From its beginnings re-engineering beetle parts into sports cars to its long history of successfully taming a less-than ideal engine layout, Porsche has proven adept at tackling the most difficult engineering problems. The engineers in Stuttgart have always used this to build incredible 1:1 cars, which in turn have inspired amazing models. This Year, Porsche is our Automotive Brand of the Year.
This year, in particular, marks another important milestone for Porsche. Its 919 hybrid, after winning LeMans, was re-engineered into one of the fastest race cars in history, setting a new overall record at tracks including the Nurburgring, all while using hybrid technology that enthusiasts dismissed as green nonsense when it debuted in cars like the Prius. Hybrid systems have also made it into Porsche’s consumer cars, from the Panamera and Cayenne to the million-dollar 918 hypercar.
Quick history: Porsche began to hit their stride in the 50’s with the 356, an evolution of the much older 64 which itself was an evolution of the humble Beetle, which was at the time the last car that you’d associate with sportiness or racing pedigree. But the 356 continues to inspire, from Rebel Without a Cause to Janis Joplin. Yes, she had one, too.
‘64 was an important year. The Beatles (not the Beetles) came to America, the Mustang came to America, but for Porsche people, all that pales in comparison to the debut of the most storied sports car in history, the 911. With the same basic layout as past Porsches, but crisply updated styling and a more powerful 6 cylinder, the 911 was beautiful, it sold and it won races, giving Porsche a triple-threat car that propelled their surge from a small manufacturer of archaic, rear-engined cars to one of the dominant names in the sports car universe.
Thus began Porsche’s sports car dominance. In the 60’s, factory supported teams racing in 550’s, 718’s, RS and RSK models won in venues like the Targa Florio, Grand Prix’s, hill climbs, Formula 1, and LeMans.
1970 saw another breakthrough. Porsche had been racing LeMans for years without an overall victory. The 917, based on the 908 but with a (still air-cooled!) flat 12 eventually making more than 1500 horsepower. The car roared to overall victory while gaining a reputation as one of the scariest, most brutal and magnificent race cars of all time. It was so fast, it was banned from nearly everything in which it competed and eventually killed an entire race series (Can Am) when it won all but a single race in a season.
Many more victories came and went in those later years, right up to the present. The 919, while close numerically close to its great grandfather, couldn’t be further apart in design. Its dominance, however, was certainly an inheritance. Today, Porsche has a wider lineup of great cars than ever, from SUV’s like the Cayenne and Macan, to the Panemara, Boxter, Cayman and of course the 911, which itself has a wider range of styles than ever.
Needless to say, having some of the winning-est and most iconic cars in history makes for some great models, many of which you can buy from Porsche themselves. For all these reasons and more we’re happy to welcome Porsche to the Model Car Hall of Fame as Automotive brand of the year.