There are few names more synonymous with sportscars than Porsche. For a significant slice of the past century, the company has been designing, developing and manufacturing cars that proved to be the benchmark for others to aim for. Take the mighty 911, for example: its familiar rounded style has lasted more than 75 years, originating from the dainty 365 that kickstarted it all in 1948. Now celebrating that all-important 75-year marker in the sportscar business, we reflect on Porsche’s unrivalled success story, with ten milestone moments from its past.
“In the beginning, I looked around and could not find quite the car I dreamed of, so I decided to build it myself,” said Ferry Porsche, son of Porsche founder Ferdinand, when speaking about the moment he created the 356 ‘No 1’ Roadster in the late-1940s. Knowing a thing or two about cars after having worked in Porsche’s engineering division, he came up with a sportscar formula that would stand the test of time.
Just a few years after Ferry’s new sportscar rolled off the production line, his father died at the age of 75. That same year, a racing version of Ferry’s dream made its debut appearance in the gruelling 24 Hours of Le Mans, achieving a class victory, giving way to Porsche’s sporting pedigree.
Building on the success of the 365, the first series model of the 901 rolls off the production line on 14th September. The car would go on to be called the 911, setting in stone a name and silhouette that is still one of the most recognisable shapes on the road.
Fewer than 20 years after Porsche achieved its first class win at Le Mans, the manufacturer scooped its first overall win at Le Mans, with the legendary 917. Hans Herrmann and British driver Richard Attwood were behind the wheel of the brutal – yet beautiful – red-and-white-striped racer.
The mid-1970s saw the new, more accessible 924 come to market as the first car to deviate from the tried-and-tested rear-engine setup. With its powerplant up front and more linear styling, the 924 was an alternative take on the celebrated Porsche sportscar formula.
The 1980s were all about extremes. From power dressing and wide-bodied, spoilered 911s prowling the streets of the Square Mile, in London, to a fresh breed of supercars sparked by the new 959. Showcasing the brand’s technical expertise, the car came about at the same time Porsche was dominating motorsport, with a fourth win in the World Sportscar Championship, victory as an engine manufacturer in Formula One, and triumph at the Paris–Dakar Rally in the all-wheel drive 911.
Cooking up something controversial in the 1990s, Porsche was ready to rip the covers off its new Cayenne four-door SUV by the turn of the millennium. Although not strictly a sportscar in the conventional sense, Porsche was remarkably early to the SUV game, leaving its rivals to play catch up.
By this year, one million Porsche 911s had rolled off the production line, making it one of the best-selling sportscars in history. Still bringing home the silverware on the racetrack, Porsche secured its third consecutive victory in the FIA Endurance Championship with an outright win at Le Mans, as well as the World Constructor and Driver’s Championship titles.
The tide on combustion was turning by 2019, the year in which Porsche revealed the Taycan – its first all-electric creation. Turning heads with its futuristic design, the Taycan shifted people’s views on electric cars, as it offered performance and fun driving dynamics.
On its 75th-anniversary year, the marque celebrated in style with the arrival of the Mission X, a Le Mans-style hypercar ‘design study’ that looks all but ready to roll. On top of that, the 911 – the backbone of the Stuttgart carmaker – is still in rude health, with the latest iteration of the rear-engined sportscar sharper than it’s ever been before.
Want more motoring content? We look back on the two-decade history of the Bentley Continental GT…
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