Historic Car Brands



Ferdinand Porsche founded a Stuttgart-based automotive design company with Adolf Rosenberger and Anton Piëch in 1931. After its best known early achievement – the design of a Volkswagen (‘people’s car’) – Porsche went on to build its own cars and establish a lineage of sporting machinery that continues today.


Dr Ferdinand Porsche – Bundesarchiv 


Ferdinand Porsche’s father was a master panel maker and his son followed in his footsteps, being interested in mechanical things from an early age. In his early 20s he designed an electric hub motor to drive his first automobile design for Vienna-based Jakob Lohner & Company. This company had produced horse-drawn coaches for Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, as well as for the monarchs of the UK, Sweden, and Romania.


1898 Egger Lohner C2 – Arnaud 25


Porsche’s first car was the battery-electric Egger-Lohner C2 Phaeton, otherwise known as the Porsche P1. It performed well on flat roads, but the weight of the batteries proved too much of a burden on hills and its range was severely limited by battery charge capacity of the time.

Still employed by Lohner, Porsche introduced the Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid in 1901. In place of a massive battery-pack, an internal combustion engine (ICE) built by the German firm Daimler drove a generator, which in turn drove the electric wheel hub motors. As a backup, a small battery pack was fitted. 


Lohner Porsche Hybrid


This was the first petroleum-electric hybrid vehicle on record. Because sufficiently reliable gears and couplings were not available at the time, Porsche chose to make it a series-hybrid, without mechanical connection between the ICE and the wheels, similar to diesel/electric rail locomotives and mine trucks.

More than 300 Lohner-Porsche chassis were sold up to 1906 and most of them were trucks, buses and fire-engines, each powered by two hub motors. Some four-wheel drive buses were produced.

The hybrid could hit 56km/h – rapid back then – and won the Exelberg Rally in 1901, with Porsche himself driving a front-wheel drive model. The model was later upgraded with more powerful engines from Daimler and Panhard, which allowed it to gain more speed records. 

In 1905 Porsche was awarded the Pötting prize, for being Austria’s most outstanding automotive engineer and in 1906, Austro-Daimler recruited Porsche as their chief designer. 


Austro-Daimler Prince Henry – Brian Snelson


Porsche’s best known Austro-Daimler car was designed for the Prince Henry Trial in 1910 – where it claimed the first three places – and named after Wilhelm II’s younger brother, Prince Heinrich of Prussia. In 1911,  Austro-Daimler began producing the Prinz Heinrich (Prince Henry) production model that was available with either a 60hp, side-valve, 6.9-litre, four-cylinder engine, or a 95hp, overhead-camshaft, 5.7-litre four.

Porsche also created a 30hp model called the Maja, named after Mercedes Jellinek’s younger sister, Andrée Maja (or Maia) Jellinek.

Porsche had advanced to Managing Director by 1916 and received an honorary doctorate from the Vienna University of Technology in 1916.

After Word War I he successfully constructed racing cars, winning 43 out of 53 races with his 1922 design. In 1923, Porsche left Austro-Daimler after differences about the future direction of car development.

A few months later Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft hired Porsche to serve as Technical Director in Stuttgart, Germany, which was already a major centre for the German automotive industry. 

While at Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft he came up with several successful supercharged race-car designs that culminated in the all-conquering Mercedes-Benz SSK.

In 1924, he received an honorary doctorate, followed by a professorship, from the Stuttgart Technical University.

In 1926, Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft and Benz & Cie merged into Daimler-Benz, with their joint products thereafter called Mercedes-Benz. However, Porsche’s idea for a small, light-weight Mercedes-Benz car was not popular with Daimler-Benz’s board. He left in 1929 for Steyr Automobile, but then the Great Depression hit and Porsche was made redundant.

Ferdinand Porsche founded a Stuttgart-based automotive design company with Adolf Rosenberger and Anton Piëch in 1931. Rosenberger was by then married to Ferdinand’s daughter, Louise and Piëch was a lawyer who’d worked with Porsche before and who had several Nazi clients. 

In May 1933, Piëch a became a member of the then-illegal Austrian Nazi Party. That seems to have paid off very quickly, once Adolf Hitler became German Chancellor.


Porsche Type 12 – MB1302


In June 1934, Porsche’s company received a contract from Hitler to design a ‘people’s car’ (Volkswagen), following on from his previous designs, including the 1931 Type 12 car designed for Zündapp. 

However, there was a condition: Hitler considered Czechs, being Slavs, sub-human and Porsche, who held Czech citizenship, formally gave up his citizenship at the Czechoslovak consulate in Stuttgart.

Porsche had been working on his own small-car design since he left Daimler-Benz in Stuttgart. He’d financed the project since 1930, using a loan on his life insurance and then Zündapp decided to sponsor the project, but lost interest after their success with motorcycles. 


