Porsche unlocks secret models from Weissach
With this story, we take you on a fascinating journey – into a parallel world full of cars that you may not have expected from Porsche even in your wildest dreams. Wondering what Porsche’s vision of an ‘elfer’ or a Macan SUV for a Safari rally looks like? How about a new version of the wicked 550 Spyder or Porsche 904? What would the racing legend 919 look like in the road version? Discover Porsche secret models from Weissach’s imagination workshop
Half past eight in the morning in Weissach. It could be any normal small town in southern Germany, with a church and butcher’s shop on the village square, surrounded by gently rolling hills and golden fields of wheat – if it were not for the Porsche prototypes covered with camouflage film that visitors encounter on the country road leading to the town. Porsche has had its Development Centre here since 1971, in the middle of idyllic countryside and just 25 kilometres from the main factory in Zuffenhausen. All new series production models are created in Weissach – from the first sketch, through scale models up to development of new engines, chassis and near-production prototypes, which are evaluated on test rigs, in wind tunnels and on the in-house test track.
The distances between the individual departments are short and there is an intense exchange of information between the employees. Even the proximity to motorsport can be taken literally at Porsche: the Porsche Motorsport Centre in the neighbouring village of Flacht, where the brand’s race cars are produced, is just a few hundred metres away. When the wind is blowing in the right direction, the sound of race engines acts as a soundtrack for the designers, model builders and engineers during their work.
Michael Mauer may officially be the Chief Designer at Porsche – but he is secretly leading a gigantic time travel project at the Development Centre in Weissach. Every morning, he and his design team pass through the high-security checkpoints, fill up with their creative rocket fuel at the espresso machine, and leave the present behind them to explore tomorrow’s world on their journeys of the mind.
They return in time for the end of the working day – with new ideas from 2030, 2040 or 2050. Porsche’s Design Studio is in fact a huge ideas workshop, an innovative think tank where even the craziest ideas are supported and pursued. The team is always on the lookout for the next brilliant design, a decisive idea, a further development step on the path to the car of the future.
Today, for the first time in the recent history of Porsche, Chief Designer Michael Mauer is opening the secret archives of the Porsche Design Studio in Weissach and allowing us to take a look at many of the bold, fascinating and surprising concept cars that have been produced in almost two decades under his direction. With this book we would like to take our readers on a fascinating journey – into a parallel world full of cars that you might not have expected from Porsche and which you might not even have dared to dream about. Sometimes, we’ve had to pinch ourselves ..So, here is 15 secrets models from Weissach.
Porsche 911 Vision Safari
In the 1970s, the Porsche 911 had already proved its astonishing off-road capabilities in the legendary East African Safari Rally. The race took competitors on a journey covering almost 5,000 km across the Kenyan wilderness. In 1978, Porsche works drivers Björn Waldegård and Vic Preston Jr. were right up in the leading group in their Porsche 911 SC Safari, which boasted increased ground clearance, all-round reinforcement and some pretty characteristic Martini stripes. They proved that the air-cooled 911 is almost as unstoppable in the desert as it is on a motorway or a race track. The images of these Porsche 911 Safari cars covered in the red dust of the African savannah, splashing through water holes and mud pools will never be forgotten.
And that is why the Porsche design team decided to pay tribute to the legendary off-road sports car with a contemporary re-interpretation in 2012. The Porsche 911 Vision Safari was created on the basis of the 991 generation of the 911. With its raised suspension, reinforced wheel housings, massive bumpers and a spartan rally cockpit with race seats and roll cage, it fully reflects its historic rally predecessor. The designers even planned a special shelf mounted above a fan behind the seats – to cool down your crash helmet between especially hot stages.
Porsche Macan Vision Safari
The Porsche Macan is at home on the world’s boulevards but, under its elegant lines, there is a proper off-roader that is just waiting to be unleashed in the dust and mud. After all, this deeply successful model does feature active all-wheel drive, a sporty dual-clutch transmission and an adaptive chassis that can be adjusted for off-road driving at the push of a button. Perhaps, the Macan is pre-destined to prove its versatility on gravel roads and rally tracks.
Inspired by the brand’s great off-road icons – the Porsche 911 Safari and the 959 Paris-Dakar – the design team in Weissach therefore fitted the Porsche Macan Vision Safari on correspondingly chunky tyres. As a sportily proportioned three-door with increased ground clearance and a hatful of rugged accessories, the sporty off-roader would be ready to leave the tarmac: ready to explore the remoter corners of East Africa or the Siberian steppe, leaving a gigantic cloud of dust in its rear-view mirror.
