There should be a flash banner here. There are 2 main reasons why you may not be able to see it:
  • You do not have the required version of Flash MX installed (v8.0+) in your browser
  • JavaScript is disabled in your browser

A Visit to the Porsche Museum

David Greenhalgh spends most of his time half way round the world in his native Australia, but he when he does visit Europe, he spends his time visiting not the usual tourist traps, but finds his way to... well, more worthy attractions. When in Stuttgart, Germany, for example, where else would you go but to the Porsche Museum?

I first visited the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart more than 30 years ago – in fact, I made a point of seeing it on my very first trip to Europe from Australia.

The cars of the time were displayed with a remarkable air of confidence: just a line of vehicles in a hall, with a few scattered posters and accessories to support them. The whole attitude of the place was “these cars speak for themselves; if you don’t understand their significance, you’ve come to the wrong place.”

These days, the cars are housed in a much bigger and brighter building of their own – but the company’s confidence was still clearly there to be seen when I was there in mid-January. How many other automotive museums decline to rope their cars off from the public, but instead allow their visitors to wander around the priceless exhibits at will?

The museum has a good display of road cars, and some open-wheelers to reflect the marque’s ventures into F1 and Indycars; but from the point of view of most DSC readers, the real heart of the museum is the classic endurance sports racers.

And the selection of cars – the emphasis the company places on different periods of its illustrious history – is fascinating. I ended up going to the museum three times in the 1980s, and each time there was quite a range of 908s, 917s, 936s and 956s. But in the museum as it now stands, there are no less than seven 917s on display, no 936 (even though that model won Le Mans three times) – and the only 956/962 is upside down, nailed to the roof of the building!

The car shown in this rather unusual pose is 956/002, the 1982 Le Mans winner. As could be guessed, the point of the display is to demonstrate that the cars have sufficient aerodynamic downforce (well, upforce) to hold them to the ceiling if they were driven upside down.

Not far away is an imaginative arrangement whereby the Herrmann/Larrousse 908, which came so agonisingly close to giving Porsche their first Le Mans win in 1969, is parked immediately in front of the 917K which finally did the honours, 12 months later, in the hands of Attwood/Herrmann. It was a useful 12 months’ progression both for Hans Herrmann and the company itself.

Arranging the 1970 winner in that way means that it is not part of the museum’s real centrepiece – a breathtaking array of six 917s lined up side by side: the early Can-Am car sits next to a Gulf 917K, the Martini 917L, the 917/20 Pig, the Martini 917K, and a 917/30. Gulp.

Unfortunately, even though access is readily available right up to the cars, it was difficult to discern chassis numbers; I always find it interesting to know precisely which piece of history is being savoured. On one of my trips in the 1980s, I was startled to see the Elford/Larrousse Martini 917L on display in the Porsche Museum – and then ostensibly the same car in the Le Mans Museum about a week later. It turns out that the car at Le Mans (which is still there) is actually the Gulf version raced by Siffert/Bell in the 1971 race; it would be interesting to know why the decision was ever taken to paint over the iconic Gulf colours and dress the car up as a Martini edition.

But I digress. Enthusiasts of the 1970s (which Porsche clearly regards as the main focus of this remarkable museum) can also pore over the tiny 908/03 Targa Florio car, which looks like a scale model of its big brothers, the RSR which came second at Le Mans in 1974, or a Martini 935.

As mentioned earlier, the 1980s are dealt with in a rather curious – almost offhand - manner; for instance, the selection of the Barth/Rohrl 944 from Le Mans ’81 is perhaps surprising when one considers the many more obvious candidates which could be chosen to showcase the decade.

The 1990s are represented by two GT1s, including the winning McNish/Aiello/Ortelli car, together with a daunting road-going version of the model; perhaps not the most practical vehicle in which to pop down to the corner store, but mighty impressive all the same.

And that is the whole point of the museum, of course. Porsche’s record at Le Mans is literally second to none, and they will be back in 2014. When one sees a selection of the marque’s winners on display from the first, in 1970, to the last, in 1998, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that it is only a matter of time before there is another entry on that illustrious list. The company’s confidence, still so clearly on display in this museum, is very well-founded.

David Greenhalgh