70 years of the Porsche Effect, from the 356 to the 919

The Petersen Automotive Museum’s latest exhibit celebrates many mighty machines from the legendary automaker.

Geoffrey Morrison
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The Porsche Effect

The Porsche Effect is the Petersen Automotive Museum's latest exhibit. It runs until January 2019.

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Iconic design

Two 356s, with a mid-'70s 911 in the middle. 

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The first

The 1964 901. Due to Peugeot claiming trademark on model names with a "0" in the middle, the 911 was born. 

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One of the first turbocharged production cars, the three-liter flat-6 in this first-gen 911 Turbo put out 260 horsepower.

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Drivers car

The familiar five dials, and a cockpit that looks like it just arrived from the factory.

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Carrera GT

A Carrera GT and its 600-horsepower V10. If you look behind there's an interesting display. It has the outlines of every generation of the 911, and an image is projected showing each car as they've grown and "changed."

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The open air of a convertible, with the safety of a hardtop? Personally I think the Targas are the best looking 911s.

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This car has a "Sportomanual" which allows for clutchless shifting, but isn't an automatic transmission.

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The classic precursor to the 911, the 356.

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This was a design study called the 928 H50. It's a bit awkward looking, with a stretched 928 chassis. The rear doors are hinged at the back.

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Leading a pack of race cars is the legendary 550. Amazingly, it only had a 1.5L 110 hp motor, yet because of its light weight and streamlined design, it was regularly a race winner.

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This example came in second in its class in overall points in the 1956 SCCA season.

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The four-cam, dry-sump, twin-ignition, 1.5L from the 550. The overall design was in production from 1953-1965, growing in size to 2.0L. 

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This is what that small engine had evolved to by the 1980s. This Type 935/76 flat-6 had two turbos, four valves per cylinder, and water-cooled cylinder heads. It's most notable for powering the "Moby Dick" racer of 1978, and the 956 that came in first, second, and third at Le Mans.

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This "K" model sorted out the handling issues of the earlier 917, winning Porsche its first (of 19 so far) overall victory at Le Mans in 1970.

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Those tires

Huge tires help, as does the the "K" tail, which stands for "Kurzhecks" or "Short Tail."

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In naturally aspirated form, the air-cooled flat-12 in the 917K was good for almost 600 hp. Displacements ranged from 4.5-5L. Turbocharged, with up to 5.4L displacement, it was good for over 1000 hp and 240 mph (386 kph). In other race series, it produced even more.

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If this car looks dirty, it's because it is. It is rarely cleaned to keep traces of the dirt from the Paris-Dakar rally, which it won in 1984. The 959 was an advanced car for its day, with sequential turbos, electronically controlled AWD and more.

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919 Hybrid

The second place 919 Hybrid from the 2015 Le Mans. This was amusing to me, as I saw it race there. I wrote about my adventure going to Le Mans the year before, when Porsche didn't do quite as well.

Though sporting an impressive 900 hp, it only has a 2.0L V-4 (turbocharged, of course), and a single electric motor.

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A 935 K3. Pretty sure I had a remote-control model of this car as a kid. This one was the overall winner of the '79 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of the few production cars ever to pull that off.

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The "K" in 935 K3 stands for Kremer Racing, which modifies Porsches for non-factory racing teams.

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Super Speedster

A 356A 1600 Super Speedster, but not just any Super Speedster...

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King of Cool

This 356A was owned by Steve McQueen himself. 

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Not a just a cruiser

McQueen raced this car Willow Springs, Laguna Seca, and more. Not bad for a 1.6L car with 75 hp.

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A 356, modified for racing by Heinrich Sauter and Hans Klenk. The body is more aerodynamic, and the engine is a larger 1.5L (1.3 was the standard size for 1951). 

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Suicide doors

In a real rarity on a Porsche, the doors are hinged in the back, said to ease ingress during "Le Mans-style" starts.

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A 2015 918 Spyder, with it's 887 hp from a naturally aspirated V-8 and two electric motors.

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550 Spyders were build for racing, driven hard, and usually highly modified. But this one never did and never was, making it likely the most original 550 out there.

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The dominant 917s weren't just used at Le Mans. Other teams entered them in races like the Can-Am series. This example was driven by Mark Donohue, winning the 1973 championship. The modified, turbocharged flat-12 put out around 1500 horsepower.

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Two late-90's GT1s. On the left, the racing version. It was actually mid-engined, and won 8 of its 36 races, but was on the podium 21 times. The flat-6 was fully water-cooled for the first time. The white car is the "Strassenversion" or "Street version." It had a carbon-fiber body, softer suspension, and a de-tuned engine of "only" 544 hp, down from 600.

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910 and 904

The car in the front is a 1967 910 that won its class and came in ninth overall at the 1969 24 Hours of Le Mans. 

In the back is a 1964 904, which was Porsche's first fiberglass-bodied car and their first mid-engine hardtop. There were 4-, 6-, and 8-cylinder versions available.

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The Vault

Beneath the museum is the Vault, where dozens of cars are stored. Some await display, others await restoration. You can check out our full tour of the Vault in A tour of the Vault at the Petersen Automotive Museum. What you'll see in the next few slides are the latest Porsche additions. Great cars they didn't have room to display in the main exhibit. 

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This is the 356 SL Gmund Coupe, one of the earliest cars to have the Porsche name. This specific car won its class at the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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These cars were built in Austria, instead of Stuttgart, in the town of, you guessed it (or maybe not), Gmund.

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Business that perhaps is risky

The car Tom Cruise drove in "Risky Business." 

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Manual Manual 928s are pretty rare in the US. Apparently Tom learned to drive manual in this car. 

The keys are in it!

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A whole row of winning Porsche race cars.

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An early 911, in that brownish-yellow so popular of the era. The adjacent 356 looks far more classic in Silver. Or maybe that's just me?

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You sure don't see a many all-metal dashboards anymore. Hmmm, can't imagine why...

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An exceptionally rare Slantnose 911, one of a handful made for the Japanese market. It's a left-hand drive. 

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It's amazing how little the interior of these changed over the decades. And of course, the tach in the middle, as all proper cars should have.

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pair of 944s, and in the foreground, a 914-6.

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A racing version of Porsche's criminally underappreciated 914. I mean, sure, it looks like a cardboard box someone left in the rain, but they're super fun to drive. This version has a flat-6, most (like mine) had a flat-4.

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The Porsche Effect

We shall end on the spartan cockpit of the 914-6 GT. 

For the full story behind this tour, check out Stuttgart stunners: The Porsche Effect shows off racing legends.

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