Just for the sake of conveying some Oz-like awesomeness, the old humble Porsche museum had 6,500 square feet of display space and could show 20 cars at any given time from the 400-strong Porsche collection. This new museum I just hiked through has 60,300 square feet and holds 80 company jewels. It holds a steakhouse and a visible restoration workshop and the company archives. The main escalator up is most likely the longest in Germany, there's so much lighting that it also acts as a heating source in winter, and there's already a six-month list of bookings for the multiple multi-use spaces.
Were there ever any doubt, it's clear now at least that the Porsche company as nurtured by boss Wendelin Wiedeking is not one to shy away from the big, the bold, and the brash. I cannot even start to think what founding genius Ferdinand Porsche might think of this new museum. Just the price tag of roughly $130 million ($65 million over the original February 2005 estimates) might have him soiling his ghostly pants.
Even though there are some 320 Porsches I didn't see, the 80 brought in for opening day were pretty close to the cream of the crop. Twenty-five percent of the space is dedicated to the era leading up to 1948--i.e., June 8, 1948, the date that the 356-001 "Gmnd roadster" (with a 35-hp version of the VW "Strength through Joy" Beetle engine) got its registration from the state government of Carinthia. The other 75 percent goes to everything that happened since then to change our sports car conscience in so many ways.
Upon stepping off the escalator to heaven, one sees first the silvery aluminum reconstruction of the space age 1938/1939 Type 64 "Ur-Porsche" that was the very beginning of the essence of everything the independent Porsche car company would later do. Three of the racing coupe bodies were built theoretically for the Berlin-Rome race and used a 50-hp version of the flat-four 1,131cc VW Beetle engine. With the outbreak of pesky old World War II, all races were suddenly off and the Type 64 cars were used as fast touring commuters. According to museum archive expert Klaus Bischoff, the car body we see displayed here was actually reconstructed from found scraps of the original doors and tail section.
Looking left from the Type 64, there's one of the hub-wheel assemblies of the 1900 Lohner electric hybrid Ferdinand Porsche engineered for the Austria-Hungary royal family in Vienna. From there we see a few examples of Porsche's contract work for VW (of course), a 1922 Sascha grand prix car, then a 1947 Cisitalia formula car with a--get this--1.5-liter, 12-cylinder supercharged engine. The money from this last car allowed Ferry Porsche to bail his dad out of French prison after the war. Funny enough, none of the work Porsche created for Daimler-Benz is even referred to here. Funny indeed.
So, assuming you decide to follow the upward spiraling prescribed path and not leap back and forth between decades, you'll finish this entry bit and then continue left past the Cisitalia and into the orgasmic 1948-and-beyond meat of the museum. Number one of three chief sensations I get through all of this ogling and drooling is that Porsche stands alone among premium world manufacturers as a brand totally inspired by and focused on its client-racer heart and soul. Second, that it is the absolute sports car specialist having never yet really tried to be all things to all people. (The Cayenne SUV does worry me on this note, and only because of this, but I can't argue with the big lug's success or its undeniable quality and image ratings. I await the Panamera, too.) Three is that Porsche has stayed ahead by usually moving faster on necessary innovations than anyone else. Important also is to feel the pride of Porsche over the fact that it hasn't had a factory racing effort in many years, passionate private clients instead putting up all the investment and laying waste to all competitors. There is no better advertising on Earth, I'd say.
Continuing up and left-ish, everything sort of anchors on the long Mille Miglia/Le Mans/Daytona/Targa Florio/Sebring/CanAm involvement that essentially made Porsche's legend. From the 356 era through all of the 911 variants you dream of, the 550 Spyders, 718s and 904s, and particularly the 917/956/962 visual orgy with everything in between, not a single car displayed can keep me from gasping and recalling all of those races and weekend drives I'm old enough to remember. The phalanx of incredibly famous 917s in particular is worthy of a kow-tow or two. And yes, there is a gorgeous 1988 959 Coupe of the 292 that were built, as well as today's RS Spyder.
Porsche in the Wiedeking era, as crystallized by this new Porsche Museum, is moving well beyond its characteristic Swabian humility and becoming a hot horn-tooting property. There is no doubt whatsoever whose 'hood you've entered on the north side of Stuttgart. Porsche needed this in order to step from the shadows of fellow Stuttgart stalwart Daimler with its also-new Mercedes-Benz car museum over on the east side in Untertrkheim. And while Daimler is busy consolidating its simple Mercedes-Benz+Maybach+Smart equation, Porsche Holding is gobbling up Volkswagen Group. So it's pretty clear that this museum also had to reflect this major shift in power that the boss had in mind.
And then in late 2008 they went and stole away Mercedes-Benz museum director Achim Stejskal to run the whole Porsche Museum effort. Who's the Spitzenhund now, Dieter?
Opening hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., while the restaurant at the top level is also open for dinner. Admission is 8 for adults ($10.60), 4 for students ($5.30), and kids 14 and under get in free.
Go to www.porsche.com/museum for your details.