A Little Porsche History & R-Gruppe

There are those of you who are following my blog may not be aware of the history of Porsche (and my not care!).  However, to see where I plan to go with my 912, knowing something about the past may be helpful.



800px-Lohner_Porscheferdinand PorscheAs a very young man, Austrian born Dr. Ferdinand Porsche displayed the technical prowess that would later shower him with plaudits as one of the most, if not the most, gifted of all engineers of the 20th century.  As a 15 year old in the late 1800’s, he installed electrical wiring in his parent’s house, the first home in their city to have such a luxury.   After completing his engineering studies, he was hired by Lohner to design cars while still in his early twenties.  By 1903, he had designed a four wheel drive electric car with electrical motors on each of the wheels.  And to show nothing is new, he had a hybrid car operational a few years later.



1913-landwehr-train 1927-nurburgringDuring WWI, he used this same technology to drive large wheeled vehicles to haul big guns to the front.  Sometime after WWI, he was hired by Daimler Benz (later to become Mercedes Benz) to design cars.  Since he had been involved in racing cars since his twenties, his passion was designing race cars.  The Mercedes SSK, considered by many to be the most important of Mercedes’s, was his creation.  Great success was enjoyed by the Mercedes racing team during this period.



10-25-11 V-Rod 70After a falling out with Mercedes (he was not the easiest man to get along with as he demanded perfection from his underlings), he decided to open his own engineering company in Stuttgart, Germany.   Because of his reputation, he soon had major contracts from car companies to design their cars.  They also did aeronautical design work as well.  To this day, the Porsche company derives a large percentage of their income from doing design work for others.  An example would be the Harley Davidson V-Rod which has a Porsche designed engine.



1935-karusellAuto UnionDuring the mid to late thirties, he was hired by Auto Union (today’s Audi) to design Grand Prix racing cars.  The Auto Unions were powered by 16 cylinder engines mounted behind the driver.  These cars were way ahead of their time and could reach speeds as high as 200MPH.  During the late ’50’s, Cooper began building mid engine race cars and, today, all open wheel cars are built in this manner.  These cars were a handful to drive and were very successful.




1937-w30kubelwagenHitler came to power and wanted to stay there.  One way was to appeal to the popular demand for car ownership by Germany’s citizens.  To do that, he wanted a “People’s Car” to be built that would be both inexpensive, durable and economical to operate.  Since Dr. Porsche was the most celebrated German engineer, he was enlisted to design the car that became the Volkswagen beetle.  After building prototype cars that were acceptable, WWII got in the way of starting up production.  During the war, as did engineers and companies here in the US, he designed tanks and other weapons for the German Army including the Kubelwagen which later was marketed as the VW Thing.



Cisitalia_Porsche_1After the war he was imprisoned in France along with his brother-in-law.  The company had been moved to Gmund, Austria, a very small village in the Alps.  Here in an old sawmill, Dr. Porsche’s son, Ferry, resumed the engineering side of the company.  One very large contract was for an Italian named Dusio to design the ,  a Grand Prix car.  The money from this contract was paid as ransom to have Dr. Porsche released from the French.



1948-356no110-19-13 euroautofest 356 gray sm

Prior to his release, Ferry Porsche and his team had designed the first Porsche car in the late forties.   Since they had the experience with the air cooled VW’s, the first Porsche’s had upgraded VW running gear with their own body design.  The 4 cylinder engine power was doubled from 20HP to 40HP.  Under adverse conditions, halting production of the newly named Porsche 356 began in the sawmill.   Once their facilities were given back to them by the occupying armies, production was moved to Stuttgart where it remains to this day.  The 356 was produced through 1965 with the VW parts replaced by Porsche designed parts over the years.



1971 911T smAs the sixties approached, Porsche knew it needed a successor to the 356.  The plan called for a car that would have more room inside, a more friendly interior and an engine that was at least the equal to the then highest performing 356, the Carrera II model.  Butzi Porsche, Ferry Porsche’s son, designed the car that was originally known as the 901.  After showing an early prototype at an auto show, Peugot objected to the number saying they had the rights to car numbers with a zero in the center.  Thus the car was renamed the 911.



911 cutaway motorIt was powered by a flat six cylinder in a design known as a “boxer” engine.  The name came from the fact that the pistons were opposite each other and as the engine was running, the pistons appeared to be boxing each other.  The original motor as a 2.0 liter with 130HP in the 1964 911.  In 1967 a “S” version was introduced with 180HP.  In 1969 the wheelbase was extended a little over 2″ with the styling remaining like the original.  In 1974, due to the 5MPH bumper laws in the USA, new bumpers created a new look for the 911, although basic roof line remained the same.  This design endured through 1989 when the 964 was introduced.  In 1995, the 993 became the last of the air cooled 911’s with production ending in 1998.  From 1999 all 911’s have been water cooled albeit with the engine still located in the rear.



1969_porsche_912356″s and 911’s were built at the same time until 1965 as the 356 was priced lower than the 911.  To be able to still offer a less expensive car, in 1966 Porsche began building the 912 which was a 911 body with a 356 four cylinder motor.  This car was offered until 1969 and then again for one year in 1976 with the 914 motor.




r gruppe car 2 r gruppe car 4 r gruppe car 3 r gruppe carWhich brings me to my car, a 1967 912.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the 30 year California owner swapped in a 911 motor back in 1994.  Because of this and the other modifications, I feel pretty free to do what I want with this car.  An inspiration has been the r-Gruppe cars.  R-Gruppe is a very small organization begun by Freeman Thomas and Cris Huergas.  Freeman Thomas is a car designer best known for designing the New Beetle and Audi TT during his employment with VW.  He worked for Chrysler as well and is now a designer with Ford.  Freeman and Cris met each other at an event where they were showing their early 911’s.  Each had tastefully modified their cars to enhance both the performance and appearance.  The members of r-Gruppe all drive 911’s built from 1964 to 1973.  This is the period when the cars were true to the original design.  I plan on modifying my car with their beliefs in mind.  The good thing is there is no one way to do the car as each car is an expression of the owner’s ideas.


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