This is the car that saved the Porsche brand from extinction in the 90s

Porsche has tried since the mid-1970s to extend its range above the 911 model. First it tried with the 914, together with Volkswagen, and the results were terrible. Then he came up with the idea of ​​a more affordable sports car and created the 924. It was a front-engine coupe with rear-wheel drive, which didn’t share any rooms with the 911. It evolved. later in the 944, then the 928, and concluded with the 968. But in the long run, it was not a good recipe.

In the early 1990s, Porsche ran out of cash as its sales fell dangerously from over 50,000 units in 1986 to 14,000 in 1993. The US market also faced a financial problem with only around 3,000 units sold. Porsche was on the verge of bankruptcy. So it came up with a new idea, and we followed it through the story from concept to reality.

Like other car manufacturers, Porsche tried to tie a new model to its existing lineup. While other brands had more models to share rooms, it only had one. When Chrysler made the Viper, they had enough resources to develop it. In addition, Ford had a large bin of parts to share with the fourth generation Mustang. But Porsche had only one option: the rear-engined 911.

Sharing components between models is convenient for an automaker because it reduces R&D costs. It also lowers the cost of producing these parts. However, since the 968 and 911 didn’t share anything significant, the automaker took a different approach.

So company management knew, in the early 90s they appointed a new team to develop a more affordable convertible. Inspired by the success of the Mazda MX5 / Miata, Porsche decided to follow this recipe, but with its own twist. She took the famous Roadster 550 from her museum and attempted to make a modern version of it. The new model was to be a mid-engined sports car. Interestingly, the path from concept to reality only took three years, but it wasn’t without hiccups, being frozen for a few months.

Grant Larson was responsible for the design of the car and started working on it in 1991. First, he did it the old fashioned way, on paper. Then Peter Muller intervened. Based on Larson’s drawings he created a 3D clay model and he did a fantastic job. Harm Lagaay was the new head of the Porsche Style department after his return from BMW, where he made the Z1. Before that, the Dutchman wrote the 924, which saved Porsche from the oil crisis of the early 80s. His vision was right then, so he performed his miracle again.

Lagaay pushed the R&D department to finish the job ahead of the 1993 Geneva Motor Show. Yet the team burned the midnight oil and made it earlier than expected, and it was unveiled at the Salon. 1993 North American Automobile International (NAIAS) in Detroit. It was a surprising presence that bore the Boxster name, a combination of “boxer” and “roadster”.

It was the last move Porsche could afford, and she bet all her money on it. The public reaction has exceeded the expectations of the automaker. Although some detractors have said that “it’s the poor man’s 911 “, that did not prevent the Germans from building it. But it didn’t take any short cuts. He didn’t want to hear about anything other than a flat engine and a five-speed manual transmission as standard.

Additionally, with the American market dominated by automatic transmissions, Porsche offered it with a Tiptronic gearbox, which allowed the driver to shift gears sequentially via buttons on the steering wheel, combining the fun of a three-pedal car. to the comfort of an automatic car.

Less than three years after unveiling the concept car, Porsche released the production model of the Boxster, codenamed 986, at the 1995 Paris Motor Show. To speed up the manufacturing process, Porsche hired former Toyota engineers to help him plan the assembly line.

Unlike the concept car, the production version featured an elongated front end, identical to the future (then) Porsche 911 – 996. The roadster was fitted with a 2.5-liter water-cooled flat-six engine. developing 204 hp associated with a standard five-cylinder. manual speed. Its electrically retractable fabric roof and sporty styling are just some of the reasons it has become an instant attraction.

The production model sported taller side air intakes than the concept car. Thus, the engine could bring cleaner air into the cylinders. Being an intermediate vehicle, its mass distribution was better, the driver had a better driving position with a clear view ahead. Porsche has kept its promise and delivered a more affordable sports car with the same driving spirit.

The result was not a poor man’s 911. Instead, it was a different kind of roadster. Whoever could truly conjure up the spirit of the 550 Spyder in a way the 914 couldn’t, and the 911 never wanted. That’s why the Boxster was a hit, and later it became the Cayman and the 917.

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