A couple of years ago, Porsche released an official coffee table book called Porsche Unseen. It contained fifteen or so studio concepts that as the title suggests, had never been revealed publicly. More than just a way to lighten the wallets of Porsche bores who find branded polo shirts a bit flyover-state-dentist-done-good, it showed just how rich and varied their back catalog of greatest hits was. They even did a concept Race Service van, inspired by the old VW Type 2 split window race support vehicle in a nod to the link between the two companies.
OEMs create concepts never intended for public consumption all the time. It lets the designers get really wild and allows them to experiment without fear of fucking up the brand image. So why didn’t Porsche show any of these concepts at the time? Because their brand is all about the 911, and they are not about to put sand in that pot of Vaseline.
Overnight Porsche revealed its 75th birthday present to itself, the Vision 357 Concept. And my whelm is truly under. It’s meant to be both homage and update of the very first Porsche, the 356, but what I’m seeing is a generically futuristic blob with little innovation and a schizophrenic personality.
The virtues of the 356 were it’s build quality, light weight and aerodynamic shape; a taut teardrop pulled tight over a chassis distantly [Editor’s Note: Not that distant, really! – JT] related to the Beetle. Ferry Porsche himself stated his idea was to have a smaller car that wasn’t overpowered, but the 357 is based on the platform of the 718 Cayman GT4. In other words it’s the shape of a rear engine car placed on the skeleton of a mid-engined one. It has a superfluous hunched back, something that’s really jarring in the side and rear three quarter views. There’s a vertical graphic that references the air vents on the engine cover of the 356, so I’m wondering if they’ve moved the radiators from the nose to above the engine, which doesn’t sound optimal.
Not helping is the thickness of the cant rail as it sweeps forwards over the side windows. Seamless wrap around glazing is hard to do. What happens is you massage the line of the top of the windshield where it meets the header rail so it looks right, then as you wrap it around the A pillar it goes wrong as the line is traveling in the wrong direction. So you fudge and tweak, keeping an eye on the front three quarter view so it looks consistent and doesn’t have a horrible bend on the way around. Dropping the upper line of the Day Light Opening quicker towards the rear alleviates some of this issue, but that’s how you end up with a cant rail that is too thick. A fellow sufferer of this Quasimodo affliction is the Mazda 3 hatch.
Older Porsches have always had a spartan solidity to them. Not overbuilt like an old Benz, but an industrial feeling that comes from using high quality materials and sensible engineering. Like a killer Kraftwerk track the joy is in the melody despite the coldness of the notes. They were all about clarity and purpose. Is this 357 a road car or a racer? Fucked if I can tell. It has track ready detailing like quick release catches for the frunk and tow hooks, but appears to have a full interior.
The lighting is hidden behind a perforated pattern in the bodywork that gives this thing both a fat butt and a face that looks like those nightmare fuel fish that have evolved without eyes. This is why the overall feeling is blobbiness – there are no graphics where they are needed to break up the curved surfaces.
What has any of this got to do with the 911? The 911, and by extension all the other six cylinder special models that are not available to regular people, are what Porsche cares about: Those whose Instagram feeds consist solely of sun-bleached six-cylinder six-figure wank material. That’s why the 957 has a Cayman GT4 underneath it. You didn’t think we would use one of those 4 cylinder models that sound like a dryer full of spanners did you? No, no, those are for the poor. Don’t worry, you and your watch collection are in a safe place here. And by the way, there’s another 911 variant being released next week.
I’m not a massive Porsche wiener, but I do like them. 15 years ago I bought a facelift 986 Boxster. Five minutes into the test drive I understood. The howl of the flat six. Weighty controls with no slop. Impeccable build quality. Even today one of my money no object dream cars is a manual 987 Spyder, in black. The one with the crap roof. Before I blew five figures on the Ferrari I was considering was an air-cooled 911. It would have been a Targa or convertible at my budget but I wasn’t bothered as that Boxster turned me onto the joy of open roof driving. At the time I even test drove a 968 convertible on cup wheels (which I didn’t buy, but was freaked the fuck out by, when I saw it parked outside my Docklands flat a few weeks later).
Porsche’s heritage warehouse is bulging at the seams with really cool non six cylinder cars to draw inspiration from. The original 356 retailed at $3,750, about $45k today. Where’s the reimagined 944 concept? Or how about a modern take on the 914 – something lightweight and simple with cutting edge sustainable materials and a $50k target price? Show us what you can really do when you push yourselves instead of doing something that might frighten off the tedious 911 sheep. You’re much more than one car.
Well, it might end up having four cylinders, and isn’t that what vans have?
