Porsche by Design at NC Museum of Art

Since October of 2013 the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh has been hosting the “Porsche by Design: Seducing Speed” exhibition.  The display explores Porsche history since the 1930’s to today.  It is a first class exhibition with the cars being very special and the graphics being first class.   My friend Dave Raymond had traveled to our house from Florida in November as we were driving from here to Austin for the 2013 Formula One race in Austin, Texas.  I asked him to come a day early so we could travel to Raleigh to take in the Porsche exhibition.  Boy was it worth the trip!!!





11-12-13  porsche by design sm 11-12-13  porsche by design 2 sm 11-12-13 graphics smThe display was housed in one of the museum’s  out buildings with the graphics on display on the exterior.  Entering the building, we encountered another set of graphics announcing the exhibition.  We were both impressed by the design and layout of the display.






11-12-13 Berlin Rome sm 11-12-13 Berlin Rome 3 sm 11-12-13 Berlin Rome 2 smFirst up was the 1938 Type 64 Berlin-Rome race car.  While not officially a Porsche, this car was a racing derivative of the VW Beetle designed by Professor Porsche in the mid 1930’s.  It was built for the 1939 Belin-Rome race over public roads.  Because of Germany attacking Poland in September, 1939, the race never happened.  The VW engine was enhanced and the very aerodynamic body presaged the first Porsche, the 356.  During the way, this car was the personal transportation for Dr. Porsche.





11-12-13 gmund 2 sm 11-12-13 gmund 3 sm 11-12-13 gmund smThe reader will see the connection between the Type 64 and the extremely rare Gmund 356 coupe.  P0rsche’s design business was located in Stuttgart during the war.  Because of intense Allied bombing of this city, the Porsche company was relocated to a sawmill in  Gmund, Austria.  Once the war ended, the US Army took over the Porsche facilities in Stuttgart so the company was forced to continue business in Gmund.  Professor Porsche and his brother-in-law,  had been jailed in France after the war.  It was left to his son, Ferry Porsche, to run the business.  There his group designed the first Porsche.  That first Porsche was a mid-engine model but, to ease production and to make the most of their VW connection, it was decided that the first production model would be an air cooled, rear engine model.  These first Porsche’s had aluminum body’s and were easily recognized by the curve vent windows.  Because of their light weight, many of these cars were soon entered into competition as race cars.  Once the Allies relinquished their hold of the Stuttgart buildings, production was moved there and the cars were built with steel instead of aluminum.





11-12-13 550 4 sm 11-12-13 550 3 sm 11-12-13 550 5 sm 11-12-13 550 smWhile Porsche enjoyed much success racing the Gmund coupes, other car companies were raising the bar in the early and mid 1950’s.  Porsche decided it needed a purpose built race car and the Type 550 was born.  A young engineer was named Ernst Fuhrmann was assigned the task of designing a racing motor.  It was a 1.5 liter four cam, four cylinder, air cooled motor that has become one of the classic all time motors.  A very lightweight, aerodynamic body was designed and the combination became one of the most successful road racing cars of all time.  It not only enjoyed success in Europe and the USA but also was very successful in the Carrera Panamerica race in Mexico, one of the most famous of all of the road races over normal roads.  It’s legend was further enlarged when a young actor name James Dean was killed in this car while on his way to a race track in California.





11-12-13 Steve McQueen sm 11-12-13 Steve McQueen 2 sm 11-12-13 speedster sm 11-12-13 jerry sm 11-12-13  dave 2 smThe USA has always been a very large market for Porsche.  Max Hoffman was one of the main reasons.  Hoffman was an early importer of Porsche’s and was based in New York.  Porsche’s have never been inexpensive and, while Hoffman was selling many Porsche’s during the early and mid-fifties, he thought he could sell even more cars if he could market a stripped down model.  Thus was the Porsche Speedster born.  It had a rudimentary convertible top that leaked, no wind up windows, very basic interior and minimal trim.  It was lightweight and was raced by many of the major race car drivers.  It was also owned and raced by many celebrities including the aforementioned James Dean.  Another celebrity owner was even more famous,  Mr. Cool himself, Steve McQueen.  The Speedster on display had been owned by Steve McQueen and passed on to his son Chad after his death.  And, even though we were actually sitting on lawn chairs, Dave and I assumed the position of a carefree Speedster driver.





11-12-13 718-3 sm 11-12-13 718-2 11-12-13 718 11-12-13 718 4 sm11-12-13 550 2 smThe successor to the 550 was the Type 718 RS 60.  By this time the engine had been tuned to give out even more horsepower, the body was cleaner, and the suspension was improved.  The Boxster design study used this car as its inspiration.





11-12-13 Abarth Porsche 4 sm 11-12-13 Abarth Porsche 3 sm 11-12-13 Abarth Porsche 5 sm 11-12-13 Abarth Porsche 2 sm 11-12-13 Abarth Porsche smCarlos Abarth, known for the mufflers of the same name, was a famous tuner of race cars during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  He designed a lightweight boy that was more aerodynamic than the Porsche 356 factory cars.  It was called the Carerra GTL coupe and was another successful Porsche racer.