Porsche Boxster Bergspyder
Starting in the late 1950s, Porsche dominated motor racing across the Alps with a succession of small, lightweight sports cars. While the Porsche 910 Bergspyder reigned supreme in the European Hillclimb Championship in 1967 and 1968, Ferdinand Piëch’s race engineers had already produced an even more dramatic car – the Porsche 909 Bergspyder. Thanks to its radical lightweight construction, the bespoke hillclimb car weighed just 384 kilograms. This makes it the lightest racing car ever campaigned by Porsche right up to the present day. Even though it did not pull off any great victories, the Porsche 909 Bergspyder is still impressive proof of the possibilities of weight-reduction.
With the Porsche Boxster Bergspyder, Michael Mauer and his design team paid tribute to this legend of the hairpin bends. At the same time, the designers showed that the 981-generation Boxster was also ideally suited to conquer the switchbacks of the Alps, thanks to its low weight and powerful engine mounted amidships. Freed of all the trappings of comfort, with a shallow windscreen, distinctive roll bar, set of precision instruments from a Porsche 918, single seat for the driver and a helmet shelf instead of a passenger seat, the Porsche Boxster Bergspyder was ready to tackle the mountains. Its weight of just 1,130 kg was nicely complemented by the 393 PS of its 3.8-litre Cayman GT4 motor, so its weight-to-power ratio was just a decidedly healthy 2.8 kg per PS.
Porsche Le Mans Living Legend
The Porsche 550 has remained etched in our memories above all as an absolutely purist Spyder. However, the first sports car from Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen that was designed especially for motorsport actually started its career at Le Mans with a closed roof. The 78 PS, around 550 kg, mid-engine sports car made its debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1953. Helmut ‘Helm’ Glöckler and Hans Herrmann were behind the wheel. In 2016, this pioneering low-slung racing coupé served as the Porsche design team in Weissach’s inspiration for an extreme road sports car based on the Porsche Boxster.
As a result, it is clearly possible to discern the race track origins in the design of the Porsche Le Mans Living Legend: the front and rear lids open in opposite directions, refuelling takes place via a central filler at the front, and it proudly wears its racing start numbers all round. The large air intakes in the rear side windows indicate what race engine is installed – the most incredible-sounding eight-cylinder. In the widest sense, the race-oriented Porsche Le Mans Living Legend is a predecessor of today’s Porsche 718 Cayman GT4.
Porsche 904 Living Legend
Sometimes good ideas are not so very far away – maybe even somewhere else in our family Group. Volkswagen had been conducting research into an economical one-litre car since 2002, before launching the concept as the limited-edition Volkswagen XL in 2014. Most of all, this study piqued the interest of the Porsche Design Studio due to its carbon monocoque chassis. This was because the lightweight and compact vehicle architecture offered the opportunity to develop a radically small and minimalist sports car. So, as the design team started to experiment with different body styles, they quickly realised, to their utter astonishment, that the car they’d designed had very similar proportions and dimensions to one of the lightweight racing legends from the factory museum – the Porsche 904.
The result was an incredibly compact and efficient mid-engined sports car. With its low cockpit and sculpturally flared wheel arches, it confidently transported the purist design idea of the legendary Porsche Carrera GTS from 1963 into the present day. A high-revving V2 motorcycle engine would have been a suitable power plant for the Porsche 904 Living Legend, which barely weighed more than 900 kg.
Porsche Vision 916
How minimalist can a Porsche be in current times? An intern from the design team answered the question with this really rather appealing little vehicle concept. The stylistic inspiration for the pigeon-blue study was the compact Porsche 916, which was developed as a prototype at the beginning of the 1970s but never went into series production.
The Porsche Vision 916 is powered all-electrically by four wheel-hub motors – a tribute to the first all-wheel drive Lohner-Porsche race car, which automobile designer Ferdinand Porsche developed all the way back in 1900. In combination with its low weight, the technology of this minimalist sports car promised plenty of driving pleasure and just cried out to be tested on the Grossglockner or the Stelvio Pass – just like the first prototypes of the Porsche 356 and 911.