NSU Porsche Type 32


NSU then took over the development sponsorship, resulting in the Porsche Type 32, rear-engined car, featuring torsion bar suspension and an air-cooled engine. The prototypes had much in common with the later Volkswagen, but continuing financial difficulties prevented NSU from going ahead with the project.

The prototypes also had great deal in common with the the Tatra V570 and Tatra 97 designs by Hans Ledwinka of Tatra, who sued Porsche over infringement of Tatra’s patents covering air-cooling of the rear engine. The suit was interrupted by the German invasion of Czechoslovakia and several years after World War II Volkswagen paid a settlement.

Two Volkswagen-versions of the Type 32 prototypes were completed in 1935 and were followed by pre-production batches from 1936, before series production began in 1939. The Porsche 64 was developed in 1939 using many components from the ‘Beetle’.


Porsche Type 64 – Lothar Spurzem


In July 1937, months before the Anschluss, Piëch and Porsche joined the NSDAP of Nazi Germany.  Porsche also joined the SS and by 1942 had reached the rank of SS-Oberführer. Piëch joined the SS in 1944.

By 1938, Porsche was using SS security members and drivers at his factory and later set up a special unit called SS Sturmwerk Volkswagen. The factory was staffed with numbers of forced labourers during the War years.

Porsche produced several designs for heavy tanks during the war and the chassis Porsche designed for the Tiger I was used as the base for the Elefant tank destroyer. During the war, Porsche was further decorated with the SS-Ehrenring and awarded the War Merit Cross. 


Elefant – Scott Dunham


At the end of World War II in 1945, the Volkswagen factory at KdF-Stadt fell to the British. Ferdinand lost his position as chairman of the board of Volkswagen and he was arrested for war crimes, but not tried. 

During his 20-month imprisonment, Ferdinand Porsche’s son, Ferry Porsche, decided to build his own car, because he could not find an existing one that he wanted to buy. He also had to steer the company through some of its most difficult days until his father’s release, in August 1947.


1948 Porsche 356 Pre-A – Porsche Museum


The first models of what was to become the 356 were built in a small sawmill in Gmünd, Austria. The prototype car was shown to German auto dealers, and when orders reached a set threshold, production – using more readily available aluminium bodywork – was begun by Porsche Konstruktionen GesmbH, founded by Ferry and Louise. The 356 was road-certified in 1948 and Ferdinand Porsche died in 1952.

After production of the 356 was taken over by the Ferdinand’s Dr. Ing. F. Porsche GmbH in Stuttgart in 1950, Porsche had opted for steel bodywork.


Porsche 356C – Alexandre Prevot


In post-war Germany, parts were in short supply, so the 356 used components from the Volkswagen Beetle, including the engine casting, transmission and some suspension parts. During its A, B and C evolutionary stages, most Volkswagen-sourced parts were replaced by Porsche-made parts. 


Porsche 550 Spyder


The 356 had engines sizes from 1.1 litres to two litres, with outputs from 60hp to 95hp. Carrera, four-camshaft versions and the mid-engined 550 Spyder racing car had 110hp or more on tap. Movie heart-throb James Dean was killed in a road accident in his brand new 550 in 1955.

In 1964, after success in motor-racing with various models including the 550 Spyder the company launched the Porsche 911: another air-cooled, rear-boxer-engined sports car, but this time with a six-cylinder engine. 


Porsche 911 (901) – Matti Blume


Because the cost of the new overhead-camshaft six was higher than that of the 356’s flat-four it was decided to parallel-launch the lower-priced 912, using the same bodywork and running gear as the 911, but with the latest four-cylinder engine.

The 911 quickly become Porsche’s most well-known and longest-serving model that has been successful on the race-track, in rallies and in terms of road-car sales. 

The 911 remains in production, but after several generations of revision, current-model 911s share only the basic mechanical configuration of a rear-engined, six-cylinder coupé and basic styling cues with the original car. 


Porsche 930 3.3-litre – Ralph R


(As a vehicle with nearly 60 years of production behind it, the Porsche 911 is entitled to its own separate story and we’re working on that! – JG and AW, Editors)

By the late 1960s, Volkswagen was looking for a replacement for the Type 34 Karmann Ghia and Porsche was looking for a replacement for the entry-level 912. The mid-engined 914 was developed as the solution to both issues: VW would sell it as a VW-Porsche, with its 80hp,1.7-litre, fuel-injected, air-cooled flat-four and Porsche would sell it as a 914/6, powered by a 110hp-detuned version of the 911T’s air-cooled, flat-six.


1970 Porsche 914/6 cutaway


However, VW pulled out of the deal at the last moment, over tooling cost sharing issues and Porsche found itself with greatly increased production costs that pushed up the retail price – particularly in the case of the 914/6 that was nearly as expensive as the 911T. It was discontinued after 3351 were made, but the Porsche-badged 914/4 was very successful until it was discontinued in 1976.