It’s simple and I love it
I want a modern take on the 550 Coupe. The original was greatly more slippery than any new mass market car that can be purchased today, when considering its low frontal area. Considering there is 3/4 of a century between then and now, it’s more than a big of an indictment of the state of things in the modern auto industry. With all of the modern aerodynamics knowledge that exists today, it should be possible to build a modern equivalent with a 1.4 m^2 frontal area and a drag coefficient under 0.2. It should also be light, around 550 kg like the original. Throw in a 4-cylinder TDI engine, and give it the bare minimum downforce enhancements it needs for basic stability at top speed(and no more, so as not to compromise the slipperiness). Forget big wheels, forget aggressive styling. It needs to be sex on wheels instead, which aero slipperiness plays right into. You know, make love, not war!
Casey Putsch’s custom designed/built Omega sports car gives a glimpse as to how that might perform. The Omega accelerates like his Dodge Viper and exceeds 100 mpg on the highway. It uses a TDI engine from a Jetta. Mass produce such a thing and it could sell for Miata money.
If there is insistence on using gasoline instead of diesel, an engine from an Audi TT would be a solid performer and highway fuel economy would end up Prius-like. As an EV, it would likely only need around 100 Wh/mile, allowing for a light/inexpensive battery pack.
That existed and it was called a VW XL1.
It wasnt 550kg but a 2L TDI would probably come in at over half of 550kg.
But it sounds to me like you are advocating for a stripped XL1
Would rather see the original Alfa BAT cars for the same reasons, particularly 5 and 7.
The BAT7 had a drag coefficient of 0.19, in 1953!
For Porsche, I think that design brief gets you a 987 Cayman. The Boxster was clearly massively informed by the 550. The Cayman then turned it into a coupe, and one that can actually be built and actually be federalized. You can even get it with a 4-cylinder now. I happen to think the early Caymans are much prettier than the edgier later models, wonder what Adrian thinks.
I’m not sure there’s any business case for the car you describe, there are only 11 of us buying 2-seaters in North America. It does look, though, like Steve Nichols (designer of the Prost & Senna McLaren MP4/4) wants to find out with his N1A.
I am of the opinion that the Cayman is much prettier than the Boxster, and the earlier models prettier than the recent ones. It’s also a much larger/heavier car than the 550, with more drag, and everything built to handle heavier/more powerful components. A Miata ND uses less tech and weighs nearly 1,000 lbs less than a Cayman, and it was able to be federalized, without resorting to exotic materials or build techniques. Resort to exotic materials and build techniques, and weight can go down further, but with cost going up.
The problem is the emphasis on luxury features in so-called “sports cars”, which adds margin and allows the weight to balloon. Do we really need heated seats, hundreds of pounds of sensors and sound deadener, premium stereo systems, infotainment screens, plush leather seats, and enough room to fit people who are 300+ lbs in a “sports car”? All of that crap also adds cost, cost which could be budgeted for making the car go faster instead.
With some engineering talent and budget behind it, I’m certain Casey Putsch’s design could be federalized in a similar form to what it currently is. The will to do so simply isn’t there.
Would the market for such a car exist? Who knows? No one had tried anything remotely like it, and the type of person this car would appeal to would probably be of the more frugal sort that doesn’t want a lot of extraneous crap, and if an initial business case could be made for the car, it would without a doubt cannibalize the sale of more profitable higher-margin products by competing with them and in some ways adding more value by offering a lower-mass, faster-performing alternative.
I wasn’t sold on heated seats until I got the Boxster. Top down in the winter they are a butt saver. Also in the Rangie in the recent cold snap, the leather gets bloody cold over night and I find myself wishing for a heated steering wheel.
If I could afford it, I’m skinny enough to be right in line with you. I even want a 200 mile EV 86, or the like. My standard answer is that without all the luxe stuff the OEM couldn’t mark the car up enough to be worthwhile to them, to your point, but that doesn’t apply to Porsche – they have a long habit of taking stuff off and then charging more for a special addition. You can’t get a Elise anymore, though, and the 4C didn’t sell well, so I think it will be a while before we get what we really want.
“Porsche’s New 357 Concept Is Supposed To Be An Homage To The 356, But It’s Just A Blob”
So, you mean like the 356.
I can see why you say that, but look at a 356 from either front or rear three quarter views and it’s much leaner and tauter than this.
The 356 is much narrower and lower. And with smaller wheels. The proportions are thrown off because the 357 is a larger car.
I like the front end design of the 357 for its cleanliness, but I’m not so fond of the rest of the blob.
The side 3/4 view is very 911 looking to me, and I agree – bigger side windows would have helped the look, but it then would have looked even more 911-ish.
