Seventy years ago, Porsche propelled itself out of WW2 with a sports car concept that paved the way for the performance car company we know today. Now, Porsche is celebrating the legacy of the 356 Model 1 with a stripped-back, lightly retro 911 Speedster Concept that might see production in 2019.
Up until the end of World War 2, Porsche largely busied itself making Volkswagens, Volkstraktors and various designs for Volkspanzer tanks that ended up being unsuccessful. After the war, with founder Ferdinand Porsche in jail after being arrested (but never tried) for war crimes, his son Ferry decided to build himself a sports car.
He drew inspiration from the pre-war Porsche 64, a 50-horsepower, 99-mph design concept of which three had been built. One had been blown up in the war, one had been raced, and the other had been discovered in storage by American troops, who had chopped the roof off it and belted around Stuttgart hanging out of it for a lark until the motor crapped out.
One has to wonder whether this hacked-up insult influenced Ferry Porsche's 1948 sports car design, as the 356 Model 1 prototype that kicked off the Porsche company as we know it today was an open-top roadster that shared much of its underpinnings with the Volkswagen Beetle.
That 356/1 is 70 years old as of June 8, and Porsche has chosen to commemorate it with a modern-day chop top concept car that will likely see production in some form in the coming years.
Meet the 911 Speedster Concept. It sits a modified 911 Carrera 4 Cabriolet body on top of a modified 911 GT3 chassis, and runs a naturally aspirated flat six engine making "over 500 horsepower" with a 9,000 rpm rev limit and a six-speed manual transmission.
It speaks a lot to the strength of Porsche's original design that the Speedster Concept and 356/1 are still clearly identifiable as belonging to the same family. Core elements like the Beetle-ish round bug eyes and broad shoulders have survived remarkably well into the new millennium, while others have evolved – particularly the way the 356's rear humps have migrated inwards to become the signature "streamliners" behind the driver and passenger headrests that look so cool on modern 911 speedsters.
The Speedster Concept is not short on pretty details, from the short and steeply angled windscreen, to the 21-inch, bright Fuschs-design center-locking rims and the X-patterned headlights, which call back to the practice of cross-taping headlights for racing.
The fuel filler is bang in the middle of the front hood, in a move that would delight chiropractors if this car was ever likely to be driven. The side mirrors are old-school Talbot-shaped things. And if you ever need to park it in the wet (which will happen exactly never), you can pull out the tonneau cover and pop it onto eight old-school British Tenax fasteners, the kind you might find on a boat awning.
The cabin is minimal and road-focused. There's no radio, no nav screen, no air-con, just a pair of brown leathered carbon fiber bucket seats and the basics you need to drive the thing. The area of the center console normally reserved for creature comforts is replaced by a pair of stark looking storage bins, where you can keep the requisite equipment to clean your friend's grubby fingerprints off the Duco.
Behind the cabin, between the streamliner humps, there's a carbon deck lid with a glittering LED Porsche logo and an etched Plexiglass wind deflector commemorating Porsche's 70 years in the sports car business. Frankly I think these are a bit of a crass touch on an otherwise elegant design.
The Speedster Concept was presented at the official "70 Years of Porsche Sports Cars" celebration in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. As it stands, it's a mere concept. But of course Porsche could decide to manufacture them in extremely limited numbers for 2019, and sell them to a select group of extremely wealthy individuals, who will hold onto them for a short time and re-sell them for double what they paid the factory.
This kind of dance between high-end manufacturers and their favorite pet clients is a long-established form of upward-facing welfare and one of the many ways in which giant piles of money seem to find ways to self-replicate. If you've got a big enough shed and any pull at your local Porsche dealership, now would be a great time to start campaigning for one of these collectables should they ever get to production. Just remember, they're worth nothing if you actually drive them, unless you're an A-lister.
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