Boys dream of one day racing super sports cars on a track or a winding mountain road, but not so much about commuting from point A to point B in the carpool lane inside an economy box car. Throughout childhood, my dream was, one day, to design and drive fast, beautiful and exotic cars.
So, this fall, when I had an opportunity to live in Stuttgart, the birthplace of the automobile, a visit to the Porsche museum brought me pretty close to the realization of my childhood dream. Some might still perceive Porsche as a yuppie car from the '80s or the upscale family car of the 21st century, a misapprehension that would be quickly corrected by a trip through this museum.
The exhibit, as well as the building, is among the gems of Southern Germany's rich culture of automotive manufacturers, high-tech firms and world-class art museums. From the lobby, an escalator takes one into the bow of the museum through one of the building's legs to emerge in front of an aluminum sculpture of a car floating in the air -- Porches very first sports car. By way of an edgy spiral structured path, one is then led though the history of Porsche, from their early racing cars' triumphs to the hippy VW Beetle, as well as the firm's Le Mans racing machines and current high performance street cars. The audio-guided tour takes one on a journey of concept and production cars, scale models and drawings as well as racing films and trophies. An experience of surround sound tubes provides the sound and vibrations of famous sports cars starting, taking off and racing and, at regular intervals, one can even smell a Porsche, as they run the six-cylinder boxer engine of the exhibited beauties.
The company was originally founded in 1931 by Ferdinand Porsche and initially offered motor vehicle development and consulting. The exhibit tells the story of how the Porsche family's three generations of engineers started by developing petrol and electrical car engines, then moved on to car body structures and body designs. In the process, Porsche has created some of the most memorable cars in history. The Beetle is one of them and was produced by the German automaker Volkswagen (VW) from 1938 until 2003. Another is their Porsche 911, probably the best-known sports car in history. Although the 911 was launched in 1964, one can see it's characteristic DNA in all but a few of the vehicles they have produced leading up to the present day 911's.
Porsche may be a small car manufacturer, making only 127,000 cars a year (2011) as compared to Toyota's 8.5 million cars (2010), yet, they have had a disproportionate influence on how we think and dream about cars. Car designers all want to work for Porsche and take on the challenge of refining their cars' interior and exterior design, as well as to preserve the Porsche look and feel while integrating new innovative technologies.
Most of all manufactured Porsches are still on the road today, providing driving and racing pleasure for aficionados. So, who says you have to settle for a "box" car on four wheels?