Porsche Vision Spyder
The eternal rebel James Dean is one of the great heroes of Porsche’s history. His silver Porsche 550 Spyder, to which he lovingly gave the nickname ‘Little Bastard’, remains in our collective memory up to the present day. However, when they came up with the Porsche Vision Spyder, the design team was not just harking back to James Dean and his sports car. The Porsche 550-1500 RS Spyder also served as a further source of inspiration for the volumes, dimensions and formal design elements. Hans Herrmann had driven this racing car for more than 3,000 km, north to south through Mexico, in the legendary Carrera Panamericana in 1954 – achieving a class victory and third place overall for Porsche.
With its spartan cockpit, flat radiator grilles over its mid-mounted engine, red racing stripes and the suggested fins at the rear, the compact sports car quite clearly calls to mind the Carrera Panamericana racer. At the same time, the study served as the basis for further development of the design identity for combustion-engined Porsche sports cars: the vertical arrangement of the headlights at the front as well as other aerodynamic and functional elements such as the angular roll bar were thus adopted as part of the Porsche design language.
Porsche 919 Street
One of the fastest and most successful racing cars of the 21st century and the latest chapter of success in the great motorsport history of Porsche, the Porsche 919 Hybrid won the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times in succession – from 2015 to 2017. To cap this achievement, in 2018, racing driver Timo Bernhard lapped the Nürburgring Nordschleife in an Evo version of the Le Mans-winning car in just 5:19.55 minutes, which was a new lap record. After Porsche announced its departure from LMP1 racing, a new idea was born in Michael Mauer’s Weissach design team: namely crowning the success story with a limited special edition of the Porsche 919 Hybrid for the race track.
The Porsche 919 Street was developed on the basis of the existing technology, promising to make the exhilarating driving experience of the LMP1 race car available to amateur drivers. Under the outer shell are the carbon monocoque and powerful 900 PS hybrid racing drivetrain that helped the Porsche 919 to achieve victory at Le Mans. The dimensions and wheelbase were also the same as on the race car. For a short while, it looked like it might be possible to build a customer car without road approval as a limited edition.
However, the high-performance racing technology was extraordinarily complex – a team of mechanics needed around 45 minutes just to start the LMP1 engine. It would have been necessary to send a team of ‘flying doctors’ to race tracks all over the world. For the time being, the idea of a Le Mans winner for gentleman drivers therefore remains a beautiful dream.
Porsche 917 Living Legend
Porsche has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans 19 times to date but the Porsche 917 KH in its Porsche Salzburg red-and-white livery occupies a very special place in the brand’s history. For it was at the wheel of this car that Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood achieved Porsche’s first overall victory at the Circuit de la Sarthe in the summer of 1970. In 2013, to mark the return of Porsche to the LMP1 class, the development team in Weissach developed a modern interpretation of the Porsche 917. A 1:1 industrial plasticine model was created in six months that was intended to bring the living legend into the present day.
The Porsche 918 Spyder served as a technical basis for the drive and chassis architecture. However, the concept study very clearly evoked the winning car of 1970 with its dramatically flared wheel arches, its cockpit which extended well forward, its almost unending rear end and of course its red and white racing colours. To mark the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 917, the super sports car vision was presented to the public for the first time in the Colours of Speed exhibition at the Porsche Museum in 2019.
Porsche 906 Living Legend
Even if the design team develops the automobiles of the future in its free design projects, the brand history of Porsche is always still present as a source of inspiration. So it was that the Porsche 906 served as the model for the proportions and body design for this vision of a super sports car. This is shown, for example, by the red contrasting bonnet of its front end and by the layout of its headlights, which immediately bring to mind the legendary old racing car and its unforgettable outing in the 1966 Targa Florio. At the same time, the study plays with the possibilities of creating a stylistic association between light sources and air intakes.
Another innovative idea was realising the body of the Porsche 906 Living Legend as two parts inserted in each other – with the gap between the elements as a ventilation duct for powerful engine mounted amidships.
Porsche Vision E
Formula E is probably the most innovative racing championship in the world at the moment. In it, the technology of the future is put to the test under high-performance conditions, taken to its limits, and then tuned for power, efficiency and sustainability. Porsche is facing up to this new challenge too, and has participated in the all-electric road races since 2019. The Porsche 99X Electric joins the long line of innovative racing cars that can be described as Made in Weissach. The independently developed drivetrain could also serve as a basis for future all-electric sports cars for the race track and road.