I also would like to see them do another 914 sort of car, but given current times it would be electric….and the thing I liked about my 914 is that with two trunks there was room for 2 people and everything you might need for a trip somewhere, and it got great mileage, and was super comfortable to drive long distances. Can’t see them being able to do that with an electric car…..seems they go one of two ways – short distance city car or SUV.
Speaking of design details again, what about the cutouts behind the front and rear wheels? interesting stuff there- very race car aero looking stuff…..
Again, tough to take serious a written critique of a design when you, the writer, don’t carefully proofread. Wrong “its” when listing the virtues. Doesn’t diminish what you’ve written, but you know…
When you can’t attack the argument, attack the grammer.
Yes, that was on purpose
Hey! Don’t attack my Grammer; she’s a lovely old lady!
At least until there’s an EDIT BUTTON…
So, when there is, we can use it to make our grammers nicer people? Useful.
I used to call these things out. Hell, I’m so interested in these things that I have a degree in English and most of a Master’s in technical communication (work and class schedule have not worked to finish it). But it’s hard to say that using “it’s” instead of “its” really detracts from understanding the article or the overall composition. The article still reads in Adrian’s voice and gives us the perspective he offers, and it is cohesive and logical.
So I wouldn’t worry about a minor mistake.
Agreed, and I don’t have an opinion on the 357 and didn’t mean to comment on his argument.
Clearly not a popular opinion, but a sloppy critique meant to cash in on the news cycle comes off as tasteless to me – reminds me of the pieces I didn’t enjoy on Jalopnik. I don’t venerate corporations or corporate history, especially in the case of Porsche, but this doesn’t seem like a cynical corporate scheme…just reads as a fun design exercise.
Porsche doesn’t have a comment section, so Adrian blogged about it – valid! Rubbed me the wrong way, so I dropped a critical but polite comment on Adrian’s opinion piece.
That’s on me. I’m often a sloppy editor!
I can tell you aren’t a writer. It’s very hard to proofread your own work. Ever notice spelling or (hopefully) minor grammatical errors in books, even ones that are several editions in? That’s after the author probably went through it several times, then proofreaders, copyeditors, and editors. It’s difficult because the human mind knows what should be there and “fixes” the errors automatically and that’s with a new reader who isn’t the originator of the work. As an originator, it’s even more difficult as the material isn’t new and you know how it should read on top of it. Same with drawing. The human brain (I can’t speak for animals) can take something like the gesture of a circle and perceive it as a full circle even though it’s not closed or even quite complete at all. In that case, it can be used to an artist’s advantage, but it’s (presumably) the same effect at work.
I will read the article later, but the headline and pictures do not match, IMHO. I think this is effin sexy.
I am with you. I like it overall and I love a lot of the detail solutions. The wheels are best ignored, they look a bit too 1989 Group C for me (not a bad thing in itself, mind you).
Porsche said that’s what they’re inspired by.
Why the fuck would you put Group C inspiration on a car inspired by a fifties coupe?
I really wonder if anyone should try to make an homage to this car.
The original is dumb looking ,ridiculously overhanging it’s silly little wheels.
Trying to make a pretty modern equivalent is pointless because we’ve grown to love original the way it is!
There’s nothing inherently wrong with wheels set inside the bodywork. Most older cars are like this to a greater or a lesser degree, but it looks fine because they were designed that way (I wrote about this in one of my big wheels pieces).
One of the guiding principles of the 356 was that it be reasonably aero efficient (as much as the science was understood for road vehicles at the time) hence the wheels set well inside the body (cf. Jaguar E Type).
This is a rare miss from parsh for me. I keep describing it as “two parsh in a trenchcoat” because the primer grey body looks like it was draped over a different car, like it’s a car dressed up as a ghost or something. It doesn’t look proportional at all.
Anyway, you’re not fooling anyone, two parsh in a trenchcoat. I know what you’re up to.
Also, YES! THE REST OF THE BACK CATALOG EXISTS!!! Give me an electric 944 you cowards. Make a Turbo GT4 Clubsport version or whatever of that and annihilate the ‘Ring EV record even harder. HRRRRNG YES
I do think it looks better in videos, and it’s not a track car or a road car, it’s a design study, a model. It doesn’t matter where they put the radiators because it’s doesn’t drive
It’s a blob, ugly as, well, something that’s very ugly indeed. And is the cd better going forwards or in reverse? I agree the 914, 944, and 550 Spyder, with apologies to Mr. J.D. , would be great to move into the present. Fun and reasonable prices intact, please. And Adrian might tell Toecutter about the Lotus cars for lightweight fun. Before the ‘90s. ( Elan & Europa come to mind. And no badmouthing my Super Seven for poor aero, please, there’s a good fellow.
Somewhere in Brazil, an Autopian reader looks at that picture of the original 356, and looks outside at his VW Beetle and has an idea.
