Celebrating 70 years with 250 Porsche cars over one weekend in Bangkok
A contingent of 911s, the classic 959 Paris-Dakar rally car and a sneak peek at the upcoming electric Taycan. CNA Lifestyle lived the motoring dream at Porsche's milestone anniversary in Thailand.
It must have been a sight to behold. A convoy of more than 50 Porsche cars from Singapore and Malaysia – including a number of colourfully decaled 911 GT3 street-legal track cars – on the expressway, making their way up to the Thai capital where a huge party beckoned.
Last weekend, a group of Porsche Club members took a nearly 2,000km road trip over two-and-a-half days to reach Bangkok on Saturday, where they joined another 200 Porsches in a car park that looked to be as big as two football fields.
The reason? The German sports car manufacturer was holding a Sportscar Together Day (SCTD) to celebrate its 70th anniversary – the largest Porsche fan gathering held in Southeast Asia.
FROM 911S TO A SPYDER STAR
From 1pm till midnight, the crowd – which consisted of not just of Porsche owners and fans but the curious public as well – soaked in the party atmosphere at the sprawling grounds of the Show DC Oasis Arena.
Entertainment came courtesy of the likes of Thai singer-songwriter Singto Numchok and Japanese DJ Yukio, and Thai emcee and actress Diana Jongjintanakarn.
But of course, at the centre of it all were those Porsches on display, both old and new. Attracting much of the attention were the old and exquisitely maintained models.
And while there was the occasional Boxster or Cayman, an overwhelming majority of the Porsches were the 911s. From the first chrome-plated 901 (the original name for the 911) from the mid-1960s to the updated 1970s versions to a few contemporary 911s, these made up at least nine-tenths of those on display.
Why were there so many 911s? “It’s an icon,” explained Achim Stejskal, director of the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany.
The 911 debuted in 1963 as a replacement for the 356, the first model which preceded it by a good 15 years. It has since come to epitomise Porsche, its fame due in part to its longevity as well as its distinctive shape – a profile that is instantly recognisable even when sketched out with a few pen strokes.
But for Stejskal, the one car at the event that caught his expert eye wasn’t a 911.
“I saw a 550 Spyder, which impresses me all the time because this is Porsche’s first serious race car, designed in the mid-50s and very, very successful on the race track and also rallies worldwide. It was in the middle of the parking lot and it was great to see an icon of Porsche motor sports. It’s a beautiful car owned by a member of Porsche Club Thailand and I am going to look for him to tell him that.”
The first Porsche 550 Spyder raced in 1953. The mid-engine car was inspired by the Porsche 356, which was the very first automobile created by Ferry Porsche exactly 70 years ago.
Before that, Ferry Porsche as an automobile designer had been associated with various automotive brands, including Volkswagen.
“This anniversary is very important anniversary because 70 years ago, the first Porsche sports car with the Porsche family name on the front got its road permit on Jun 8, 1948,” said Stejskal.
“So we decided to celebrate not only in Stuttgart, where the museum is located, but also be part of all the events worldwide like this one in Bangkok.”
A PORSCHE WORLD TOUR
The year-long celebrations began in January, with a glitzy exhibition at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Other events will be taking place in China and Japan. The first Porsche car, the 356 Number 1 Roadster, has also been on tour in Europe and South Africa before heading to the US.
Around 45 countries are involved in the celebrations through exhibitions and driving events, with the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart providing each with different cars.
For Bangkok, two museum cars made an appearance: The 959 Paris-Dakar rally car and the 918 Spyder hybrid supercar.
The former is a 911 modified for rallying, after legendary Le Mans winner and rally driver Jacky Ickx, who was also in Bangkok, pushed for its development.
Said Stejskal of the 959: “It demonstrates perfectly how Porsche deals with its motor sports genes, especially in a super sports car that was originally produced for road use.’’
As for the 918 Spyder supercar, which was made for the race track, he said: “It has the hybrid system which combines a powerful combustion engine with two electric motors on each axle.”
The Porsche Museum holds more than 650 cars, and another rare Porsche at the SCTD that will soon find its way into the collection was the 919 Tribute hybrid endurance race car.
“Each year, we send around 400 cars worldwide to each country to support our activities. We operate like an airport except we don’t have our own airline to carry all the cars.’’
If Porsche did have an airline, its cars would be flying first class all the way. Stejskal described these museum cars as “the perfect ambassadors” for the Porsche story and brand.
“The cars show people that they are not only museum pieces but that they are all still running, after 70 years.”
THE FUTURE IS ELECTRIC
Porsche is also looking ahead to the next 70 years by offering a tantalising glimpse of an electric future.
To be clear, Porsche and electrification isn’t a recent phenomenon – the Lohner-Porsche electric car was presented way back in 1900.
“It actually has a long history in electric cars,” said Arthur Willmann, managing director of Porsche Asia Pacific, the regional office based in Singapore.
“The Lohner-Porsche back in the beginning of the last century was the first electric car developed by Porsche. Then we were the first premium manufacturer to have three hybrid cars – the Cayenne, the Panamera and the super sports car, the 918 Spyder.”
But a mini theatre at SCTD now promises that the advent of Porsche E-Performance is near. In fact, the Porsche Taycan expected later next year.
“The Taycan will be the first fully electric car by Porsche and it will be special,” said Willmann. It will have a unique 800-volt charging system that makes it not only go fast but also charge fast – in just 15 minutes for a range of up to 400 km.
And even if it is an eco-friendly emission-free vehicle that every tree-hugger can accept, the Porsche DNA is guaranteed.
“The Taycan will also be a true sports car,’’ emphasised Willmann. “It will feel like a Porsche, it will smell like a Porsche and it will drive like a Porsche.”
CNA Lifestyle attended Sportscar Together Day at the invitation of Porsche Asia Pacific.