This year marks the 40th anniversary of what is now known as the Cincinnati Concours d’Elegance. Founded in 1978, the Concours, formerly known as the Ault Park Concours, has been raising money for the Arthritis Foundation’s juvenile programs and services, and helps support over 300,000 families living with this affliction.

Traditionally the gift for a 40th anniversary is either a ruby or a garnet. But this year the Concours is giving the city a diamond, and not just any diamond, a fabulous German diamond. The featured marque for this year’s event is a celebration of seven decades of Porsche. (Photo 1)

While no cars were made under the Porsche name until after World War II, the company was actually started in 1931 by DR. Ferdinand Porsche, who used his design and development skills to help other manufacturers. One of the first, and probably the most important, assignments came from the German government who were looking for a “car of the people.” What they wanted was a car that people could afford to own and operate, even during the Depression. The result was the Volkswagen. (Photo 2) The idea was for a car that could transport two adults and up to three children at around 60 miles per hour while getting around 30 miles per gallon. This was a tall order but Porsche was up to the challenge.

One of the most enduring and endearing cars of all time, the Volkswagen Beetle, lived up to everything the German government wanted. The Beetle was named one of the top four cars of the 20th century (the Ford Model T was named number one), and for good reason. The cars are truly international and well over 20 million have been made over the years.

At the end of World War II the Volkswagen plant fell into the hands of the British army and Ferdinand Porsche was arrested and imprisoned for war crimes without a trial. He languished, many say unfairly, for 20 months. During this time his son, Ferry Porsche, decided to build his own car. Legend has it that his main motivation for doing so was that he could not find an available car that he would want to buy.

Modeling after his father’s successful design, Ferry created a similar rear engine, air cooled car. Since there were not many parts available at the end of the war, Ferry relied on bin parts from Volkswagen to help build what became known as the 356. (Photo 3) A prototype was built using an aluminum body, which was cheaper and more readily available than steel at the time. The prototype was shown to auto dealers and orders began to flow in. Production of the 356 started in 1948 and many see this as the true beginning of the company.

While the 356 used a small four-cylinder engine, since the car itself was so light, it was quick. The original engine design was the same as that of the Volkswagen, but Ferry Porsche and his team made some significant alterations to the heads, the crankshaft, the camshaft, both the intake and exhaust manifolds, and added dual carburetors. The result was that they more than doubled the power of the original VW engine.

With most of the weight in the rear over the rear wheel drive, it caused the car to have the tendency to break loose in turns if not properly controlled. This has been considered either a problem or a benefit to most Porsche models, depending on the driver. Those who loved this small, sleek, sporty car did so with great aplomb. It was a totally different driving experience from the sports cars that came out of England and Italy at the time.

The 356 was manufactured until early 1965 with over 76,000 being manufactured. In fact, so popular was this model that it actually lasted two years beyond the introduction of its replacement. Porsche felt that the replacement for the 356 had to have more power and be more comfortable. It quickly became one of the most iconic sports cars of all time. The 911 (Photo 4), in all of its guises, remains one of the most sought after cars among sports enthusiasts.

Released in 1963 the 911 featured a brand new air cooled six cylinder boxer engine mounted, like its predecessor, in the rear. To prove that this truly was a family affair, the original idea began development in 1959 by Ferdinand “Butzi” Porsche, the grandson of company’s founder and son of Ferry. Ferry, though, was running the show and had very specific ideas on what the replacement for his 356 should be. When he had disputes over changes made by the firm originally chosen to do the coach work, he took it to Reutter who gave him what he wanted.

Technically the name 911 still exists and represents the majority of Porsche vehicles rolling out of Stuttgart. Internally to the company and among enthusiasts, there are numerous other designations to represent the various changes and options the car has had over the years. One of the most visually radical changes came in 1973 when Porsche introduced the Carrara RS (Photo 5), a name derived from the company’s racing wins at the Carrera Panamericana events in Mexico.

The most radical change to Porsche, and one that had many of its staunchest supporters up in arms, came in 1998 when the firm announced it would stop making air cooled engines and switch to a more traditional cooling system. This came amid protests from owners, enthusiasts, and even the motoring press who proclaimed the demise of Porsche.

This wasn’t the first time that Porsche had tampered with change, though. In the late 1960s Porsche realized that it would greatly help their bottom line if they could have a more affordable, entry level car. They worked in conjunction with Volkswagen, who themselves were looking for a replacement for their sporty Karmann Ghia (Photo 6). The idea was that the two companies would develop a small, two seater sports car together. It would be sold in Europe as a Volkswagen and in the USA and other markets as a Porsche. The agreement between the two automakers fell apart upon the death of VW chairman Heinz Nordhoff in 1968. The result is that Porsche, who had done the development work, and had been doing most development for VW over the years, took total control of what was to become the 914. (Photo 7)

While sales of the 914 were about what Porsche expected, a dispute over who owned certain aspects of the car’s development caused the company to have to pay Volkswagen more money than had been anticipated. This became particularly problematic when Porsche wanted to utilize a flat six-cylinder engine to give the sluggish original four-cylinder 914 more power. Ultimately the cost of making the 914/6 was almost the same as that of the 911. What had been designed as a promising “baby,” Porsche never lived up to all of the company’s expectations. The last 914 came out in 1976.

