Walking through a century’s worth of Porsche street cars, race cars and one-offs

I often tell folks that, for a very specific reason, Stuttgart is the most beautiful city in Germany. It’s true that there’s plenty to see and do downtown, but for car aficionados like myself, the main attractions are unquestionably the Porsche and the Mercedes-Benz museums that are located on the outskirts of the city.

All told, there are approximately 80 cars on display in the Porsche museum that generate a combined output of over 23,000 horsepower.

Easily accessible by metro, the Porsche museum is a three-story building that’s split up into several sections. These include Porsche-related cars built before 1948, Porsche street cars built after 1948, Porsche race cars built after 1948, one-offs, cars engineered by Porsche, and the company’s current models. All told, there are approximately 80 cars on display that generate a combined output of over 23,000 horsepower.

The displays occasionally change and cars inevitably get moved around, but visitors are certain to see an impressive collection that includes mainstream models, concepts, and some of the racers that helped Porsche become one of the most successful companies in motorsport.

Thinking of trekking out to Stuttgart?  To whet your appetite, here are ten must-see models from our recent visit to the museum.

1948 356 No. 1

Built in the spring of 1948, this convertible is one of the most historically significant models in the museum because it’s the very first sports car to wear the Porsche name, which is why that year is an important benchmark in the automaker’s history. It was powered by a mid-mounted, air-cooled flat-four engine that was sourced from the Volkswagen Beetle and tweaked to deliver 35 horsepower.

That’s not a lot on paper, but it was enough to send the 1,289-pound roadster on to a top speed of nearly 85 mph, a figure that was downright impressive during the 1930s. Its design strongly influenced the regular-production 356, though the flat-four was moved behind the rear axle for packaging reasons.

1950 356 SL Coupe

The aforementioned 356 No. 1 morphed into the very first 356 Coupe. Porsche didn’t have a wind tunnel at the time but the coupe nonetheless boasted a surprisingly low drag coefficient. Auguste Veuillet, Porsche’s French importer, drove an early 356 Coupe at an average speed of 73 mph during a race.

Eager to push the aluminum-bodied coupe to its limits, some competitors fitted covers over the wheel arches and vents over the rear windows in order to make it as aerodynamic as possible. The 356’s early successes helped cement Porsche’s reputation as a forced to be reckoned with in racing circles.

1970 911 S 2.2 Targa

In the 1960s, many domestic and foreign automakers were afraid that the United States government was preparing to ban convertibles for safety reasons. Porsche consequently developed the 911 Targa in a bid to strike a balance between open-top motoring and safety.

Ragtops weren’t outlawed after all, but the Targa went on to become a popular member of the 911 lineup. In hindsight, Porsche’s bold prediction that “some day, all convertibles will have a roll bar” was spot on.

1973 911 Carrera RS 2.7

Often hailed as one of the most iconic 911s ever built, the Carrera RS 2.7 was the fastest German production car when it was introduced in late 1972. It was built as a homologation special so that Porsche could keep racing after the FIA banned the 917.

Power was delivered by a 2.7-liter air-cooled flat-six engine that made 210 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 188 pound-feet of torque at 5,100 rpm thanks in part to a fuel-injection system designed by Bosch. The 2,149-pound RS could reach 62 mph from a stop in 5.8 seconds.

1974 911 Turbo (No. 1)

The turbocharged 911 traces its roots back all the way to the early 1970s. The very first 911 Turbo ever built was given to Louise Piëch, Ferdinand Porsche’s daughter, on August 29th, 1974, for her 70th birthday. It could reach a top speed of 155 mph thanks to a turbocharged 3.0-liter flat-six engine that made about 260 horsepower.

Outside, the biggest difference between the first Turbo and a naturally-aspirated 911 of the same era was a huge wing on the deck lid and custom decals above the rocker panels. The interior was upholstered in an eye-catching combination of red and blue tartan cloth and red leather.

1976 924

The 924 was born when Volkswagen enlisted Porsche to help design a front-engined, rear-wheel drive coupe. Volkswagen canceled the project at the last minute for financial reasons, but Porsche saw a great deal of potential in it so it purchased the design, improved it and launched it in 1976 as an entry-level model.

The 924 stood out as the first water-cooled car Porsche had ever built. It wasn’t as fast as the more expensive 911 but it was nonetheless fun to drive because the rear-mounted transmission helped it achieve a near-50/50 weight distribution. A turbocharged model was added to the lineup a little later in the production run, and the 924 eventually spawned the more powerful 944.

1987 944 Turbo

This 1987 model-year 944 Turbo embarked on a grueling trip around the world on January 29th, 1986. Over the course of about a month it covered well over 25,000 miles and encountered temperatures that ranged from -18 F in Canada to nearly 106 F in Australia. Surprisingly, the pilot and the co-pilot never opened the emergency tool box that was packed in the trunk.

While many assumed the record-setting trip was simply a media event held to boost the image of the 944 Turbo, Porsche later admitted the drive was also a way to put the then-new catalytic converter through the ultimate endurance test.

