Year: 2012 Development stage: Drivable prototype
“We believe that there is hardly any other car brand that can combine sports car and off-road characteristics as credibly as Porsche,” says Chief Designer Michael Mauer. In the 1970s, the Porsche 911 had already proved its astonishing off-road capabilities in the legendary East African Safari Rally. The race took competitors on a journey covering almost 5,000 km across the Kenyan wilderness. In 1978, Porsche works drivers Björn Waldegård and Vic Preston Jr. were right up in the leading group in their Porsche 911 SC Safari, which boasted increased ground clearance, all-round reinforcement and some pretty characteristic Martini stripes. They proved that the air-cooled 911 is almost as unstoppable in the desert as it is on a motorway or a race track. The images of these Porsche 911 Safari cars covered in the red dust of the African savannah, splashing through water holes and mud pools will never be forgotten.
And that is why the Porsche design team decided to pay tribute to the legendary off-road sports car with a contemporary re-interpretation in 2012. The Porsche 911 Vision Safari was created on the basis of the 991 generation of the 911. With its raised suspension, reinforced wheel housings, massive bumpers and a spartan rally cockpit with race seats and roll cage, it fully reflects its historic rally predecessor. The designers even planned a special shelf mounted above a fan behind the seats – to cool down your crash helmet between especially hot stages.
The Porsche 911 Vision Safari completed its maiden drive “Out of Africa” on the gravel track at the Weissach test facility, where normally the Porsche Cayenne and Macan prove their off-road capability. Chief Designer Michael Mauer was the co-driver in the Safari 911, with its uniquely soft suspension setup, when it performed its first drift and remembers enthusiastically: “I have rarely had so much fun before!”
Year: 2013 Development stage: 1:1 hard model
The Porsche Macan is at home on the world’s boulevards but, under its elegant lines, there is a proper off-roader that is just waiting to be unleashed in the dust and mud. After all, this deeply successful model does feature active all-wheel drive, a sporty dual-clutch transmission and an adaptive chassis that can be adjusted for off-road driving at the push of a button. Perhaps, the Macan is pre-destined to prove its versatility on gravel roads and rally tracks.
Inspired by the brand’s great off-road icons – the Porsche 911 Safari and the 959 Paris-Dakar – the design team in Weissach therefore fitted the Porsche Macan Vision Safari on correspondingly chunky tyres. As a sportily proportioned three-door with increased ground clearance and a hatful of rugged accessories, the sporty off-roader would be ready to leave the tarmac: ready to explore the remoter corners of East Africa or the Siberian steppe, leaving a gigantic cloud of dust in its rear-view mirror.
Year: 2014 Development stage: Drivable prototype
Starting in the late 1950s, Porsche dominated motor racing across the Alps with a succession of small, lightweight sports cars. While the Porsche 910 Bergspyder reigned supreme in the European Hillclimb Championship in 1967 and 1968, Ferdinand Piëch’s race engineers had already produced an even more dramatic car – the Porsche 909 Bergspyder. Thanks to its radical lightweight construction, the bespoke hillclimb car weighed just 384 kilograms. This makes it the lightest racing car ever campaigned by Porsche right up to the present day. Even though it did not pull off any great victories, the Porsche 909 Bergspyder is still impressive proof of the possibilities of weight-reduction.
With the Porsche Boxster Bergspyder, Michael Mauer and his design team paid tribute to this legend of the hairpin bends. At the same time, the designers showed that the 981-generation Boxster was also ideally suited to conquer the switchbacks of the Alps, thanks to its low weight and powerful engine mounted amidships. Freed of all the trappings of comfort, with a shallow windscreen, distinctive roll bar, set of precision instruments from a Porsche 918, single seat for the driver and a helmet shelf instead of a passenger seat, the Porsche Boxster Bergspyder was ready to tackle the mountains. Its weight of just 1,130 kg was nicely complemented by the 393 PS of its 3.8-litre Cayman GT4 motor, so its weight-to-power ratio was just a decidedly healthy 2.8 kg per PS. The Porsche Boxster Bergspyder made its public debut at the Gaisberg Hillclimb in 2019. Today, it is part of the collection at the Porsche Museum – alongside the lightweight ancestor after which it was named.
Year: 2016 Development stage: 1:1 clay model
The Porsche 550 has remained etched in our memories above all as an absolutely purist Spyder. However, the first sports car from Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen that was designed especially for motorsport actually started its career at Le Mans with a closed roof. The 78 PS, around 550 kg, mid-engine sports car made its debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1953. Helmut “Helm” Glöckler and Hans Herrmann were behind the wheel. In 2016, this pioneering low-slung racing coupé served as the Porsche design team in Weissach's inspiration for an extreme road sports car based on the Porsche Boxster.
As a result, it is clearly possible to discern the race track origins in the design of the Porsche Le Mans Living Legend: the front and rear lids open in opposite directions, refuelling takes place via a central filler at the front, and it proudly wears its racing start numbers all round. The large air intakes in the rear side windows indicate what race engine is installed – the most incredible-sounding eight-cylinder. In the widest sense, the race-oriented Porsche Le Mans Living Legend is a predecessor of today’s Porsche 718 Cayman GT4.