The mid-engine 914 wasn’t the only fluctuation from Porsche’s rear engine design. Nor was it the last time that Porsche and Volkswagen worked together to develop a car. In the early 1970s VW was looking for a flagship sports car that would lead the company’s image in a new direction. For its part, Porsche was looking for a 914 replacement. Since the development was for Volkswagen they had a few specifications they insisted on. One was that the car use an existing VW/Audi water cooled inline four-cylinder engine.

Porsche designers put that engine in the front of a rear wheel drive car that had the transaxle in the rear. This allowed a near perfect balancing of the car with 48% of the weight up front and 52% in the rear. The original deal to make the car called for the assembly to be done by Volkswagen but that Porsche would own all design elements. This made the car inexpensive to manufacture and so the 924 (Photo 8) became one of Porsche’s best sellers.

VW decided that, while they wanted a change in their image from the ultra-economy of the Beetle, this was not what they needed. Instead they opted to go for a more practical design in the Scirocco.

The 924, with its small 2+2 designed rear seat, became a huge success in the North America. It was a more luxurious Porsche for those who did not necessarily want the raw power of the 911. The only real problem was that it was underpowered. Various attempts to up the horsepower over the years improved the original 95 horsepower motor to up to 170 hp in the turbo model. While the 924 was sold through 1988, Porsche started thinking of a replacement early on.

Though it ran through 1988, Porsche had the replacement for the 924 on the market by 1982. Basically running the same platform, the 944 (Photo 9) looked nearly identical and yet it had some significant differences. The first was the up-rated 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine that put out 150 horsepower. It was smoother than the 2.0 L used in the 924. The new car also offered more creature comforts, making it more of a true GT or touring car. It’s weight distribution was 50.7% to the front and 49.3 % in the rear, making it excessively smooth and easy to drive.

Sales were strong for the 944 and it lasted through various changes until it was replaced in 1991 by the 968. This car had more in common with the 928 (Photo 10) than it did with the car it replaced. The 968 lasted only a few years before it was phased out in 1995.

As far as replacements went, the 928 was planned to be the biggest step in the history of Porsche. By the 1970s the company believed that it needed a replacement for its iconic 911. The plan was to build a luxury sports coupe that would combine the finest trimmings with pure power meshed into a smooth GT car. Released in 1978 the 928 was all of these things with one exception: It didn’t replace the 911. When rumors started floating that the 911 was to be phased out the Porsche faithful all but rioted. Porsche, fearing that rather than find buyers among those with older 911s they would lose customers all together decided to bring out the 928 as its own line.

Originally running a 4.5 L single overhead cam 16 valve V8 engine that produced 240 horsepower (216 in the US due to government regulations), the 928 managed to have plenty of power and an absolutely astounding 50/50 weight distribution which made it a dream to drive. The distinctive body, styled by Wolfgang Mobius, coupled with the power and economy derived from the design allowed the car to literally eat up miles as it roared down the road. This earned it the nickname of the “Land Shark.”

The 928 did a good job of bringing in a new type of Porsche buyer, one who would formerly have been shopping for Mercedes or BMW or Jaguar. It also whetted the palette of the company to want to expand even further. The 928 was manufactured through the 1995 model year. One year later came the next big thing for Porsche, the Boxster. (Photo 11)

Taking a step away from the luxury sports coupe, the Boxster was and still is a jazzy two seat, mid-engine roadster powered by a 2.5 L flat six. Doling out 201 horse power Porsche claimed the car to have a top speed of 149 miles per hour. (As an aside, I know someone who owns a Boxster and verified that his car hit close to that on the highways of Arizona before being pulled over by the police.) Over its life the engine has grown to 3.4 L with a top speed of 164 MPH.

Rolling hand-in-hand with the Boxster was a coupe version introduced in 2005. The Cayman (Photo 12) and the second generation of the Boxster shared the same platform and many of the same components. While the Cayman may be a bit more refined it still possessed the power and speed of the Boxster. The combination of these two cars covered a large section of car buyers.

While Porsche continues to manufacture newer, more speed lethal versions of the 911, it has learned from its other models, branching out into such areas as an SUV (the Cayenne), a crossover SUV (the Macan) and the full blow sport sedan (Panamera). But it was the 356 followed by the 911 which cemented the company’s place in automotive history and that history is what the Cincinnati Concours d’Elegance will be celebrating the weekend of June 8-10. With eight special classes highlighting the marque, every variation will surely be on display. Included will be a class dedicated to the firm’s stellar racing history (which would warrant an article all its own).

So every fan of the Porsche or anyone who loves sports cars in general should make plans now to be at this year’s Cincinnati Concours d’Elegance at Ault Park. Information regarding tickets and all of the weekend events can be found on the website.

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 3

Photo 4

Photo 5

Photo 6

Photo 7

Photo 8

Photo 9

Photo 10

Photo 11

Photo 12