December 2, 2008
Porsche – The Legend: 1948 to Today. Click image to enlarge
By Russell Purcell
A quick glance at the automotive section in your local bookstore will reveal that Porsche cars are a favourite subject for writers and photographers alike. In fact, there have been so many books written about Porsche automobiles that many book sellers have given the storied marques its own section in the aisles. I’m not complaining, as I consider myself a Porschephile, just one without a Porsche. Yes, I was the kid with the room plastered in posters and pictures carefully cut out from car magazines, but thankfully I outgrew that stage.
Now my homage to all things Porsche includes an always-expanding collection of die cast models and a colourful library of books dedicated to the cars from Stuttgart. After perusing this massive tome for a few hours, I came to the realization that I was actually learning a lot of new information about the history of the small German company and its distinctive automobiles. Imagine that – an informative book. I became so drawn in as I flipped each page that I forgot that I was hungry, missed my favourite television show AND totally lost track of time. While most automotive books seem to rehash the same brochure speak, author Giancarlo Reggiani has created something special with this one.
What sets this book apart is the fact that the author has attempted to archive the complete history of the development of road-going Porsches. Reggiani has divided the book into sections that focus on individual model lines rather than the usual chronological timeline method, making it much easier to follow the evolution of a particular car, free from trips to the table of contents and/or index for direction.
After a brief introduction, the reader is introduced to the bulbous 356 models and the many faces of the iconic 911 (remember that this car has been evolving for more than four decades), including the ultra-rare and racy RS variants, and of course, the Turbos. A chapter is also dedicated to what the author calls the “extreme” cars. These are the engineering marvels like the first all-wheel-drive Porsche (the 959), the various flavours of GT2 and GT3 911s, and the pinnacle, the Carrera GT.
The last portion of the book is reserved for those cars that often get frowned upon by the purists, but in reality, account for a huge portion of Porsche’s sales and success. These are the cars that feature engines mounted forward of the rear axle. You know, like the majority of cars on the road. Front-engine models like the venerable 924, 944 and 928 are examined in detail, as are the mid-engined 914, the sultry Boxster, and the sculpted Cayman models. And don’t forget the company’s saviour, the Cayenne SUV.
This latter chapter was enlightening as you learn of Porsche’s desire to build more attainable (read: less expensive) cars through partnerships with companies like VW and Audi, but once in production, they worry how these ‘hybrid’ models will reflect on the brand. As a result, the engineering and design teams work hard to refine them back to Porsche standards. Makes you wonder how long the VW, Audi and Porsche collaboration that produces the Touraeg, Q7 and Cayenne will exist. Even with recent moves by Porsche AG to purchase a controlling share in VW/Audi, the decision makers in Stuttgart want every car that sports the company shield to be seen as a Porsche in every sense.
As a photographer I enjoy browsing through collections of quality images, and this book is chalk full of brilliant ones. As the author follows the development of each model he catalogs significant changes to the function and styling of each car by supporting his words with carefully selected, colour photographs. Careful attention has been made to record even the most minute changes, everything from tweaks to the shapes and sizes of individual components, to the placement of nomenclature scripts and nameplates. Add to this the fact that this book is printed on heavy gloss paper stock to ensure that the hundreds of reference photos appear as vivid as the cars they depict.
The book features a high-gloss jacket to help it radiate from your bookshelf and catch the eye of your enthusiast friends. As an added touch Firefly books has replicated the art and text on the book’s hard cover as well; a classy touch for a classy subject.
“Porsche: The Legend: 1948 to Today” is an outstanding resource for Porsche fans as it has been meticulously researched and its information is current, but the big appeal for me is the fact that it includes the technical and performance specifications for every road-going Porsche to date. This alone should be enough to make this book a centrepiece for your automotive library.