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Paul Franssen's Avatar
 
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Some observations from a non-Porsche owner: good read.

I submit to the board a (long) email I received from a good friend in Toronto, I edited it to remove "personal" content. I think it is a good read and provides interesting insights into several debates ongoing on our board. The man has been a lover of fine automobiles since well into the sixties...


In his autobiography, " We at Porsche", Ferry Porsche explained that in his view a sports car was more than merely a rapid car; it was an all round superior transportation device. I endorse his sentiments.

Sports cars evoke an atavistic passion in autophiles and everyone has a favourite, or some preference. None of my cars is going to provide any competition to your Porsche any time soon. I can get into the merits of the machine. I can argue about performance...but when the polemics are dispensed with, the only importance to me is that they be good cars from the eighties that are sporty, reliable, but can be driven daily in one of the most hostile environments on earth. That means Japanese.

Your Porsche 911 was conceived as a sports car. It came in 1963 to replace the ageing 356. Porsche was known for its light, quirky, rear engined sports cars, descended from the plebeian VW. Yet the company had reached a stage where any further development of an archaic layout was considered counterproductive. They dabbled with affordable parts from VW and introduced the 912 and 914. Purists sneered. The company then moved to front engined cars, 924 and 944(again using some parts from VW) .They needed something that would have mass appeal and cater to the middle segment of the market where the volume sales are. These were true sports cars with balanced weight distribution, conferring superior handling characteristics. Car & Driver deemed the 944 the best handling sports car followed by the Prelude, and the test included some exotic cars!!! Purists snubbed them. The 8 cylinder 928 came along. It was developed until it gained the cachet of being the best GT car in the world, competing against stalwarts from Italy, Britain and Germany. Purists sniffed. It was front engined, ergo not a true Porsche. This kind of dogmatism is indefensible and indeed we can then argue that any Porsche that followed the original VW based 356 isn't a Porsche. Worse, these myopic snobs are driving the company into insolvency. To make money to continue 911 development while relying on its limited sales, the company was forced to move upmarket. Now the Porsche became a high performance, expensive machine, competing with the likes of Italians. The Porsche company is the most profitable auto manufacturer in the world, followed by PSA Peugeot and BMW. But the market for expensive, rear engined cars limited to two seats is a small one. Advertising, R&D, Tool and Die are prohibitively costly for a small manufacturer as we have seen with any number of defunct companies. Catch 22. To enhance the bottom line Porsche decided to go into the SUV market with the Cayenne in order to make hay while the sun shines. Purists howled. This isn't a Porsche. To broaden its market share with a more affordable product the company introduced the resurrected Boxster. Purists were disgruntled. It looked too much like the 911. So what? The corporate mandate is to make money, not to feed peoples egos. True, they wouldn't want to completely alienate their core clientele but their own priorities are constrained by a struggle to survive. They could end up being subsumed into a larger company.

Ferrari was sold to Fiat. Aston Martin was purchased by Ford. Jaguar is Ford. After many owners, Lamborghini now belongs to VW. Maserati is owned by Ferrari. Porsche owners don't care now but they will if it ends up in the wrong hands. They may shoot themselves in the foot. Then they will finally realize what a non-Porsche really is!!! They will deserve the retribution too. On a more pedestrian level, Volvo is Ford; Land Rover is Ford; Saab is GM; Mazda is Ford; Mitsubishi is Daimler-Benz; Nissan is Renault; Daewoo is GM; Subaru is GM. Fiat is 20% GM. Recently GM has just approved the rebadging of a Subaru as a Saab!!! How would they like a Porsche by GM? This same GM purchased Lotus, with a view to transfer some of its engineering to the US; after that it was dumped back into the market.

The development and evolution of the 911 is a costly undertaking. It became bloated, heavy, more luxurious, more expensive. But it was true to its rear engine and purists were happy.

There is a fine dividing line between a sports car and a GT. By definition,a sports car has to be relatively light. This because there is simply no way we can bend the laws of physics. In order to be manoeuverable, quick, good handling, good roadholding, it is necessary to be very selective, even austere with regard to creature comforts. The emphasis is on performance. The early examples of the 911 , well into the 80s and early nineties were sports cars.

A GT car is conceived as a sports car. But after that it is endowed with creature comforts, plushness, electronic and electric assistance, devices which have wiring,relays, electric motors, all of which add weight. Plushness equates with fat and is the enemy of the sports car. The intrinsic capability remains and can be discerned but it is hampered by the corpulence with which the car is burdened. More horsepower is needed to move that cumbersome mass. Larger engines, turbochargers, superchargers, 8 and 10 cylinders, which in turn add even more weight requiring beefed up suspensions and brakes.Lighten it with costly carbon fibre, aluminum alloy,titanium, Kevlar, ceramic composites. A vicious circle. Something is lost in the process. Porsche purists have forced this onto the company. What is lost is purity of design. They only see the rear engine.
Grand Touring cars have a different mission from sports cars. Whereas the sports car can be raced or used as a track car, the grand touring car makes no such pretension. Its sole raison d'etre is to carry two people in sybaritic comfort over long distances at a good rate of knots.

This explains the difference between the Supra that you saw at the wine store and your own Porsche. That Supra was a heavy GT car. Your Porsche of the 80s is a sports car. And being a Carrera, a potent one too.

I can make no comments regarding Alfa Romeos. Fiat's are not available here. The British sports car industry is history. Many European sports cars such as MG, Vauxhall, Lotus, Alfa, Lancia etc are not sold here. I did have the opportunity to drive an Alfa Sprint Speziale way back in the sixties. Although it had curvaceous styling, I don't think it would qualify as anything special today, other than as a collector item. Amongst affordable sports cars capable of being driven daily under diverse weather conditions we find only Japanese entries. Celica, Miata, MR2. The Preludes, Supras, Mitsubishi 3000 are all gone. Then we have German entries in the middle segment. Audi TT, Benz SKL, BMW Z4, Porsche Boxster, the Jap Infiniti 350Z and Honda S2000 and the new Mazda RX8. After this come the heavyweights, into which segment the 911 was driven.(no pun intended).

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Old 01-08-2004, 02:42 AM
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Quote:
The British sports car industry is history.
Really? The British sports car industry is alive and well, and making exactly the sort of cars enthusiasts wish mainstream manufacturers were making.

Lotus, TVR, Ultima, Noble, and a host of small manufacturers who still understand that light weight and double wishbones must come before "supple leather" and 10 speaker stereos.
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Old 01-08-2004, 06:25 AM
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Renault owns Nissan? Haven't heard that one before.
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Old 01-08-2004, 06:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by motion
Renault owns Nissan? Haven't heard that one before.
nissan / renault alliance (and i don't mean the car named "alliance")

"Renault holds a 44.4% stake in Nissan, while
Nissan owns 15% of Renault shares. Both companies
have a direct interest in the results of its partner."
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Old 01-08-2004, 07:06 AM
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Yup - Back in '99, Renault bought almost 40% of Nissan to create, at that time, the 4th largest auto manufacturer.

Regards,
Andrew M

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Old 01-08-2004, 07:09 AM
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