Sorry Adrian but the old porch was just a blob too. It just had visible lights on it as opposed to the hideous new concept of hiding lights instead of designing them into the look.
OOOH thank you for explaining to me why I think the new Mazda 3 hatch looks like a panel van
Did Porsche forget they build the 911? They don’t need need to make a tribute to the 356; they’ve never stopped building the 356.
Also, I’m getting huge 350Z vibes from the front 3/4 and side views of the 357.
Most people are unattractive and, quite correctly, afraid to show their faces in public. A few people are VERY attractive, and willing to show off how cool they look while driving. We own Targas and Cabs.
I genuinely do love 911 targas and I love cabriolets of all stripe. Driving rounds the city late at night with the top down and music loud is one of THE great driving experiences and thanks for coming to my TED talk.
I canNOT tell you how many times I have said that a long stint through the dark, top-down, with the rain skipping by overhead and Tift Merritt singing me something true, is among the greatest pleasures in life, and the reason why I will own my Targa long after they take my keys away.
P.S. I’ve got an ’87 Targa and a ’90 944S2 Cab. Bought both before the bubbles inflated. I may lead a sad life, but I have a lot of joy getting through it.
P.P.S. I also try not to be a massive Porsche wiener. I ended up here by accident while speccing an F-Type I couldn’t quite afford.
The 911 Targa SCs are also strangely reliable and overall well-built cars. Were money no object, a 911 Targa SC would be on my list of dream cars.
Had my eye on a black on black one that was for sale in Wales. An ’82 I think. It sat unsold for months and then sold when I was in a position to go and have a look.
One of the secret joys of top-down driving is being out there when the snow flies.
Bundle up tight, throw a blanket across your lap. If you have a tonneau cover, unzip the center and tuck it behind the seat. Add a warm scarf, gloves and a hat. Turn the heat up all the way, and get out there. Goggles optional.
What? I promise you won’t be any colder than a snowmobile rider, and those people go out all winter.
Be sure to have a real cloth top instead of something made of vinyl. Vinyl cracks and tears rather easily in the winter, and that’s why I’ll never have another vinyl topped convertible.
This is me, except when the salt goes down and hasn’t been rained away yet.
Is this 357 a road car or a racer? Fucked if I can tell. It has track ready detailing like quick release catches for the frunk and tow hooks, but appears to have a full interior.
So many manufacturers fall into this trap with special editions, or even regular editions. I get it from one perspective as racing = sex and sex sells, but from another its just so damned obvious that you’d think someone on their team would say “hey, can we just stop and think for half a minute?”
“Or how about a modern take on the 914 – something lightweight and simple with cutting edge sustainable materials and a $50k target price?”
They had that around 2009. A shared platform small 2-seat mid-engined convertible with a 2.0T for the engine. VW called theirs the Bluesport. Audi’s was going to be the R4 or something similar but I cant remember what the name of the baby Porsche was going to be.
I’m still so mad the Bluesport never happened. RIP never forget
I remember it well, but like you say it was fifteen years ago and they’re much more into milking their heritage these days. They could do it again, as it would be a lot more relevant than a fucking lifted 911.
but I want the silly lifted 911 for peak silly
do silly things
jump silly jumps
please, a little silly, as a treat
Not enough margin in it for Porsche, or virtually anyone else. Manufacturers aren’t going to put chips and manhours and metal into cars that they can’t mark up. Not since they found that people will take out 84 month loans. Applies across cars, and cameras, and refrigerators. See: Ford Focus, et al.
When the 986 Boxster came out they had a base price of £34k. You weren’t finding one at a dealer at that price, but it was theoretically available (you would have had to order but that’s normal for Europe). Of course as is the Porsche way it would have been absolutely bollock naked in terms of spec.
They could dip into the VAG parts bin and do it again for a model under the 718, but they won’t because they’re obsessed with maintaining the brand in the eyes of the people who buy 911s. Their ‘we have second hand Porsches’ is elitist bullshit which is fucking rich coming from a company that thirty years ago had to turn to Toyota for help.
After the 924 I’m not sure they would ever use VW parts again. I’d put money down now on a 914/924-slotted car, but if you’re the family why would you bother?
In fact, I already did that, with my Crossfire. And we see how all of that worked out.
The modern 911 has become an overweight, bloated car laden with features, specifically to appeal to elitists. I loathe them. A modern 911 weighs almost as much as a tank of a Mercedes 300 SDL I used to own, which drove like a rolling bank vault. There’s something wrong with that picture. Give me the old air-cooled 911s without all the bloat, any time.
Hard agree. The 911 is a big GT now, totally losing sight of what made them unique in the first place – compact dimensions, great visibility, impeccable engineering.