60 years of Porsche fun; 60 fun facts about Porsche
Editor’s note: Thanks to Fred Schwierske, region member since 1996 and former board member, for submitting this article which he received from Porsche Cars North America.
Throughout Porsche’s 60-year history in America, Porschephiles of all ages have delighted in uncovering and sharing the intriguing details that have always differentiated their favorite automotive marque. Along the way, they’ve also added uniquely American trivia to this ever – growing collection of fun facts – such as the date of the first-ever Porsche Parade (August 29, 1956, Washington, D.C.).
To celebrate this anniversary year, here is just a small sampling from the thousands of memorable moments, local lore and historic achievements that fill the Porsche history book:
1. The 1898 Lohner-Porsche Elektromobil was the first car in the world with brakes on all four wheels.
2. Prof. Ferdinand Porsche chauffeured Archduke Franz Ferdinand in a Lohner-Porsche in 1902.
3. During WWI, Prof. Ferdinand Porsche designed heavy transport vehicles: flatbed trailers with the wheels powered by individual hub-motors.
4. Beutler Carrosserie turned closed 356s into open ones – completing its first custom cabriolet in 1947, three years before Porsche came to America and a full seven years before the 356 Speedster was introduced.
5. U.S. importer Max Hoffman displayed the first U.S. Porsches in his New York City showroom by late 1950.
6. In 1952, US auto maker Studebaker contracted Porsche to develop a new car and engine.
7. Hoffman conducted Porsche 356 test drives on Park Avenue, an accomplishment that could not be proficiently duplicated today.
8. Hoffman’s Porsche dealer showroom was designed by famous Architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It is now a modern office building with a Mercedes-Benz dealer on the street level. Hoffman also contracted Wright to build his home in Rye, NY.
9. In addition to importing the first Porsche models to the United States, Max Hoffman also raced Porsches. Several of Porsche’s initial U.S. racing victories can be attributed to him.
10. Hoffman is also credited for the birth of the Porsche Speedster, with the intention of producing a lower-cost Porsche to compete with the Austin Healey 100, Triumph TR-2 and MG models in the United States.
11. In 1952, Hollywood dealer John von Neumann wanted to race a Porsche, so he ordered a 356 without paint or upholstery to modify it himself.
12. The Porsche logo/crest was designed in 1952 on Dr. Ferry Porsche’s napkin as he sat opposite U.S. importer Max Hoffman in a New York restaurant.
13. In the original 356 Speedster, a tachometer was not standard, nor were padded seats, sun visors or heaters.
14. An exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in 1953 featured 10 automobiles, including a 1952 Porsche 1500 Super.
15. The first Porsche to appear at the New York Auto Show was in 1954 and was called “a snappy Porsche roadster.”
16. The Porsche Club of America was founded in 1955, only five years after Porsche was introduced to the United States.
17. The word “Continental” appeared on the side of the 1955 Porsche Coupe and Cabriolet, but only in North America.
18. The Porsche of America Corporation was founded in 1956, taking over national representation of the brand from Max Hoffman.
19. The inaugural Porsche Parade took place in greater Washington D.C. on August 29, 1956.
20. The first appearance of a Porsche at the historic 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race was in 1956, piloted by Hans Herrmann.
21. One of the first U.S. Porsche brochures in the 1950s featured a pair of woman’s gloves on the cover with a set of Porsche keys. The tagline read: “The keys to miles of pleasure . . . ”
22. British automotive weekly publication Autocar became the first outlet to test a Porsche in April 1956, a Porsche 356.
23. The first Porsche series-produced roadster was aptly named the America Roadster for its intentional distribution entirely within the United States. It was completely unpublicized in Europe and only 16 models were ever built.
24. The first vertical-drive German inline engine was displayed at the 1958 New York Auto Show along with several other “firsts”, including the first diesel outboard motor.
25. Jean Behra drove the first single-seat Porsche race car in the 1958 Formula 2 race at Rheims, France.
26. The “D” in the 1959 “Speedster D” takes its name from the Drauz Factory of Heibronn.
27. The 1950s Porsche airplane engine (based on the 356s 1.6 L) could power a helicopter when mounted vertically.
28. Rear seats, headlights, and higher bumpers were the prime accessories fitting a new Porsche in 1960. The starting price for one of these new models was a whopping $3,400.
