Old Porsche Museum – Zuffenhausen (D)

Note that this report, written in July 2008, describes the old Porsche Museum, which is now closed.
It’s not just the UK that seems to have been by-passed by summer weather. Switzerland has fared little better. When I surveyed the forecast for yesterday, it seemed that the whole country was going to be subject to rain, cloud and generally unseasonal conditions, which would make testing the latest car difficult, and photography more than challenging. Only when I looked further afield did I find a forecast with at least an element of sun in it. So, it was north I headed, over the German border. And on to Stuttgart, or rather, initially, to Zuffenhausen, to visit the Porsche Museum. A huge new edifice is currently under construction, due to open in December 2008, with the promise of 300 cars on display. Looking at the state of the building, a lot has to happen between now and year end, but once that facility is opened, I am expecting a truly world class experience, which will make a return trip worthwhile. The current museum is – by its own admission – very small. It is, however, free of charge. There are about 20 cars on display, and the exhibits are changed frequently. Here is what was on show yesterday:

1912 Austro-Daimler Feuerwehrspritze.
The Austro-Daimler concern was the first automotive venture for Professor Ferdinand Porsche, the ultimate founder of the Porsche legend. Founded in 1906, it was not until 1912 that they switched from electric vehicles to petrol powered ones, and one of their first successes was with this fire engine. Its 4 cylinder 2010cc engine developed a heady 20PS, so I don’t imagine it was that speedy in getting to the infernos!
In 1922, this Austro-Daimler “Sascha” caused something of a sensation. A light, yet powerful sports/racing car, it took the first 2 places in its class in the Targa Florio in 1922. Just 1089cc, yet with 45 PS, so an indication of the engineering thinking that would come to light when cars with Porsche’s own name would appear, nearly 50 years later.
Before that would happen, though, Porsche played a rather instrumental part in engineering a car for the people. The story of what became known as the “Volkswagen” is well known and documented. This 1950 model, with the initial 1131cc engine, and 25PS was the car that put both many people on the road for the first time, and also which laid the foundation for the hugely successful post-war German automobile industry.
It was around this time that Professor Ferdinand Porsche, and his son, of the same name, but generally referred to as “Ferry” Porsche, built their own first car, the 356. This 1953 Roadster model was built specially for the American market, where the car enjoyed huge success. This one had a 1488cc engine, and was tuned to put out 70PS – a lot for the time, especially in such a light car.
From these early beginnings, Porsche continued with the same formula, building ever more powerful sports cars, and using motor sport both to improve the product and for positive image building of the desirability of their cars. One of the most beautiful of these early cars was the 904. This 1964 model is the very rare 904/8 GTS, the only example of this car fitted with an 8 cylinder engine.
The 911 was first launched in 1963, and has undergone a constant evolution ever since. Many still reckon that the 1973 Carrera RS is one of the very best cars ever made with the “neun hundert elf” moniker:
The latest 911 models are very sophisticated cars indeed compared with their early predecessor, as could be seen in this cutaway model:
It was later in the 1960s when Porsche found success in major events, such as Le Mans. These amazing engines come from that time: The 908 – a 3 litre engine, developing 350 PS.
And the awesome 16 cylinder 7166cc engine, with 880 PS from the 907.
For three seasons in the 1980s, Porsche enjoyed huge success in Formula 1, when the McLaren TAG Porsche cars secured numerous Grand Prix wins and the title for Messrs Lauda and Prost. The American racing scene was not neglected, either as this 1989 Indy Cart car shows.
In 1984, Porsche had developed a special four wheel drive system, which they fitted to a heavily modified 911 body, to create the car which won the 1984 Paris-Dakar rally. It was a few years later when 4WD became a popular option on the 911 Carrera road cars.
Back in 1983, the Group B rally car development were at their zenith, and Porsche built a technology show case that was mightily impressive in every respect. The legendary 959. This is the study for the car which was later productionised and sold in small quantities in the yuppie boom times of the late 1980s.
In reality, Porsche was doing well, as their first front engined car, the 924, had finally come good, with the launch of more powerful versions, such as the 944. This turbo car dates from 1986.
By the early 1990s, things were looking tough. The days of the yuppie were over, and Porsche was struggling to survive. The 1992 Speedster was not the vehicle that was going to address that problem, and this car was not generally well viewed when it was new. Now, however, these cars command big money.
In 1998, Porsche triumphed again at Le Mans, with the astonishing GT1 car.
This formed the basis for one of the true supercars of the past few years: the Carrera GT. This car attracted more attention than any other on display in the museum – and perhaps rightly so, as it is a very impressive machine indeed.
There are plenty of other exhibits – several old photos and posters, and various other mechanical components from the ages, so it is worth popping in should you find yourself in the area (Zuffenhausen is north west of Stuttgart, just off the A10). I’m already getting very excited to think what the new museum, with 15 times as many cars is going to be like!

2009-12-31 20:44:54

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