In 1972, the company’s legal form was changed to a public limited company, because Ferry Porsche came to believe the company had outgrown a ‘family operation’. His son F A  Porsche left the company to found his own design company, Porsche Design, which is renowned for exclusive sunglasses, watches, furniture and many other luxury articles. 

Louise’s son and Ferry’s nephew Ferdinand Piëch, who was responsible for mechanical development of Porsche’s production and racing cars, formed his own engineering bureau and ultimately became the chairman of Volkswagen Group.


1981 Porsche 924 2.0 – Vauxford


When it arrived in 1976, the 914’s replacement could hardly have been more different: powered by a front-engined, in-line, water-cooled four, driving a transaxle rear end. Like the 914 project, the 924 started as a joint VW-Porsche sports car idea, but VW finally opened for the Golf-derivative Sirocco instead.

The original design used an Audi-sourced four-speed manual transmission from a front wheel drive car but at the rear as a transaxle. It was mated to VW’s EA831 2.0 L I4 engine that put out 110hp. A five-speed replaced the original box in 1977 and a three-speed auto was available.

Porsche executives soon recognised the need for a higher-performance version of the 924 that could take advantage of the models excellent balance and bridge the gap between the standard 924 and the 911. Having already found the benefits of turbochargers on several race cars and the 1975 911 Turbo (930), Porsche chose to use this technology for the 924, eventually introducing the 170hp 924 Turbo in 1978, followed by subsequent competition verisons.

The Audi engine finished its run in 1984, so Porsche powered the 924S with a detuned version of the 944’s naturally-aspirated, 2.5-litre four that was virtually half of the 928’s V8.


1986 944 Turbo – Daniel J Leivick


The 164hp 944 was based on the 924S platform, but with its engine enlarged to three litres. The Turbo version arrived in 1986, with 220hp on tap and the naturally-aspirated 944S, with a 190hp version of the 2.5-litre engine. The S2 took that output up to 211hp.

The 928 luxury grand tourer arrived in 1978, as the brainchild of Ernst Fuhrmann – the first chief executive officer (CEO) of the newly-formed Porsche AG in 1972 – who was responsible for the ‘Fuhrmann-Engine’, used in the 356 Carrera models, as well as in the 550 Spyder. 


Fuhrmann Engine – Veranaca


He planned to phase-out the 911 during the 1970s and replace it with the 928. However, the rear-engined 911 outlived the front-engined 928 by far. 

When it arrived in 1978 the 928 was the first clean-sheet-design by Porsche that didn’t have any VW-Audi collaboration. The 928 was powered by a 4.5-litre SOHC V8, with 240hp passing through a five-speed manual or auto box. The auto was originally three-speed and became four-speed in 1984.


Porsche 928 – The Car Spy


In 1980, the ’S’ arrived, with a wider stance and a 4.7-litre, 296-306hp engine. In 1985 that engine size increased to five litres and output went up to 316hp. By 1991 it was 5.4 litres and 350hp.

The Porsche Boxster and Cayman are mid-engined, two-seaters sports cars across four generations: as two-door, two-seater roadsters and three-door, two-seater fastback coupés.


2018 Porsche 718 Boxster S 2.5 – Vauxford


The first generation Boxster was introduced in 1996; the second generation Boxster and the Cayman arrived in late 2005 and the third generation was launched in 2012. 

Since the introduction of the fourth generation in 2016, the two models have been marketed as the Porsche 718 Boxster and Porsche 718 Cayman.

The Boxter was originally powered by the 911’s flat-six, water-cooled, 2.5-litre engine that was uprated in 2000 to 2.7 litres (239hp) and 3.2 litres (280hp) in the case of the ’S’ model.


2018 Porsche 718 Cayman S2.5 – Vauxford


The Cayman was released in 2006, with a 3.4-litre engine that was also put into the Boxter S.

The 2002 Porsche Cayenne entered the market to a mixed reception, although it was the performance vehicle among SUVs and had comparably good handling as well as powerful engines.


2017 Porsche Cayenne Turbo


It was based on the VW Touareg platform, but with Porsche engine/transmission, suspension and wheel ends. The lineup initially consisted of the V8-powered Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo. Later in the model cycle, VR6 and diesel-powered versions joined the lineup.


2019 Porsche Macan – Vauxford


The Porsche Macan shares its platform and wheelbase with the first generation Audi Q5 (2008–2017).The suspension is modified Audi and the engine, transfer case, interior and exterior body are unique to the Macan.

The Porsche Panamera is a mid-sized luxury vehicle that looks like a stretched 911, but being front-engined with rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel drive is really a successor to the 928. It was released in April 2009 and in 2011, hybrid and diesel versions were launched. In April 2013, it scored a facelift and a plug-in hybrid version, the Panamera S E-Hybrid, was released. The Panamera range received a re-design in 2016.

Porsche Panamera 4S – M93


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