by Don Chaisson, Webmaster YOS
The exhibit, “The Porsche Effect”, opened at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles early this month, and I had the opportunity to visit the exhibit mid February. It will continue to run through January 2019 (so, plenty of time to figure out a way to get to LA and visit!).
By the numbers, there are 53 Porsche vehicles in the “exhibit”, though 20 were held in the Petersen “vault” — and contained some of Petersen Museum owned Porsche examples and were not part of the primary exhibit. The 33 examples in the primary exhibit were sourced from various private collectors, Petersen Museum and the Porsche Museum.
Before you actually go into the “exhibit” there were a few cars in the lobby, on “display” — not inconsequential examples, including the 1973 Sunoco 917-30 Can-Am Spyder and a 2105 918 Spyder, but they were not part of the “story”, per se. I mean, the Can-Am killer and the 918 supercar, as mere footnotes to the exhibit, helps put the gravitas of the main show in perspective. That is because the essence of the exhibit was not to merely “display” a few impressive automobiles, but to reflect the 70 years of the Porsche product and the emotion/passion that IS the “Porsche Effect”.
What is this “PORSCHE EFFECT”?
The exhibit sought to understand, through the physicality of important examples, Porsche’s design, engineering, speed, advertising and (cultural) leisure that helped define Porsche’s philosophy. A philosophy that favored timelessness over trendiness, a regard of customers as “family”, success in competition and an emotional response/passion to the Porsche product(s) that “combined to produce an influence on modern culture unprecedented for a car company of its size — an influence that can best be described as ‘the Porsche effect’“.
The first car in the exhibit was a 1939 Porsche Typ 64, an Art-Deco styled car created from a VW platform, not for streamlining, but to smooth air flow. Interestingly, another Typ 64 was the first car at the Porsche Museum’s Celebration of 50 years of the 911! The front already showing the eventual curves of a 356 and the rear showing what would become the iconic aft of the 911’s. The car defined the initial style language that Porsche refined and evolved for now over 70 years.
So, what was the “Porsche Effect” for me? First, I am taken by the attention to construction detail by today’s Porsches. But this is a continuation of the past — as shown by two early models on display: a 356 Cabriolet that was badged as Continental (later dropped because Ford had already trademarked that name) and a 1968 911S Targa (a reaction to safety concerns of open topped cars). Each reflected a reaction to the US market, one branding, the other anticipating safety. Each example was spotless, both inside and out — way beyond “concours” quality, clearly “museum” quality.
Of course, the passion was and is also fueled by Porsche’s commitment to competition. The exhibit brought examples of competitive racers from an early 550 RS Spyder to a Le Mans winning 919 Hybrid model (actually the 2015’s #17 was the M. Webber car and finished second), with a 1996 906 Carrera 6, a 1969 917K, a 1983 956, the 1985 959 “Paris-Dakar” racer and a 2008 RS Spyder in between. So, three cars along the wall represented its first Le Mans overall win. the 917, 4 in a row by model 956’s and 3 in a row by model 918’s.
But those were specially designed prototype racers. Porsche also won with a “production based” (though extensively modified) 911, the 935 K3, here with the 918 in the background.
Porsche has won 19 overall Le Mans victories. Clearly, such a record from a small company is part of the “Porsche Effect”!
The “Porsche Effect”, then, is the mix of the racing victories and the overall continuum of cars that evoke the passion that I feel every time I climb into my Cayman GTS!
So, what was my “favorite” car on display? (Sadly, there were no Cayman’s)
The car that caught my eye was the 1997 911 GT1, even though it was in the lobby and not part of the curated exhibit. The 911 GT1 was the first “mid-engined” 911 and the first to use an entirely water cooled engine. It was a forerunner of the current 911 RSR racers that are completing in WEC, IMSA and Le Mans. It represented a nod to Porsche history and design language that began with the Typ 64, technology evolution of motive power, adaptation of “aero” concepts and a passionate outline. I look at that car and am awed.