licences for the constructian of this type of gear box were said to motor manufacturers and same of the 1954 Grand Prix cars were so fitted. The 1500cc engine was available in. two versions the "Normal", giving 60bhp and the "Super" af 75bhp.To meet the demands af competitian drivers, the house of Porsche adapted a policy of limited production of competitian cars. The 1500cc "Super" with push-rod operated valves had a limit of about 6000rpm. Project 547, the Spyder, was built especially for racing and had a four-overhead-camshaft engine in which the camshafts. were driven by countershafts. The car made its appearance during practice for the 1953 Nurburgring, in such secrecy as could be contrived but the performance was disappainting. The 547 engine was then fitted into a new car-type 550 using as well braced tubular chassis with an open alloy two seater body. The ring-synchronised gearbox and hydraulically operated clutch were behind the back axle; each pair of camshafts carried a distributor and dry-sump lubricatian was used. This type 550 was shown at the Paris Salon in 1953 and proved its paces in the Mille Miglia and other events. In 1955 came the Spyder RS (Rennspart) with an engine basically similar to the Spyder but with a new spaceframe chassis and rear axle. This was closely followed by the Spyder RSK which had new front suspensian and limited slip differential. The engine developed 148bhp at 8000rpm with a 9.8:1 compressian ratio.
In the meantime in the standard praductian car field, an open "speedster" was ,introduced in 1954, especially for the North American market. It was available with either 1,300cc or 1,500cc engine and the body was 135 lbs lighter than the coupe. All engines were fitted with the three piece crankcase and an anti-roll bar to the front suspension.
Early in 1955, the type 356 was replaced by the 356A, the new designation covering an improved chassis, suspension and steering. The chronic oversteer was overcame; depending upon tyre profile, the type 356A could be given under- or over-steer characteristics.
In the autumn the engine capacity was increased to 1582cc. The "Normal" engine (known as Die Dame) had 7.5:1 compression ratio and gave 60bhp at 4000rpm and the "Super", with 8.5: 1 compressian ratio gave 75bhp at 5000rpm. In the spring of 1956, the two versions of the 1300cc engine were discontinued.
The Type 356A 1500 GS "Carrera" appeared in 1956 with a slightly "tamer" versian af the Spyder engine giving 100bhp at 6200rpm. It was designed for GT competitian work in the 1600 class and lacked refinements in creature camforts in the interest of out-and-out performance. For the fast touring driver, there was the Carrera GT which sacrificed nothing far performance and was a comfortable 125mph car.
The name af Porsche was firmly maintained in the competition field. When a Formula 2 race was inclnded in the 1957 German Grand Prix, Edgar Barth in a Spyder RS beat Cooper cars in a convincing manner. In 1958 an RSK, converted into a central single-seater was driven home by Behra at Rheims ahead of some twenty Coopers, Lotus and Ferrari. A victory in the 1959 Targa Floria established this Circuit as a Porsche playground; the cars occupied the first four places. The Carrera carried the name of Porsche to victory an European circuits and gave the fourth outright win in the Liege-Rome-Liege Rally of 1959. This was also a Porsche year in the European Hillclimb Championship.
Numerous detailed improvements in the 1959 cars led to the designation of Type 356B. A Super 90 engine developing 90bhp at 5500rpm as a result of a higher compression ratio and Solex carburettors was additional to the 60 and the 75. All models were fitted with a diaphragm clutch. Production of the Carrera ceased in the autumn. The concept of "the sporting versian" was developed into "Driving in its Finest Form", explained as providing performance with culture-an attempt to put into simple words that indefinable quality which owners know that other cars have not got.
In 1959 and 1960 Porsche participated in Formula 2 racing for cars of up to 1500cc with same notable successes and when Formula I came into effect in 1961, Porsche entered in most of the GP races and were placed third in the World Championship. In 1962 a flat eight with four overhead camshafts, developing 180bhp at l000 rpm driven by Dan Gurney, won the French Grand Prix at Rouen.
After this Ferry Porsche announced his withdrawal from GP racing. The expense was not justified; the name of Porsche could be kept to the fore at Le Mans, the Targa Florio, the World Trophy for Endurance and Speed and other events.
In this year the Carrera II came on the scene. This had a two-litre ohc engine with dry sump lubrication which developed 130bhp in a car no bigger and only slightly heavier than the 356B. To secure its vivid performance, disc brakes were fitted.
At the Frankfurt Show of 1963 there were further developments. The Type 356 was offered with a 1600cc engine developing 75bhp (type C) or 95bhp (type SC). There were many detailed improvements to the cars but the most important feature was the adoption of ATE modified disc brakes. The parking brake was of the drum type, neatly incorporated in the rear disc which necessitated a change in wheel form. The type C was the more flexible with more power in the lower rpm range and the SC was more vigorous throughout the range.
These two cars were to be the last developments of the traditional 1948 design. The great 356 series was superseded by the Nine Hundred projects.
In spite of this break from the old design, the cars remain unmistakably Porsche. The object "Driving in its Finest Form"-is unchanged. The alterations were made so as to incorporate desirable features in the car Porsche alterations have always been dictated by desiderata, never by gimmicky ornamentation designed to promote sales.
Externally the body shape is sleeker; unkind critics have described the type 356 contour as "humpbacked"; if this criticism were merited the 900 series would be described as "round shouldered". There is a larger area of glass to give better all round visibility. Wheel base, overall length, front and rear track are slightly increased the overall width of the car is slightly reduced. Front and rear suspension have been redesigned. The front unit consists of a lower wishbone and shock absorber with longitudinal torsion bars; the rear suspension is by longitudinal control arms with transverse torsion bars. To the non-technical these changes give greater seating area, easier access through larger doors and one other outstanding advantage. In the type 356 cars no standard suitcase would fit into the front boot where the usable space was confined by the petrol tank, the spare wheel and the windscreen washer reservoir. The new suspension in conjunction with a double jointed steering shaft, enables the spare wheel to lie flat, thereby giving considerably greater usable space.
