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Book Review: Porsche 70 Years: There Is No Substitute

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Title: Porsche 70 Years: There is No Substitute
Publisher: Quarto Knows / Motorbooks
Author: Randy Leffingwell
Format: Hardcover, 256 pages
Where to Buy: Quarto Know / Motorbooks
How Much: $60

Article by Benjamin Shahrabani
Images courtesy Motorbooks

It seems almost impossible to believe, but the first sports car bearing the Porsche nameplate rolled out of a small, repurposed sawmill in Gmünd, Austria in 1948, almost seventy-years ago. To mark this auspicious occasion, automotive historian, photographer, and serial Porsche author Randy Leffingwell celebrates one of the world’s most pedigreed and storied marques in Porsche 70 Years: There is No Substitute, a comprehensive look into the iconic road and competition cars the company has produced over seven decades.

Leffingwell starts out his tome with a short preamble about the political and economic forces percolating in post-World War II Europe and how early on Swiss entrepreneur Richard von Senger advanced Ferry Porsche the monies urgently needed to complete ten of the new cars Porsche was developing. However, it was a client of von Senger’s, a Swiss hotelier by the name of Bernhard Blank, who actually made the loan. Once introduced, Blank would not only become one of Porsche’s earliest patrons, but also one of its earliest distributors, helping lay the groundwork and foundations for the company we know today.

Above: Porsche 550 Spyder.

After the short historical interlude, the next 240 pages or so examines the actual vehicles. Logically, the author starts at the beginning with the very first Porsche-badged production car, the 1948 Typ 356 Gmünd Coupe. More power came with the 1953 550 Spyder, setting the mold and the legend in place, tallying hundreds of outright victories and class wins in motorsport events such as the Targa Florio and Carrera Panamericana. Other highlights include the short-lived 1962 Typ 804 Formula 1 racer and the subsequent 1964 Typ 904 Carrera GTS, which took the company back to its sports car racing roots. A competition coupe that could also be driven on the street, the 904 is today considered one of the most beautiful of Porsche’s designs.

Above: Porsche 804 Formula 1 GP racer.

The iconic and original 1964-1965 Typ 901/911 is naturally given coverage, as are some of its derivatives. As the ’60s progress, the Porsches get wilder, too, with the 1966 Typ 906 racer, which achieved widespread motorsport success, and the unrepeatable era that brought us the Typ 917K and 917L that dominated at Le Mans. Further developments of the 917 program were the 917/10 and 917/30, which dominated the almost-anything-goes Can-Am series before being effectively legislated out of competition.

Above: Porsche 911R.

Leffingwell then starts to usher in the models that helped define an incredible time period in sports car development, such as the unforgettable 930 Turbo and the 959, followed by the company's more modern wares — think Typ 964, 993, 997, and 991. He looks to the future as well, covering the upcoming Mission E electric sedan.

Not forgotten are the water-cooled transaxle cars, such as the 924, 944, 968, and 928, and even the Cayenne and Macan SUVs — of which Porsche sells plenty and cannot be left out of any comprehensive history of the automaker.

Above: 996-generation Porsche 911 GT3 off-roading.

Long story short, if Porsche produced it, it’s most likely in this book. 

The informative text for each model recounted is somewhat brief and doesn’t get too bogged down in the minutiae, while the cars themselves are pictured in all their splendor with rarely seen archival images and contemporary photography by Michael Furman. When laid out chronologically like in the book, a tremendous evolution of Porsche cars over seven-decades can be seen. Taken together, these elements make this book a worthy purchase for any Porsche enthusiast’s bookshelf.

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