Porsche first opened a museum in the mid-1970s in a side street next to the Zuffenhausen based factory. Despite being barely large enough to house 20 cars, this location was used for well over thirty years. By this time the ever expanding collection had reached 400 Porsches, so a new museum would be very welcome. The decision to that effect was taken by the Porsche Board in the summer of 2004 and work on 'Porscheplatz' was started little over a year later. Construction of the sizable building took the better part of four years and it was not until January of 2009 that the new Porsche Museum could welcome its first visitors. It was an instant success and before the year was out the 500,000th guest was welcomed by the museum's director.
Having visited the original and rather cramped museum some back in 2001, we were very keen to return to Zuffenhausen. Our much anticipated visit happened early in March of 2010 and we were certainly not disappointed. The fruits of labour can be seen in this 100-shot gallery
A spectacular design
Around 170 European architects had applied for the prestigious project. The ten best ideas were entered in the final competition. Picked as the winner of the architects' contest was Viennese office Delugan Meissel. Their unconventional design features a 'hovering' museum built on three massive concrete pillars. The 'base' of the construction houses the lobby, the archive, the workshop and the museum store as well as a small bar and a bistro. Underneath there is a two-story parking garage that can accommodate up to 260 cars. The connection between the base and the actual museum is formed by a partly glazed stairwell. White is the dominant colour on both the outside and the inside of the 'body' of the structure. On both ends of the monolith shaped museum there are a walls of glass that provide an abundance of natural light. They also offer visitors a view of the Stuttgart skyline on one end and on the Porsche factory on the other. In addition to the museum, the main structure also holds a conference centre and a restaurant. The imposing building is topped off by a generous roof terrace. Although there are plenty of opportunities to take a short cut, there is a natural route through the museum that takes the visitors on a trip through Porsche's history. The walls are lined with production cars placed in chronological order. The centre sections are reserved for the racing cars and special, rotating displays.
Professor Ferdinand Porsche
Production of the first Porsche badged cars did not start until the late 1940s even though Professor Ferdinand Porsche had already designed complete cars from the turn of the century. In the first years of this period he worked for the likes of Lohner, Austro-Daimler and Daimler proper. For Lohner he developed the world's first hybrid vehicle for the 1900 Paris World Fair. This ground-breaking vehicle is owned by and on display in the Vienna Technical Museum. It is represented in the Porsche Museum by a replica of one of the wheels complete with the integral electric motor. The Lohner wheel is the first exhibit in a section of Professor Porsche designs. These include the hugely successful Austro-Daimler Sacha racing car and the Mercedes Monza driven to the victory in the 1926 German Grand Prix.
Having designed some of Daimler's most legendary cars, Professor Porsche set up his own independent design studio in 1931. Here he designed the 'Kracht durch Freude' or KdF Wagen, which was developed into the Volkswagen Beetle and also set the pattern for the first Porsche road cars. He also created the legendary V16-engined Auto Union racing cars during this period. In addition to the Beetle, the only other car on display from Porsche's years as a consultant is the Cisitalia 360 Grand Prix car. Developed immediately after the War, it was actually mostly the work of Ferdinand (Ferry) Porsche Jr. and Professor Porsche's old right-hand man Eberan von Eberhorst. The sophisticated machine featured a supercharged flat-12 engine and four-wheel drive but never actually raced. A reconstruction of the Porsche Type 64 from 1939, which is generally considered as the first Porsche, is usually also on display but it was dispatched to the United States for a display in the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Fittingly, the final car in this section was the Porsche 356/1. This was the first Porsche-badged car, built in 1948 in Austria. While it shared the name and general styling with the company's first production cars, it featured a mid-engined layout that did not make an appearance on another Porsche until the 550 racing cars that debuted in 1953.
The production cars
Using Volkswagen mechanicals as a basis production of Porsche 356 road cars began on a very small scale late in 1948. The numbers were boosted considerably when the factory was moved to the Zuffenhausen suburb of Stuttgart. The subsequent development of the model is perfectly illustrated by a several 356s that are placed nose to tail along the wall of the museum. The first two are a closed and open example of the fifty-odd cars built in Austria, followed by all the famous 356 incarnations like the Speedster and Carrera.
