Top 10 Porsche cars you never knew existed
Porsche is famous for its fast street and racing cars, but it also built a few weird and unlikely vehiclesby Ciprian Florea, on
When you say Porsche, you usually think about the 911 or supercars like the 959 and 918 Spyder. If you’re a racing fan, track legends like the 917, 956, and 919 Hybrid come to mind. Needless to say, Porsche has developed tens of iconic cars since it introduced the 356 back in the late 1940s. But it also designed several prototypes that didn’t make it on the assembly line, extremely rare race cars, and even a few weird vehicles, including vans and compact family cars. Here’s 10 Porsche vehicles that you probably never knew existed.
Porsche 530 (1953)
The 530 is a one-off prototype that Porsche built in 1953. It was based on the 356, but it featured a longer wheelbase, longer doors, and two additional seats in the rear. The Type 530 was Porsche’s first attempt at a four-seat sports car, a concept that eventually led to the development for the Type 754 in 1959 and then to the iconic 911.
Porsche 542 (1954)
Most people know that Porsche built its first four-door prototype in the 1980s, but that’s not true. The Germans first explored the idea in the early 1950s, when they were commissioned by American carmaker Studebaker to built a sedan. Ferry Porsche started working on the Type 542 Project in 1952 and shipped four prototypes to Studebaker’s factory in South Bend, Indiana, in 1954.
The Type 542 looked nothing like a Porsche and it was clearly larger than the average European saloon, but it still featured a rear-engined layout.
Some say that Studebaker requested a FWD layout, but Ferry completely ignored them. By the time Porsche delivered the sedans Studebaker were in serious financial trouble so the prototypes weren’t evaluated until 1956. They were eventually tested by John DeLorean, who concluded that even though it has "a large amount of technical appeal, a number of items need refinement to increase its overall appeal as a small car to the average American car buyer." The Type 542 was thus rejected as Studebaker preferred its Champion and Commander models instead.
Porsche 356 B Abarth Carrera GTL (1959)
Porsche introduced its first car, the 356, in 1948. The two-door coupe was immediately modified for racing and had a successful career on the track. At the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans, it scored a class win and then went on to win other important events around the world. By the end of the 1950s though, the 356 was no longer competitive, coming under fire from smaller engined cars from Alfa Romeo and Lotus. This led Porsche to team with Abarth to create a rebodied 356 with better aerodynamics. This is how the 356 B Abarth Carrera GTL was born and only a handful of them were built. The Carrera GTL looked notably different than the 356, but it was also faster on the track, achieving success from 1960 to 1963, including class victories at Le Mans for three consecutive years.
Porsche RS60 (1960)
In 1957, Porsche replaced the successful 550 Spyder with the 718. Built until 1962, the 718 led Porsche’s assault on a multitude of racing series, including sports car classes, Formula One, and Formula Two. As a result, several versions were developed. The RS60 is the rarest of them all.
Built in just four units for the 1960 racing season, which introduced new regulations, the RS60 featured a revised windscreen and cockpit, a larger 1.6-liter flat-four engine rated at 160 horsepower, and a new double wishbone rear suspension.
The RS60 won the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Targa Florio that years, but it also helped Porsche defend its European Hill Climb title for the third consecutive year.
Read our full review on the Porsche RS60
Porsche 909 Bergspyder (1968)
Speaking of hillclimb racing, Porsche remained successful in this series throughout the 1960s with models like the 910, 907, and 908. Having won the championship in 1966 and 1967, Porsche learned that Ferrari was working on a new lightweight car for the series. The Germans set out to develop a new model to counter Ferrari’s upcoming car and introduced the 909 Bergspyder in 1968. The 909 was smaller than its predecessor and extremely light, tipping the scales at just 826 pounds. Its chassis was made entirely from aluminum, while the body was 100-percent plastic. It was powered by a 2.0-liter flat-engine rated at 275 horsepower. Due to its tremendous power-to-weight ratio, the 909 needed only 2.4 seconds to hit 50 mph, quicker than most supercars available today. Although many drivers opted to race the old 910, the 909 helped Porsche win another hillclimbing championship. The 909 was the last purpose-built hillclimb car by the German company and was retired from racing after the 1968 season.
