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Porsche 914 Flat 6 3.2l – Mangeuse de 911 !

La Porsche 914, c’est comme la 924 ou la 944, y’a quelques années, personne n’en voulait et surtout pas les porschistes qui la considéraient comme une roturière voiture du peuple en jogging. Puis il y a eu la “neufcentonzite aiguë” et subitement, on a découvert qu’il n’y avait pas que la 911 et que les […]

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sponsored: Commission your Porsche 911 as fine art

Many 911 owners would already consider their car to be a piece of automotive art – we certainly do – and gazing over the curvaceous bodywork can give many hours of pleasure.  But there’s more than one way to enjoy the stunning appearance, and having it committed to canvas would be special indeed. Which brings us to the work of renowned artist, Rob Hefferan. Fascinated with art since childhood, his first exhibition in 2003 showcasing his skills in figurative work and portraiture was a resounding success. It’s those skills along with an international reputation for quality and unrivalled attention to detail that has led to his work being commissioned by numerous celebrity clients, and it turns out that Rob has another passion; “I’ve been obsessed with cars since I was young, and that developed into a love for Porsches, and the 911 in particular”. 

A serial owner of our favourite sports car, his collection has included the 996, both generations of 997 model, and he now enjoys a 991 Carrera S. A proper car guy, then, which is why he’s decided to focus his talents on the Zuffenhausen marque, offering owners and enthusiasts the opportunity to have their pride and joy recreated as fine art. He admits this is a new challenge and one he relishes, already having set to work creating around a dozen paintings of various Porsches. While such artwork isn’t entirely new, what’s different here and core to Rob’s ethos is capturing even the smallest of details that make each car unique. And having seen it for ourselves we are talking about beautiful pieces of art here, the sort of work that would complement 911 ownership in a way that other pictures just can’t. Painted either in oils or acrylic depending on the timescales involved, each work can take anything from 150 to 300 hours to complete and the work is also unusual compared to other automotive artists in that he is happy to depict not just the car but to include the owner as well. It’s where the talent for portrait work really pays off. 

As for the process of commissioning a painting, an owner can either provide pictures of the car or Rob will travel to view your 911, employing a professional photographer to take dozens of detailed reference shots from which to work. It’s a painstaking process but one that results in something very special, but there was something we were keen to ask and that’s whether he had a favourite 911. “Not really” says Rob. “I love all of them, but if pushed I guess I’d have to say it’s the cars from the 1960’s that most capture my attention.”  “It’s the shape and form that I find so appealing, and the way the light falls on the bodywork. There are few cars like it, and I really admire Porsche’s heritage, especially when it comes to motorsport.” That emphasis on history and quality really shines through when it comes to the finished painting, and whether you own just the one car or are lucky enough to have a collection to see them represented in such a way is likely to prove very hard to resist. You can see examples of Rob’s work by visiting his website at http://www.robhefferanautomotiveart.com, but we’ll say now that you should be prepared to find yourself as tempted to commission his services as we are.

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Porsche 911 design icon: Tony Hatter

“I was born in Northern England, but whereas most of my friends were football fans, I was crazy about cars. My parents thought I should get into some sort of engineering apprenticeship, but that proved a bit of a dead end and I went to Lanchester Polytechnic [now Coventry University] where I did a degree which involved transport design.

“But vehicle design itself wasn’t properly understood at that time, and it wasn’t till I got to the Royal College of Art in London, where I spent two years, that I really discovered design and styling.”

Full of youthful enthusiasm, Tony Hatter was keen to join Porsche, but in 1981 the company wasn’t hiring so he found a styling position at Opel, moving to Porsche in 1986, a path trodden by a series of well-known Porsche designers beginning with the then-styling chief, Tony Lapine.

“As a newcomer I started off on small jobs, such as the wider rear bumper for the 964 Turbo, and I remember I did the ribbon latch pulls for the doors of the 964 RS. To be honest there wasn’t much happening, though we always had work on the Linde forklift to fall back on.” Linde was one of several major third-party contracts at Weissach.

Lapine retired after a heart attack in 1988, and his replacement, Harm Lagaaij, began in late 1989. Tony’s first recollections of the 993 are from the end of that year. “We started in early 1990. I was very pleased to be working on the new air-cooled 911.”

He describes the particular challenge of creating a new 911: “The Porsche board always had very firm ideas about its shape. It was claimed the 964 was 80 per cent new, but visually it looked barely 20 per cent new. We needed to do something less conservative, but without being too radical.

The front of the 959, the plans for the 989 four-door and the facelifts for the 928 showed the way in terms of the frontal aspect – this new, smoothed front became part of Porsche’s design vocabulary.”