11-12-13 grand prix 3 sm 11-12-13 grand prix 2 sm 11-12-13 grand prix 4 sm 11-12-13 grand prix smPorsche had been successfully racing open wheel cars in the Formula 2 series with 1.5 liter engines.  When the 1961 Formula One rules limited engine size to 1.5 liter, Porsche made the decision to move up to F1 racing.  They had limited success but Dan Gurney did give Porsche a couple F1 victories.  That was the last time they entered F1 racing as a constructor.  They did build the dominating TAG motors for the Mclaren FI team in the 1990’s.





11-12-13 carrera 2 sm 11-12-13 carrera 2-2 smIn 1955 Porsche mated the 1.5 liter Fuhrmann four cam motor with the standard 356 body to create the 356 Carrera.  Carerra means “race” in Spanish and this was the first time the company had used the Carerra name on their highest performing model as a tribute to their success in the Carrera Panamerica in Mexico.  This was the fastest 356 to date.  As a swan song for the 356 production, the four cam motor was enlarged to a full 2.0 liters and installed in the 356C, the last of the 356 line,  and called the Carrera 2.  The next time a production Porsche would exceed the performance of the Carrera 2 would be with the introduction of the 911.





11-12-13 356 janis joplin 6 sm 11-12-13 356 janis joplin 7 sm 11-12-13 356 janis joplin sm 11-12-13 356 janis joplin 3 sm 11-12-13 356 janis joplin 4 sm 11-12-13 356 janis joplin 2 smThis outrageous 356 was owned by Janis Joplin.  It’s psychedelic paint scheme fit in perfectly with the laid back atmosphere of the late ’60’s and early ’70’s.  The car was lent to the museum from the Rock ‘n Roll museum in Cleveland.  At one time the artwork had been removed but was painstakingly recreated later.  It is very hard to imagine driving down some local street in this car!!





11-12-13  901 sm 11-12-13  901 4 sm 11-12-13  901 3 sm 11-12-13  901 2 smIn 1964 Porsche introduced what would become the car most people think of when they think of Porsche, the 911.  It was originally designated the 901 but a dispute with Peugeot resulted in Porsche changing to the 911 nomenclature.  This car was launched with a 2.0 liter flat six motor with 130HP.  The body, with minor changes, would remain in production until 1998 with the engine ever becoming larger with its final iteration being 3.6 liter with 280HP.  It is the evergreen Porsche that has drawn many devoted followers over the years.





11-12-13 904 2 sm 11-12-13 904 smBecause of the small motors used by Porsche, most of their racing victories had to be class wins rather than overall victories.  That began to change in 1964 with the introduction of the 904.   Fiberglas bodies were to become the norm in racing Porsches and this was the first of them.   And this was the last purely racing prototype racing Porsche that could be driven to the track, raced and then driven home.  Future racers would be single purpose only.  Initially equipped with the four cylinder four cam motor, it was later raced with the 911 six cylinder motor.  As with the 911, this car was designed by Butzi Porsche and both are considered to be classic forms.





11-12-13  908K Prototype sm 11-12-13  908K Prototype 5 sm 11-12-13  908K Prototype 2 sm 11-12-13  908K Prototype 3 sm 11-12-13  908K Prototype 4 sm906’s, 907’s and 910’s followed the 904 as race cars designed during the hectic late ’60’s.  Leading this revolution was Ferdinand Piech, grandson of Dr. Porsche.  He would go on to fame as the head of Audi where he developed the all conquering Quattro rally car of the ’80’s and then on to become CEO of Volkswagen where his disciples still run the show today.  Another of his ’60’s creations was the 908, one of the most successful and longest campaigned of all of the Porsche race cars.





11-12-13  917K sm 11-12-13  917K 6 sm 11-12-13  917K 5 sm 11-12-13  917K 4 sm 11-12-13  917K 3 smThe 908 led directly to the all conquering 917.  After the very successful run of the Ford GT40’s with their 7 liter motors during the ’60’s, the rules were changed to, supposedly, slow down the cars by limiting the engine size to 3.0 liters.  However, cars produced in quantities of 25 or more would be allowed to run 5.0 liter engines.  No one thought anyone would be able to produce that quantity of pure racing cars, but Porsche, ever up to a challenge, did indeed produce those 25 cars.   For an inspection by the racing authorities, they lined up those 25 cars in their factory yard and challenged the inspectors to start any of them.  After solving initial aerodynamic issues, the 917’s became the car to beat in international competition. They routinely hit 240MPH at LeMans.  So much for slowing the cars!!