The first of the 900 Series was shown at the Frankfurt Show in 1963 and it was then designated the type 901 but Peugeot insisted on a copyright of car models having zero as the centre digit and the car is now known as the Type 911. This is a truly outstanding car fitted with a two-litre flat-six engine developing 130bhp at 6200rpm. The valves are operated by one overhead camshaft to each bank of cylinders, chain driven; the crankshaft has no less than eight main bearings. The transmissian is by a five speed, all synchronised unit. Test reports of this car show that it has a maximum speed of 130mph and accelerates from rest to l00mph in 22 seconds, or 0-60mph in nine secands. Retardatian is by the modified ATE disc brakes, and the kerb weight of the car is only just over a ton.
The second of the 900 series af cars to be announced was the 904 Carrera GTS. This was a sports racing coupe which private owners could enter in the Targa Florio, Le Mans ar the Monte Carlo Rally. Because the demand for such a car with very limited creature comforts would be limited, only some 120 cars were made and these cars are still making sporting history in international events.
The novel features of these cars were in the suspension, the use of a separate chassis and frame with a glass reinfarced plastic body and the placing of the engine inboard between the passengers and the gearbox.
The chassis frame consists of two deep boxform members made from sheet and held together at either end with hollow boxform bulkheads and amidship by a pair of transverse boxed cross members. It weighs only 120lbs. The body is made by Ernst Heinkel in Speyer and is bolted and permantIy bonded with adhesive to the side member of the chassis. It is in three units cab and undertray, detachable nose and tail units. For its particular role the body is small and sparse and weighs only 330lbs.
The suspension is the same as that of the GP cars. In front it is a straightforward unequal length wishbone layout with tubular links, the wheelpost swiveIling upon ball joints. The axis of the chassis pivot is toe-ed in to prevent nose-dive when braking. The rear wheels swing on equal length triangulated links with the apex inboard. The wheels are located fore and aft by parallel trailing arms, the upper arm being the shorter to provide a small amount of rear wheel steering. Co-axial coil spring and damper units are used with anti-roll bars front and rear.
Drive is taken through a dry plate clutch to the two shaft all-independent 5-speed gearbox with Porsche synchromesh an all forward speeds. The solid drive shafts have joggled Hook joints at the inboard end to take up variations in length due to the suspension geometry. This eliminates the need for splines which can lock-up under load.
Porsche ATE outboard disc brakes are fitted with separate front and rear circuits. The four cylinder type 587/3 engine is available in either racing (180bhp at 7000rpm) or standard tune (155bhp at 6400rpm). Twin overhead camshafts and a twin-choke Weber carburettor feeds each pair of cylinders. There is room in the frame for either six- or eight-cylinder units whioh gives the factory the opportunity to race in prototype categories. With the racing trim engine, these cars have a top speed in excess of 160mph which can be reached from a standing start in about 60 seconds; the time for the standing quarter mile is 13.5 seconds.
The cars scored international competition successes in 1964. Edgar Barth was again European Hillclimb Champion; the Targa Florio was a Porsche event and at Le Mans there were five 904s in the first twelve cars to finish. Porsche was second to Ferrari in the World Trophy for Speed and Endurance (which replaced the Sports Car World Championship). This showed conclusively that a two-litre Porsche can get on terms with other cars of much larger engine capacity.
In the summer of 1965, the Type 912 was announced; a car with the 1582 cc "SC" engine in the type 911 body. The car combines the advantages of the type 911 body with the economy of the type "SC" engine and has all the performance which can be used on British roads to-day.
The satisfaction which an owner will get from any car may be severely limited by the after-sales and maintenance facilities available and this is particularly true in the case of foreign cars.
The Porsche likes regular and thorough maintenance and in exchange for this it will give many thousands of miles of trouble-free service. Jim Clark has said that his first Porsche, bought second-hand, was going like new at 50,000 miles and it was used for competition driving. At 80,000 miles he exchanged it for another Porsche. The ordinary owner should get even greater satisfaction.
Although there are a few appointed maintenance and repair garages which are somewhat widely scattered over the British Isles, a good VW service garage should be able to carry out Porsche maintenance efficiently and without difficulty. The British concessionaires, AFN Limited, have well equipped workshops at Isleworth in which they can undertake major bodywork repairs and maintain a good stock of spares. The service which they give to owners is first class, backed up by a thorough knowledge of and enthusiasm for the cars. Periodically field engineers will call on owners to check up on the condition of the cars, answer any queries and make recommendations for any work which should be done. A salesman may accompany the engineer in one of the latest models. The object of these visits, however, is to help owners and not to "drumup" repair work and sales.
Condensed to limitations of space, this is the story of the cars which carry the name of one of the great designers of all time. The idea was conceived by Dr Ferdinand Porsche, brought to fruition by his son, Ferry who is now assisted by his son, Ferdinand (called Butzi). The output of cars is small, a little over 10,000 cars a year of which 71 per cent is exported all over the world and does not meet demand.
The House of Porsche caters for a clientele of sporting motorists-discriminating owners who demand more than out and out performance from their cars and competition drivers who aspire to club events or Le Mans and the Targa Florio. The Works, incidentally, will accept defeat from the private owner with enthusiasm. 1965 has shown that the Porsche is the only car which can split the Ferrari circus.
The Porsche has neither myth nor legend nor is it a status symbol but it is a luxurious way of sporting motoring.