29. Porsche withdrew from the 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race in 1960 in protest over organizers requesting that the manufacturer use a particular brand of gasoline.
30. Porsche’s production of diesel tractors peaked in 1960/61 with 150,000.
31. The first American citizen to win a Formula One Championship victory at a U.S. track while driving a Porsche was Dan Gurney in 1961.
32. Dan Gurney also won Porsche’s first world championship Grand Prix victory at Rouen, France in 1962.
33. The 911 was originally the 901, until Peugeot informed Porsche of its trademark rights on cars named with a “0″ between two numbers.
34. At the end of its production in 1965, Porsche 356 models were being produced exclusively for the American market.
35. 1966 was the first full production years for the 900 series Porsches and one-half was shipped to the United States, while one-quarter stayed in West Germany.
36. The 907 prototype, developed in winter 1966/67, was the first Porsche to go faster than 300 km/hr (186 mph).
37. In 1967, a Targa version of the popular-selling 911 model was introduced. It included a stainless-steel rollbar to provide a solution to suspicions that the United States would outlaw open-top convertibles.
38. Porsche’s 914/4 model was sold as the “VW-Porsche” in Europe but only had the Porsche crest in the United States.
39. More than 100 dealerships marked the increasing popularity of Porsche models in the United States by opening simultaneously on November 1, 1969.
40. The 1970 Porsche 914 was initially ruled as unsafe for driving in the United States because it lacked proper side marker lights on its front end.
41. The first ever Porsche “drivers’ school”, a precursor to the current Porsche Sport Driving School, was conducted on May 29, 1971 at Mitchell Field, Long Island, NY.
42. The 1975 Silver Anniversary limited edition was built in both coupe and Targa body form, painted in diamond-silver metallic and individually numbered starting with
43. For the 1976 912E, “E” stands for Einspritzung, meaning “fuel injection,” because the car had Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection.
44. The 924/944 water-cooled Porsche models were designed by an American, Tony Lapine.
45. The first few Porsche 924 Turbos to come to the United States had black and white-checkered flag fabric on the seat inserts and door panels.
46.Porsche partnered briefly with Indianapolis 500 racing in 1980 for the first time in its long motorsports history on the Formula One racing circuit.
47. The Interscope Porsche, developed for racing in the Indianapolis 500 race in 1980, was originally unveiled at a press conference at Tavern on the Green restaurant in New York City.
48. The enduring success of the 911 model is owed to American CEO Peter Schutz, who in 1980, after seeing the proposed end of production in 1981 on a chart, extended the line with a marker and told Helmuth Bott to “make it happen.”
49. It is largely believed that Peter Schutz was selected as CEO of Porsche from 1981 to 1986 because as an American, it was hoped that he would revive dwindling U.S. 911.
50. The success at the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1981 is due to combining chassis from three 936 models with experimental engines developed for U.S. Indy Car racing.
51. Porsche began promoting vacation delivery in 1982: order the car in the United States, take delivery in Europe, drive around the continent and return the car to the factory to have it shipped home
52. The Porsche 928 in the film Risky Business is actually a total of four cars ranging in years from 1979-1981. Each car had different options such as interior colors, wheel designs and even paint colors. The production crew had to be very careful about which part of the cars they filmed to make it look like only one vehicle was used in the movie.
53. Al Holbert set a FIA international class speed record while driving a stock 928 S4 at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1986. His speed: 171.110 mph.
54. Porsche 911 engines were air-cooled for an astounding 34 years before switching to a water-cooled format in 1998 to meet increasingly stringent environmental rules and Porsche’s desire to provide more power while reducing fuel consumption.
55. In 1992 it took 125 hours to build a Porsche 911. By 1994 the factory was down to 80 hours, thus reducing the cost of the cars.
56. The Porsche 911 RS entered the United States in 1993. The “RS” stands for “Rennsport,” German for “race sport” or racing. It had no sunroof, A/C, backseat or power steering.
57. Porsche was the first auto manufacturer to make passenger air bags available, optional or standard.
58. The names for both the 911 Carrera and the new Panamera Gran Turismo came from Mexico’s historic Carrera Panamericana race, where Porsche scored many victories.
59. Notable past and current American celebrities who are or were Porsche enthusiasts include James Dean, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Ralph Lauren, Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, and Patrick Dempsey.
60. The correct pronunciation of Porsche is “Porsch-eh.”
Source: Porsche Cars North America