Porsche therefore seized upon the idea of further expanding the area of customer motorsport and the idea of offering private individuals a car for the race track that would come as close as possible to a modern Formula E racer in terms of performance and driving dynamics. The Porsche Vision E has therefore been designed as a radically lightweight, single-seater race car for the race track. With its central seat position and 800-volt technology, it would without doubt offer privateer drivers an otherwise unattainable driving experience.
Porsche Vision 918 RS
The Porsche 918 Spyder is a sporting milestone in the brand’s history. It made its debut as a truly extraordinary show car in 2010, marking the start of the hybrid strategy as a technology carrier, while setting new standards for super sports cars with its full-carbon body and fully variable aerodynamics. It is still considered to be the benchmark even five years after the end of production. The Porsche 918 Spyder was also the first production sports car to lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife in under seven minutes.
But how could this unique success story be continued? In this project, the design team in Weissach concentrated on the idea of a super sports car that is at home both on the race track and the road – and created a fascinating new evolutionary stage of the Porsche 918. With enhanced drive and chassis technology and a dramatically designed, aerodynamically optimised body, the Porsche Vision 918 RS would be the ultimate version of the latest super sports car from Weissach.
Porsche Vision 920
The boundaries between race track and road have always been fairly fluid at Porsche and the marque’s great successes in the 24 Hours of Le Mans have also added to the charisma of the brand. Porsche has no fewer than 19 victories at the Circuit de la Sarthe – more than any other manufacturer. Most recently, Porsche achieved a hat trick of three overall victories in succession with the 919 race car between 2015 and 2017. Even after Porsche left LMP1 racing, Michael Mauer’s design team remained fascinated by the legend of Le Mans and experimented with race variations for customer sport and road use.
The Porsche Vision 920 was designed as a super sports car for the road or as a possible racing car for customer motorsport based on the LMP1 race cars. The designers were particularly interested in finding a way to combine the established Porsche design language with the highly functional, aesthetically impressive features of the prototype racers. The driver therefore sits in a central cockpit while the car’s body floats just above the ground, with deep air ducts running through it. The red-and-white Porsche Vision 920 is without doubt one of the most extreme visions of a super sports car that has been developed in recent years in Weissach.
Porsche Vision ‘Race Service’
What can a Porsche look like where the focus is on the experience of space? Is such a car even compatible with Porsche’s brand values? Michael Mauer and his team answered these questions in 2018 with an unusual automotive vision.
The Porsche Vision ‘Renndienst’ is a free variation of the family-friendly van for up to six people that can already be found in many garages today standing directly next to a sports car from Zuffenhausen. It even has an ancestor in Porsche’s brand history: the legendary VW race service van. However, it was clear to Michael Mauer right from the start that a van from Porsche should not be conceived and designed as a puritan and practical bus, but had to step out into new territory. The team therefore designed a futuristic ‘space shuttle’ with exciting proportions, which combines sportiness and comfortable travel in a completely new way, but which is still immediately recognisable as a Porsche.
Porsche Vision Turismo
Not every successful series production model is developed in a linear design process. Sometimes there can be a series of coincidences and unexpected alignments of the stars that lead a designer, via a few detours, to the final destination. The story of the Porsche Taycan – the brand’s first all-electric production sports car – also started with a misunderstanding. ‘When walking past, I saw a schematic representation of the Porsche 918 on a designer’s drawing board in our studio. A line had been redrawn with a felt-tip pen to clearly show the falling contour. From the corner of my eye it looked like a rear door joint. I was astonished!’, remembers Michael Mauer.
The idea of a super sports car with four seats was born. The next question was that of the appropriate drive system to allow realisation of the especially sporty proportions: could this exciting athlete of a car be powered by a mid-mounted engine? Or should it receive a rear engine in the tradition of the brand – as the first full four-seater Porsche 911? “In view of the question of the proportions and the emergence of the topic of electric mobility, we discovered that the idea could be realised even better with a purely electric powertrain,” remembers Michael Mauer. The first evolutionary stage of the Porsche Taycan was therefore developed from a four-seater super sports car.
The Porsche Vision Turismo also set new trends in terms of style: the continuous light bar with the Porsche logo at the rear was adopted as a fixed element in the brand identity and it can now be found on almost all models. The new design identity of the electric vehicles has also been further developed and defined on the basis of the front lights.