Porsche B32 (1983)
In late 2020 Porsche unveiled several concept cars it has built and kept hidden from us in recent years. The list included a race support van developed as tribute to the Volkswagen service vans that the company’s motorsport team used back in the day. But this isn’t the first van developed by Porsche. Back in 1983, the Stuttgart-based company modified a boxy Volkswagen T3 van in order to create a fast support vehicle while testing the 959 race car it was developing for the Paris-Dakar rally.
Although it looks like a plain T3 on the outside, the B32 was a 911 under the shell.
It featured a 3.2-liter flat-six engine from the 911 Carrera, bigger brakes, a sportier suspension, and a gearbox from the 911 SC. Rated at 231 horsepower, it was notably faster than the regular T3. It needed only eight seconds to hit 62 mph from a standing start, to go with a top speed of 135 mph. Porsche built around 15 vans, including prototypes. The B32 was never intended to go into production, but some were sold to special customers, while the others were kept to transport staff rapidly.
Porsche 935 Street (1983)
A proper unicorn, the 935 Street was a one-off built for the founder of TAG Group in 1983. For context, TAG sponsored Porsche’s motorsport efforts in the era. The very first customer project by Porsche Exclusive, the 935 Street wasn’t exactly a road-legal version of the 935 race car. The exterior was a heavily modified 930 Turbo with a slant nose, while the underpinnings came from earlier 934 race car. But the 935 Street did borrow some features from the race-spec 935, like the suspension, braking system, and the wide rear haunches. Finished in Brilliant Red, this unique 375-horsepower Porsche featuring leather upholstery, wood veneer, and a high-end audio system. The unique car was auctioned off for around $400,000 in 2014 with only 12,500 miles on the odometer.
Porsche 984 (1984)
The Porsche 984 was developed between 1984 and 1987 as a compact and affordable two-seat sports car.
Reportedly inspired by a development project conducted by Porsche for SEAT, the 984 was originally supposed to be introduced toward the end of the 1980s with a $14,000 price tag.
It would have been the company’s most affordable yet. Tipping the scales at less than 2,000 pounds, the prototype featured a folding hard-top and all-wheel drive. It was envisioned with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 120 to 150 horsepower. While it’s front end was inspired by the 928, its rear sectioned reminded of the 914 from the late 1960s. Porsche tested the 984 extensively and company executives liked the idea, but the stock market crash of the 1980s and poor sales across the lineup prompted Porsche to cancel the project. Some of the lessons learned from this project were eventually used in the development of the first-generation Boxster.
Porsche 989 (1988)
The 989 was developed between 1989 and 1991 and it was Porsche’s first attempt to introduce a four-door sedan. Following the success of the 928 in the early 1980s, Porsche started to consider adding another large model to the lineup. The idea was to create a four-door model with enhanced comfort and practicality, but with the power and speed of the 928. The 989 retained many styling cues from the 911, but it featured a front-engined layout and power came from a V-8 engine. But as 928 sales dropped dramatically in the early 1990s, Porsche executives re-evaluated the idea and considered the 989 too risky given the company’s poor financial state. The 989 project was cancelled in early 1992 and it took Porsche another 17 years to put a four-sedan into production. The Panamera arrived in 2009.
Read our full review on the Porsche 989
Porsche C88 (1993)
Arguably the most obscure vehicle on this list, the C88 was a small family car designed by the German company for the Chinese market. A subcontracted project delivered by Porsche to the Chinese government, which had invited several manufacturers to propose designs for their market in the early 1990s, the C88 was displayed to the public at the 1994 Beijing Auto Show. Fitted with a small, 1.1-liter four-cylinder rated at 65 horsepower, the C88 returned up to 49 mpg, making it a solid candidate for the Chinese market. However, the project was eventually rejected and the prototype is now on display in the Porsche Museum.