It’s one of the world’s most credited car manufacturers, known for its iconic 911 and the ultra-popular Boxster and Cayman sports cars. Today, Porsche is a leading car manufacturer – an iconic brand that’s instantly recognisable.
However, it hasn’t always been this way. From massive disruptions to production following WWII to misguided attempts to phase out its top-selling car during the 1980s, Porsche has had its ups and downs as a company.
It’s also had a lot of unique achievements, from the world’s first car with brakes on all four wheels to high-tech racing cars that thrashed their competitors and became legendary among collectors.
How much do you know about Porsche? Read on to learn seven little-known facts – from forgotten luxury models to Porsche’s unique engine design – about the iconic German car manufacturer.
Porsche produced one of the world’s first fuel/electricity hybrid cars
Think hybrid cars are a modern invention? Think again. In the early days of the 20th century, Ferdinand Porsche – then just 18 years old – started working for Vienna-based coach-builder Lohner-Werke.
Within just two years of starting work, Porsche had designed one of the world’s first hybrid vehicles. The Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid used four hub-mounted motors, all of which were driven by a battery, to drive the vehicle.
Despite being developed in the early 1900s, the Lohner-Porsche was an influential vehicle throughout the 20th century. In the 1960s, NASA studied the design while it worked on the development of the Lunar Roving Vehicle.
The Porsche 911 is one of the world’s longest running sports cars
Think of Porsche and you’ll probably think of the Porsche 911 – the iconic sports car that, in many ways, defines the company. First built in 1963, the Porsche 911 has an incredibly history that extends further back than almost any other sports car.
One of a select few vehicles to have been continually produced since the 1960s, the Porsche 911 has been updated and modified throughout its lifetime but retains an incredible amount of its original design today.
From the famous round headlamps and rear-mounted engine to its air cooled engine configuration, which was only phased out in the 1990s, the 911 is an iconic vehicle that’s been produced in much the same way for over 50 years.
Until 1998, all Porsche 911 models used air cooled engines
One unique fact about the Porsche 911 is that until relatively recently, it used an air cooled engine. The car’s unique cooling configuration gave its engine a sound unlike any other sports cars on the market.
Interestingly, the 911’s air cooled engine configuration was a result of Ferdinand Porsche’s earlier work on the Volkswagen Beetle. Sensing that the engine cooling was an effective choice, it was used in the design of the 911.
It wasn’t until 1998, when the last of Porsche’s popular 993 models stopped being produced, that the company dropped air cooling for the 996, which saw an almost complete redesign of the car’s engine and platform.
— Only Carrera (@OnlyCarrera) February 25, 2015
The famous Porsche crest was designed on the back of a napkin
One of Porsche’s most iconic features is the company’s crest. The crest is based on the coat of arms of Stuttgart – the capital of Baden-Württemberg and where Porsche has been based for decades.
Ferry Porsche, who oversaw the design of many of Porsche’s most iconic cars during the 1950s, 60s and 70s, sketched the crest on the back of a napkin while thinking up ideas for the company’s logo.
The rather unusual design session was attended by Max Hoffman – Porsche’s main importer in the United States – who apparently contributed ideas to the company’s now famous logo.
In the 1980s, Porsche produced a high-tech racing car called the 959
While Porsche is best known for the 911, it’s also produced a massive collection of interesting, high-tech cars over the years. The 959, which was produced during the 1980s, is one of its most unique and technologically advanced creations.
Introduced as a Group B rally car in the mid-1980s, Porsche was forced to produce a road version of the car because of racing regulations. The 959, which was produced from 1986 to 1989, was the world’s fastest car when it was introduced.
With a top speed of 197 miles per hour and a powerful bi-turbo engine, the car was massively ahead of its time. Owners of the 959 include Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates, whose car was famously impounded due to the US’s strict emissions regulations.
— Porsche Marketplace (@PorscheMarket) July 20, 2015
Porsche planned to replace the bestselling 911 in the early 1980s
In the late 1970s, Porsche sensed that its top-selling 911 was nearing the end of its commercial life and started considering replacement options. One of these was the unique and quirky Porsche 928 luxury grand touring car.
The 928 was a first for Porsche in many ways – it had its engine at the front of the car, as opposed to the middle or rear, and used a large V8 engine in place of the 6-cylinder engines used in most of Porsche’s sports cars at the time.
Although the 928 was a commercial success at the time, it wasn’t enough of a top-seller to replace the 911. Porsche dropped the 928 in 1995 and continued making the 911 as its flagship model.
The original Porsche 356 Speedster featured a bare bones interior
Produced from the late 1940s until the mid-1960s, the Porsche 356 Speedster was one of the company’s most popular early models. It was also an extremely simple car, making such basic features as padded seats.
The early 356 Speedster had such a simple interior that it didn’t even include a tachometer – a standard item on sports cars. The car also lacked a heater, all to reduce its weight and simplify production.
Despite the lack of features, the 356 Speedster was a hugely successful car that launched Porsche as a sports car manufacturer and paved the way for its other models, including the famous 911.