11-12-13  917 16cyl proto sm 11-12-13 16 cylinder sm 11-12-13 16 cylinder 4 sm 11-12-13 16 cylinder 3 sm 11-12-13 16 cylinder 2 sm 11-12-13  917 16cyl proto 2 smAs the rules changed again, the 917 was no longer eligible for international prototype racing.  Porsche thus turned their aim towards the Can-Am series in the USA and Canada.  The dominant cars in Can-Am had been the ground pounding big block Mclaren’s.  To counter the tremendous horsepower of these cars, Porsche explored enlarging the 12 cylinder 917 motor to 16 cylinders.  While this car developed sufficient power, advances in turbocharging led to the creation of the 917-10 and later 917-30 which were unchallenged under the expert hands of Roger Penske and Mark Donahue.  The 917 with the 16 cylinder that was on display was purely a prototype and was never raced.





11-12-13  911 IROC 5 sm 11-12-13  911 IROC sm 11-12-13  911 IROC 2 sm 11-12-13  911 IROC 4 sm 11-12-13  911 IROC 3 smSpeaking of Roger Penske, he and Art Richter created the International Race of Champions (IROC) in the mid ’70’s.  This was an invitation only series of races for motorsport champions from all types of racing.  A J Foyt, Bobby Allison, Mark Donahue, Dan Gurney, Mario Andretti and many other famous racers competed in a series of four races.  The car selected for the first season was the Porsche 911 Carrera RSR 3.0 liter, the most potent 911 racer then available.  They were painted in the wild colors that so define the ’70’s.





11-12-13  935 Baby sm 11-12-13  935 Baby 2 sm 11-12-13  935 Baby 3 smChanging rules create the race cars we see on the track.   In the mid ’70’s the rules decreed what would be called silhouette cars based on pure production models.  With its past racing success, the 911 was the obvious choice for Porsche.  Porsche’s Helmut Bott was the master of finding loopholes in racing rules.  When he discovered that front end modifications were free, he created the slope nose of the 935 race car.  During the late ’70s and early 80’s, this was the car to beat in international competition with its turbocharged flat six motor.




11-12-13  962C sm 11-12-13  962C 3 sm 11-12-13  962C 2 smAs successful as the 935’s were, their numbers were dwarfed by the success of the 956/962’s.  The rules changed back to allowing full prototypes and Porsche responded by creating its first monocoque chassis.  These cars were so dominant that they led to an ad where Porsche showed a list of the top ten finishers at LeMans with their car occupying nine of the ten spots.  The tag line was “Nobody’s Perfect”!!




11-12-13  959 sm 11-12-13  959 3 sm 11-12-13  959 2 smGroup “B” rally cars were all the rage in the ’80’s.  Porsche decided to create the best group “B” car of them all.  The result was the 959.  It was Porsche’s first all wheel drive car and was powered by a twin turbocharged flat six with sequential turbos.  The body would presage the Porsche 993 production car of 1995.  That series also debuted the first turbo model with twin turbos and all wheel drive.  It was a car way ahead of its time.   Sadly, by the time the 959 was produced, the group “B” rally cars were outlawed.  Nevertheless, a derivative won the Paris-Dakar rally.





11-12-13  carrera GT sm 11-12-13  carrera GT 3 sm 11-12-13  carrera GT 2 smA successor to the 959 was the 2004-07 Carrera GT super car.  It embodied all that Porsche has learned over the years to create a powerful mid engine street car.   It directly traces it heritage to the 911 GT1 and LMP-98 race cars of the late ’90’s.





11-12-13  911 gt3 hybrid sm 11-12-13  911 gt3 hybrid 2 sm 11-12-13  911 gt3 hybrid 4 sm 11-12-13  911 gt3 hybrid 3 smWhich leads us to today’s modern Porsche race cars.   After a number of years being absent from the prototype racing arena,  2014 will find Porsche racing for overall triumphs with a hybrid racing car.  The car forecasting that future was on display as the 911 GT3R Hybrid racing prototype.  Porsche’s future will see it adapting to the changing times as it has done for the past 60 plus years.



  1. […] Of course, we traveled there in my 912-6. I have posted photos and commentary on my car blog at: Porsche by Design at NC Museum of Art | Jerry Forthofer's Car Blog By the way, the last date for the exhibit has been extended to February 2. Well worth visiting. […]

  2. […] I finally got around to processing the photos and posted then with commentary on my car blog at: Porsche by Design at NC Museum of Art | Jerry Forthofer's Car Blog The show has been extended to February 2nd. __________________ 1967 Porsche 912-6, 3.0 SC […]

  3. Well worth the drive, and a nice road trip from Tampa. Of course, they got me for the T-shirt too. Nice read.

    • Thanks. My in-laws are in Palmetto for the winter and we visited them a couple weeks ago. Because I-75 and I-95 are so crowded, we decided to use as little interstate driving as possible on the way home. We took 301 out of Tampa all the way to just south of Orangeburg, SC and caught 601 there to take us home to just north of Charlotte. It was a couple hours longer but way more relaxing.

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