The first indication of the future direction of the Porsche design is found around the corner where four prototypes are placed. One of them is the Type 754 'T7' launched in 1959. Its Ferry Porsche designed lines show how long the 911 had been on the drawing board. The early prototype still featured a four cylinder engine and much larger rear seats than the 911. The idea of a four-seater 911 was given a new lease of life in the early 1970s as is apparent in the Type 915. After four years the project was apparently finally shelved because for handling and comfort reasons. The most extreme of the four prototypes is the Panamaricana, built in honour of Ferry Porsche's 80th birthday and first shown at the 1989 Frankfurt Motorshow. A gift from the workers, the metallic green machine was a showcase of their ability and would inspire the subsequent Targa models. The fourth show car is the Porsche Boxster concept, which was received so well, a production version followed in 1996.
The 'line' of production cars carries on with the original 911 and includes many of the company's most famous products. Featured are examples of the subsequent four, six and eight cylinder engined machines. The final two 'historic' road car in this display are the 911 GT1 'Strassenversion' and the Carrera GT. On the top level of the museum there are five turntables. During our visit they housed five generations of the Porsche 911 Turbo. Spinning completely in sync, this display was described to us as the 'Turbo Ballet'.
A crucial element of the Porsche legacy is the very rich racing heritage. Many of Professor Porsche's designs for others were successful on track and a competition version of the 356 followed hot on the heels of the road car. By 1951 this '356 SL' had already racked up Porsche's first class win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Porsche focused the following years on the smaller displacement classes. While this yielded numerous successes, it rarely left Porsche in contention for outright wins. There were notable exceptions starting with a win in the 1955 Targa Florio for a 550A RS Spyder and a victory in the 1960 Sebring 12 Hours with a 718 RS 60. In the following years the four cylinder engines were gradually replaced by more powerful six, eight and twelve cylinder units, which brought overall victories in the major races on a regular basis. What did not change was the availability to customers of the Porsche racing cars. This of course increased the changes of Porsche success and also helped cover the vast expenses required to run a racing program.
Many of the racing cars retained by Porsche are displayed in the museum, ranging from the 1950 Le Mans class winner to the current Porsche RS Spyder. Other competition cars of note include the 1969 Targa Florio winning Porsche 908/2, Le Mans winners like the 936, 956 and 962C, the Dakar winning 959 and a TAG-Porsche equipped McLaren Formula 1 car. One of our favourites was the little known 909 'Bergspyder'. Built specifically for hill-climbs, it features a 275 bhp flat-eight engine yet weighs only 384 kg. The 956 that won the 1983 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is mounted upside down with 321.4 written on the wall behind it. This is the speed in km/h where it generates enough downforce to defy gravity.
40th anniversary of the 917
The opening of the new museum coincided with the 40th anniversary of one of Porsche's most legendary racing cars; the 917. Launched at the 1969 Geneva Motor Show, this was the first Porsche designed specifically to finally conquer Le Mans. In its original guise the 917 was incredibly unstable at speed with the low-drag body generating lift. The car was so bad that most factory driver refused to drive the 917. In the second half of the season the services of the experienced John Wyer / Gulf team were needed to sort the car out. A new short tail was devised that made the 917 far more stable. The modifications made a night and day difference, turning the horrendous machine into a winner. The icing on the cake came in June of 1970 when Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood drove the 917 to outright victory at Le Mans. That feat was repeated by Gijs van Lennep and Helmut Marko a year later with a special, lightweight version of the 917. In various forums the car would remain competitive until 1973.
To honour the 917 legacy, there is a special display with six distinct versions of the car. On the wall behind the cars historical footage and additional information is shown. Included are the unique 16-cylinder engined Spyder and the 1971 Le Mans winning example, which ran at an average speed over 222 km/h; a record that has yet to be beaten. Naturally the final and most potent evolution, the 917/30, is also part of the line-up. With in excess of 1200 bhp available, it dominated the 1973 Canadian-American Challenge Cup, better known as Can-Am. Elsewhere in the museum a seventh example is on display painted in the colours of the 1970 winner.
With the new museum Porsche finally has a worthy facility to show off the company's fabulous collection. From the outside it is a very imposing place but once inside the focus is almost completely on the cars. The simple white and black colours, and the complete lack of barriers of any kind provide visitors with a very pure experience. Open every day, except Monday, from 09.00 – 18.00, the Porsche Museum should appeal to all car enthusiasts.