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Saturday, 6 December 2014

Stuttgart - Men only, alas

Designed to win at Le Mans; born in a butcher's shop
 Porsches – echt Porsches – are high-speed two-seat cars which sell in tens of thousands, cost a lot and are stuffed with high-tech. Most are bought by middle-aged, self-indulgent, wealthy men who are peer-driven, wear foulards on Saturdays, are socially most comfortable with other males who haven’t read Mansfield Park.

Such men are also romantics. Why else would they yearn for a potentially unbalanced car design where the engine hangs out behind the back axle? Why else would Porsche continue to sell it? In uncertain and uncaring hands – especially in the wet – these cars can pendulum you straight into the brambles. Porsche have tried other designs but only the 911 and its many iterations has le pur sang circulating through its heart.

And why should I – not given to foulards – visit Porsche’s over-egged museum at Zuffenhausen, west of Stuttgart? For one thing I like Germans, for another I dislike national stereotypes. Germans are said to be steady and reliable; if so why didn’t Porsche long ago stop trying to design out the handling characteristics of a rear engine chassis and force something conventional on their customers? Guess they’re stubborn. Guess that’s why they make and sell an automotive legend. Or is it a myth?

Zuffenhausen also tackles another canard about Germans. There’s a model 917 that won at Le Mans. Generous dimensions led to a nickname, The Pig. Racing colour was pink, hence Pink Pig (above). But look closely at the words within the dotted lines: Haxen, Rippe, Schulter, Kotlett. Translating into: knuckle, ribs, shoulder, cutlet.

The door on another Le Mans winner fits so snugly, the gap between door and body is almost imperceptible. How can I be stirred by something that almost doesn’t exist?
OS and VR came to Stuttgart for Christmas markets (see next post) but indulged me with visit to Porsche museum


  1. I shall refrain from the usual comment about the possession of fast sports cars being in inverse proportion to the (male) driver's wedding tackle!

  2. When we visited the Porsche Museum, I was more fascinated by the building than the cars. It was like being inside an Escher drawing and made me feel a bit unbalanced. My favourite vehicle was the tractor!

  3. The Pink Pig is amazing ... Ohrlappen is my favourite bit. Stuttgart is a hop and skip from mein goldig Frankfurt, and in those regions, my experience has been that folks tend to have a quirky sense of humour. Doesn't fit that unwelcome national stereotype. Perhaps humour and stubborness combine to explain the persistence of the Porsche.

  4. The red one is the style I remember seeing for the first time in my teens. I was so taken with the sound and design-styling of it that I almost stepped in front of an oncoming city bus. A stranger pulled me back to the curb. I think it was silver. I know I wanted one and I couldn't even drive yet. (I felt the same way about the first VW bug I saw, too. Eventually owned three of those. Still waiting on the Porsche.)

  5. uhhh...the Porsche was silver, not the bus nor the curb.

  6. Avus: So all well-hung guys always drive around in Deux Chevaux? Come to think of it, you favoured a Saab. An in-between sort of car with comfortable seats. "My dear, I can promise you fabulous upholstery." - no doubt an approach that became renowned down Romney Marsh way.

    Blonde Two: Sounds as if you used the tractor remark on one of those aforementioned middle-aged, wealthy, selfish, etc, etc., guys. If he didn't prefer non-literary male company beforehand, I'll bet he does now.

    RW (zS): A joke tailored to meet all your preferences.

    Crow: Ferdinand Porsche also designed the Beetle (at Hitler's request). It too had an engine cantilevered out beyond the rear wheel; it too had a tendency to break away at the back on wet corners if you gave it too much gas. I know, I had a couple.

    I waited until my previous birthday to get personal with a Porsche. Secretly my family contrived to rent a 911 Carrera S for a couple of days. It was 22 years old and it had had a hard life. But my imagination worked overtime and briefly I saw myself in James Dean territory, but without his unhappy exit.

  7. Your reply to my comment made me laugh aloud, RR. Yes, I love SAABs and still drive one and yes they are very comfortable. But I swear I buy them to cosset my bad back (Honest, guv.)