At Porsche Museum, a history of great cars (photos)

Road Trip 2011: Open just two years, the famous carmaker's gleaming museum houses some of its most celebrated vehicles.

Daniel Terdiman
1 of 25 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

The 'godfather' of Porsches

STUTTGART-ZUFFENHAUSEN, Germany--For two years now, Porsche fans have had a new shrine to their favorite cars to visit. This is the Porsche Museum, a stunning modern architectural masterpiece that happens to house dozens of the company's most famous and important vehicles.

It is also home to many of the vehicles that Ferdinand Porsche created or designed before he started his own company. Among them is this one, the 'godfather' of Porsches, the so-called Body Type 64. Made in 1939 with an all-aluminum body, Professor Porsche, as the founder of the company is known, drove this car himself, and later, after World War II, he added his family's name to the car, the first vehicle to have that honor.

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Porsche 911 GT1

This is the Porsche 911 GT1, one of the most famous cars in the company's history. Built in 1997 with a production run of just 20 cars--since that's the minimum number required for a car to be entered into most international motor races--this is a street-legal monster that sold for 1.5 million German marks when it went on sale. The run sold out in seconds.

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Porsche Museum

This is the Porsche Museum, which opened for business in 2009. It is a stunning architectural masterpiece, designed by Vienna's Delugan Meissl Associated Architects. The building itself is worth a visit, let alone the dozens of beautiful and essential Porsches housed inside.

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Number One Roadster

This is the 'Number One' Roadster, the first car to ever come out of the newly founded Porsche company. Built in a run of 80,000 in 1948, these cars had just 35 horsepower and topped out at 84 miles an hour. Yet, because it's the first Porsche, and a beautiful one at that, the car is now worth more than a million euros, despite the fact that most of the models are still on the road somewhere.

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Porsche 356 SL Coupe

This is the Porsche 356 SL Coupe, which was built in 1950. It is a light-alloy coupe, a car that made it possible for Porsche to race. "The engine is located behind the rear axle," a card about the car at the museum reads, "and even without a wind tunnel the aluminum body has a very low drag coefficient." Part of its aerodynamics come from the wheel covers, as well as the fact that its ignition key had perforations that saved additional weight.

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Porsche 356 B Carrera 2 Cabriolet

This is the Porsche 356 B Carrera 2 Cabriolet, built in 1962. There were only 34 of these cars built. It featured disk brakes developed by the company for its Type 804 Formula One racing cars. "The capacity of the powerful two-liter, vertical shaft engine is reflected in the model's name: Carrera 2."

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Porsche 356 Coupe Ferdinand

This is the Porsche 356 Coupe Ferdinand, which Professor Porsche's son Ferry presented him in 1950 for his 75th birthday. Following his death soon after, the car was used to test each new Porsche engine. It became known as "a test bench on wheels."

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Porsche 356-2 Coupe

This is a later development of the "Number One" roadster, the light-alloy 356/2 Coupe. Just 52 were made, all by hand, in Gnund, Austria.

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Porsche 718 W-RS Spyder

This is Porsche's first two-liter, eight-cylinder car, known as 'Grandmother' by the company's mechanics "because of its exceptionally long motorsport career," which lasted from 1961 to 1964. It won the Targa Fiorio race in 1962, many others during its racing career.

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Porsche 908/03 Spyder

This is the Porsche 908/03 Spyder, a race car that weighed in at 1,201 pounds. It had a foam-resin-forced plastic body that weighed just 26.5 pounds. It raced just four times, but won three times, including the 1970 Targa Florio.

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Fire truck

Ferdinand Porsche had a fascination with fire trucks, and when he joined Austro-Daimler as chief engineer, among his development activities are community-service vehicles. "His first customer is the company's own fire crew, for whom he develops a special vehicle: for the firsst time, personnel transport, a water pumper, and a hose are combined in a motor vehicle."

The truck served a 20-year career and then was adopted by an Austrian community for another 36 years.

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Semper Vivus

Professor Porsche is said to have invented the first hybrid vehicle, the Semper Vivus, in 1900. It was a monster, though. The front wheels weighed in at 595 pounds each, because that's where the electric engines were located. It had two gasoline engines on its back.

This is a replica of the vehicle. The Semper Vivus is currently on display at the Porsche Museum as part of a special exhibit celebrating the company's history as the inventor of hybrid vehicles.

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Original hybrid

This is a photograph from the exhibition of Professor Porsche driving his original hybrid in 1900.

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Porsche 911 2.0 Coupe

This is the Porsche 911 2.0 Coupe, "The birth of the original 911: Porche [introduced] the successor to the 356 at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt in 1963. The 911 differs in many ways from its predecessor--not just its rev-ready six-cylinder engine. Because Peugeot already claimed the use of three-digit numbers with a zero in the middle for itself, Porsche [had] to retract the 901 designation. The company [chose] the magical number 911."

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Type 754 T7

This the Porsche Type 754 "T7," a "milestone on the path to the 911." A four-seater, it never took off, and then-company head Ferry Porsche nixed the idea at prototype stage. "He ultimately accepts a modified version with spare seats--a two-plus-two seater, which doesn't interfere with the fastback design, a must for the Porsche silhouette."

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Millionth Porsche

This is the millionth Porsche, a 911 Carrera coupe, which was owned by the German Federal State of Baden-Wurttemberg.

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Porsche Carrera RS 2.7 Coupe

This is the first-ever Porsche to be known as a Carrera, and its distinctive feature is its rear spoiler. In 1973, this was the fastest German production car of its time.

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Porsche GT1 98

This is the Porsche 911 GT1 98, built to celebrate the company's 50th anniversary, which it celebrated with this car's victory at Le Mans. "The 911 GT1 98 demonstrates brilliantly that elegant styling, high functionality, and racing features are not necessarily incompatible."

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911 S Type 915

This is the Porsche 911 S Type 915, a prototype four-seater from 1970. It never went into production, because the company decided it wasn't yet ready for a four-seater, and didn't want to compete with its own two-seater models.

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917 KH Coupe

This is the Porsche 917 KH Coupe, built in 1970. The car was the victor in that year's Le Mans.

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The Pink Pig

This is the Porsche 917/20 Coupe, known as "The Pink Pig" because many at the company saw its resemblance to a sow. The Porsche Design Studio "comes up with a pink paint job and even differentiates the different parts of the vehicle like a butcher would." When it failed to finish Le Mans, someone was heard to say, "The pig has died."

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Porsche 959 Coupe

This is the Porsche 959 Coupe. "In no other Porsche are the passions for competition and high-end so perfectly blended as in the 959. Designed for the newly introduced Group B in auto racing, this technological showpiece, based on the 911, is produced in a deluxe series of 292 units....Despite its price of 420,000 German marks [in 1988], the 959 quickly sold out."

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Studie Boxter

In 1992, Porsche was struggling to survive, and many thought it would not make it. The company introduced this prototype, the Studie Boxter, at the 1993 Detroit Motor Show, and the response was so strong that sales upon its release in 1996 quickly allowed the company to recover.

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Upside down 956

"According to the theory of downforce...when this Porsche 956 reaches a speed of 321.4 kilometers per hour, it could theoretically drive on ceilings." While no one ever tested the theory, the Porsche Museum hung a 956 from the ceiling.

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This is the foyer in the beautiful Porsche Museum.

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