Hatter is reluctant to acknowledge that budget constraints had a significant impact on the exterior design of the 993. “We did redesign the windscreen wipers, even if they didn’t fall below the level of the bonnet.”

And it must be admitted that mounting the wipers centrally as a pair made their operation far more effective. “Don’t forget that the body in white is essentially that 1963 car. There’s a limit to what you can do so, for example, you have to maintain things like the rain gutters. What I really wanted to do with those was ‘flow’ them into the rear of the car – that was difficult.

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Porsche 993: the 911 that had to succeed

In retrospect, it’s easy to say Porsche’s mistake was its decision to keep the G-series 911 in production for 15 years, but from the company’s point of view, through the early 1980s the 911 was selling ever more strongly.

Regular updates and revisions ensured it remained at the top of the performance stakes. The robustness which made it a car you could count on day after day meant that despite its archaisms, it was still the ultimate road and track sports car.

However, within Porsche it was also a source of frustration to many of its engineers and designers keen to modernise it, dispensing, for example, with the torsion bar suspension and introducing assisted steering and a less idiosyncratic ventilation system. Journalists in other respects always well disposed towards the 911 observed it was becoming increasingly an enthusiast’s car, lacking broader appeal and depriving Porsche of a wider market.

The 928 launched in 1977 was supposed to address the GT segment of the market, but by the time the Vorstand had approved the next 911, Typ 964 in April 1984, sales of the 928 were already in decline. The 964 itself was a radical step in engineering terms – a completely new chassis and suspension which allowed fitment of ABS and assisted steering, a larger and more potent flat six, and four-wheel drive.

A conservative board, however, would not permit the designers to change anything above the axle line, which meant the 964, despite its revised front and rear bumpers, looked remarkably similar to its predecessor. Moreover its four-wheel-drive, such an innovation when Audi introduced the Quattro in 1981, was no longer a sensation, and early 964 buyers were able to confirm what the magazine testers had found, that Porsche’s fixed 2:1 rear/front torque split made the latest 911 an uninspiring understeerer.

The rear-drive C2 911 appeared a year later, but by then the damage had been done: in a generally morose market, and one which had halved in the US, clearly the 964 would not be the model to rescue an increasingly beleaguered Porsche.

A rolling of management heads saw new blood brought into the company. A former Weissach R&D engineer named Ulrich Bez was enticed from BMW Tech to become engineering boss, and he appointed his chief designer at BMW, Harm Lagaaij, another ex-Weissach man, to reinvigorate Porsche styling. These two were the impetus behind the next 911: the 993.

Bez was particularly critical of the 964’s crude ride and the C4’s handling, and Lagaaij’s remark when he arrived at Porsche’s design studios in October 1989 that there was “nothing going on” has gone into the history books. Work on 911 Typ 993 would start within weeks of the 964 C2 reaching the showrooms.

This time, a chastened Vorstand, which had pensioned off its managing, engineering and styling directors in short order, was prepared to offer Bez and Lagaaij more licence, and the pair took as much advantage as their still-constrained development budget permitted. 

Nevertheless, the new 911 represented a challenge: how could the new 993 retain its defining ‘Neunelfer-ness’ yet be endowed with a more modern appearance and wider appeal? 

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Porsche: concepts mules and prototypes

Before any new model goes into manufacture the design – in various stages of finalisation – has to go through practical testing. These vehicles are prototypes, recognisably and most often visually identical to the subsequent production vehicle.

Far less frequently these days, where more extensive research and dynamic development can be carried out with software simulations, a manufacturer experiments with a radical new idea by building some of the technology into the preceding model. These cars are often referred to as ‘mules’.

In the past, the need to keep particular experiments confidential even led to some mules wearing total disguises to fool both press and competitors.

Examples of this at Porsche include the Audi 100 Coupe, into which Weissach shoehorned the 928’s V8 and running gear; later the 928’s innards would also be built into an Opel Diplomat.

Concepts are used by manufacturers to float an idea, to test acceptability of a particular design or style. A phenomenon which in today’s homogenised and regulated auto industry has become unusual, the most successful example in Porsche history was the Boxster concept, greeted with standing ovations when it was revealed in 1993.

That the resultant Boxster – which would closely prefigure the new 911 – was so similar to the concept was a tribute to Porsche’s original design, achieving homologation with a minimum of compromises which usually dilute and sometimes completely spoil the original idea.

The real workhorses of pre-production are, of course, the prototypes, masked these days if their makers want to hide them by an astute application of chequered tape, which brilliantly sabotages visual perspective.

Of the thousands of prototypes built, virtually all of them are subsequently broken up, occasionally to the dismay of auto historians. In deference, however, to the interest they generate, Porsche has selected a handful of the more remarkable prototypes it has kept, and sometimes displays them at the Museum at Zuffenhausen…

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