Car Thoughts: “The Porsche Effect” at the Petersen Automotive Museum

I’ve never been a big fan of Porsche prior to the release of the 996. Everything that came before that just looked like, yes, Volkswagen Beetles – awkward and cartoonish with high rooflines and bizarre aerodynamics.

And the thing is, after going to the Porsche Effect, I still largely feel the same way. I shall explain.

Porsches have, in my mind, always been pragmatic designs that struggle to balance performance, fun, and utility, while being marketed entirely as performance vehicles. But the simple fact is that mid-engines are better.

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Pretty much all the competition is better, unless you include the mid-engine vehicles they don’t like you to think about like the Carerra GT and the 918 Spyder. No the 911, their internal darling, reigns supreme in their marketing and advertising and I have no clue why given its physics-based inferiority to the Cayman. In fact what a lot of people don’t know is that the original 911 followed the format of the now ubiquitous Boxter and that the shift to a rear-engine 2+2 design was made for the purposes of utility. I should know. I’ve tried to get into Porsche. I even went to the Porsche museum in Germany where I learned that last little tidbit. Look. Right here. This is the original 356 prototype (note: the 356 is the precursor to the 911, with the lion’s share of the design and engineering ethos transferring to the 911):

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There you have it, proof Ferry Porsche new what he was doing and got outvoted by committee. Back in the good days of Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson even pointed out that Porsche was deliberately crippling the development of the 718 so as not to steal thunder from the 998. Stupid, stupid…

I didn’t take any really noteworthy pictures while I was there. The white 356 you saw above was cute, but that was about it. Again, having been to the real Porsche Museum (translation: snobbery), this simply wasn’t all that compelling, nor did it come any closer to explaining Porsche’s appeal. To give the Petersen credit for a moment though, they did great job of curating the exhibit and even had sections devoted to Porsche Design, the arm of the company that makes stuff that isn’t all that great, somewhat stuck in the 80’s, and hasn’t had a good retail outlet since ‘The Sharper Image’ collapsed. Maybe if they hadn’t sold trump steaks.

Oh and by the way, it’s pronounced “por-shuh.” Anyone who calls them a “porsh” has no class. Sadly, that’s most owners in Southern California.

All this being said (written) though, if you are a fan of Porsche, you could hardly do better than to visit this exhibition, short of going all the way to Germany.

So please do go visit and support the Petersen, it’s an amazing museum.