1994 C88

Although it could easily be written off as a prototype for the first generation of the Dacia Logan, this rather nondescript sedan was designed and built by Porsche’s engineering arm at the request of the Chinese government. At the time, Beijing was considering opening up its new car market so it invited about 20 foreign companies to submit prototypes that showed their vision of a Chinese people’s car. Officials promised the best design would be awarded a lucrative production contract.

Called C88, Porsche’s concept was designed as a basic, rugged, reliable and affordable form of transportation; it was referred to as a modern-day Beetle more than once. It was based on a modular platform that could also spawn a two-door sedan, a station wagon and even a compact pickup. The project was promising, but the Chinese government rejected every single proposal it received from the companies that participated in the project.

2010 911 Speedster

Not your average topless 911, the Speedster was a limited-edition model that was built by Porsche Exclusive in 2010 as tribute to the original 356 Speedster. It looked sportier than a regular 911 convertible thanks to a shorter and steeply raked A-pillar, and its decklid gained a body-colored shell with two retro-inspired humps.

Porsche didn’t make any mechanical modifications, meaning the Speedster was powered by a 408-horsepower 3.8-liter flat-six that was borrowed from the GTS. Production was limited to just 356 examples, and roughly 100 of those were earmarked for the United States market.

2012 911 Turbo S Edition 918 Spyder

This rare, limited-edition version of the 911 Turbo S was quietly introduced in 2012 to celebrate the launch of the ground-breaking 918 Spyder. It cost about $160,000, and only well-heeled collectors who had already spent close to $1 million on a 918 were eligible to buy it.

Riding on black center-locking wheels, the Edition 918 Spyder gained a host of visual updates such as neon green accents inside and out and a sprinkling of carbon fiber trim. It’s admittedly not the most significant car in the Porsche museum, but seeing rather obscure models like this limited-edition Turbo S is what helps enthusiasts paint a complete picture of the company’s illustrious history.

Cars

Hertz speeds up car rentals with biometric scan technology

Biometric security technology that uses face, fingerprint, and voice recognition is gaining traction, with Hertz emerging as the latest company to incorporate it into its daily operations.
Emerging Tech

With this robotic garage, retrieving your car is like using a vending machine

Remembering where we parked our cars can be a real pain. But what if our cars came to find us, rather than the other way around? A new automated robot parking valet system aims to help.
Cars

Gateway’s born-again Ford Bronco boasts classic style, 2018 muscle car power

Illinois-based Gateway Bronco has received a license from Ford to make brand-new examples of the first-generation Bronco. Every build starts with a Ford VIN and a donor vehicle, but Gateway upgrades every part of the car.
News

World’s fastest electric race car to display at Petersen Museum

The Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak race car smashed the all-time record at the hill climb for which it was named. The all-electric VW record-holder will be on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles until February 1, 2019.
Cars

These winter-warrior cars will never leave you out in the cold

Snow can be an absolute pain if your vehicle isn't optimized to handle that sort of terrain. If brutal snowstorms are an annual part of your life, we recommend you pick up one of these winter-ready vehicles.
Cars

2020 Toyota Supra caught hiding in a trailer without a shred of camouflage

Toyota's plan to once again lure enthusiasts into showrooms involves bringing back the Supra, one of its most emblematic nameplates. Here's what we know so far about the upcoming coupe, which Toyota is developing jointly with BMW.
Cars

Driving a prototype 2020 Passat at Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground

Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground is where new cars are tested to the breaking point, including the 2020 Passat midsize sedan. Ride along as the new Passat completes testing ahead of its 2019 launch.
Cars

NYC mandates minimum wage for Uber, Lyft, other app-based rideshare drivers

New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a rule that drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft must be paid at least minimum wage, even though they are independent contractors. The new pay rate includes operating costs.
Cars

LM Industries’ autonomous shuttles head to Phoenix, Sacramento campuses

LM Industries will deploy Olli low-speed autonomous shuttles at school campuses in Arizona and California as part of its ongoing "fleet challenge," which asks local groups to propose uses for autonomous vehicles.
Cars

Bosch’s CES-bound shuttle concept takes us on a trip to a not-too-distant future

Bosch envisions a future in which driverless shuttles occupy their own market segment. The German firm won't build the shuttles, but it wants to provide everything else, ranging from the drive system to the apps used to hail them.
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.
Product Review

Boring takes a back seat as 2019 Corolla Hatchback mixes fun with practicality

We drive the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, the latest hatchback to bear the Corolla name. As the best-selling nameplate in automotive history, Toyota has high expectations to meet. This model mostly lives up to the legacy.
Product Review

Inside Maserati's Levante SUV beats the heart of a Ferrari

Maserati’s luxury SUV gets a shot in the arm by way of Ferrari-derived V8 power, but is it enough to go toe-to-toe with the established players in the high performance sport-utility segment? Let’s find out.
Mobile

McLaren puts the pedal to the metal in special-edition OnePlus 6T

The OnePlus 6T is yet another flagship killer smartphone, bringing powerful specifications to a much lower price than the competition. Now, OnePlus has teamed up with McLaren for the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition.