There are anniversaries that go unnoticed, birthdays that people don’t like to celebrate, and seventy-five years in a human life is already a considerable number. But I also think that a seventy-fifth company anniversary deserves every attention, especially when it comes to the car manufacturer Porsche.
The history of Porsche is very eventful, complex and multi-layered, always shaped by the people involved, first and foremost of course by the Porsche and Piëch families. Great successes, small crises, unbelievable risks – not much has been left out at Porsche AG over the years. But of course the really good, style-defining and trend-setting decisions outweigh the development from a small manufactory to a company with a global reputation.
Of course, the presentation of the Porsche 911 in 1963 contributed considerably to exporting the know-how in sports car construction all over the world. But even the 356 was groundbreaking in its time, incidentally my mother-in-law’s favourite car.
When I visited the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart for the first time and noticed the imposing white sculpture with the three 911s at the roundabout, I was a little awestruck. You can still see part of the original factory grounds surrounded by new, modern glass palaces – it gave me the impression of a world of its own – the world of Porsche.
I also remembered my school days when my best friend and I regularly visited the Düsseldorf Porsche car dealership in the mid-1970s and were always talking the salespeople out of brochures and catalogues. Unfortunately, I no longer have these, they would certainly be quite valuable today.
Throughout the years, Porsche has always accompanied and fascinated me, especially, of course, through motorsport. The sports prototypes of the seventies, first and foremost the legendary Porsche 917 in Gulf livery, but also the Porsche 956 and 962 of the eighties, which drove everything into the ground in the World Endurance Championship, showed the enormous know-how and the unconditional will to win of the Porsche factory. The very best drivers of their time had Porsche works driver contracts and drove from victory to victory. Whether Jo Siffert, Pedro Rodriguez, Hans Herrmann, Vic Elford, Richard Attwood, later Stefan Bellof, Jochen Mass, Jacky Ickx or Derek Bell – all of them profited from the proven expertise of the Porsche factory, especially in endurance racing.
Steve McQueen created a cinematic monument to the Porsche factory with the film Le Mans, Hans Herrmann and Dick Attwood then put the first important crown on the fame on the race tracks with their victory at the 24-hour classic in France in 1970, the first overall victory for Porsche.
sCountless other successes were to follow, whether at the Nürburgring, Monza or Spa Francorchamps in Europe and at Daytona or Sebring in North America, Porsche was always the benchmark everywhere.
And in contrast to Ferrari, Porsche did not build and sell its road cars to finance racing, the entries on the racetracks and at international rallies always served to test new technical solutions and eventually to bring them to series maturity.
Nevertheless, the old motto also applied to Porsche: Win on Sunday – sell on Monday. The racing successes certainly caused the sales figures to soar and also further cultivated the great image of Porsche AG.
In the mid-eighties, Porsche was commissioned by TAG to build the Formula 1 V6 turbo engine for the McLaren F1 team. This extremely powerful, durable and, in contrast to the competition, relatively fuel-efficient engine helped Niki Lauda to his third Formula 1 world championship title and the McLaren team to the Constructors’ World Championship in 1984.
For me, Porsche is a legendary company that has always managed to be at the cutting edge of technology, always innovative and successful, despite its sense of tradition. Sticking to the basic shape of the Porsche 911, but always adapting it to the new times, is an almost unique achievement. It shows how tradition can be preserved without sacrificing modernity.
I am curious to see what else can be expected from the Porsche future and the next 75 years. Find out more about our photographer Ralph Lüker.