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Classic Velocity Blog

The First Un-Porsche

Classic Velocity

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Despite the purity of the Porsche DNA, over time Porsche has entered into joint ventures with others to bring cars to market. The 914 comes immediately to mind, and many (not me) consider it a Porsche in badge only. However, back near the beginning, Porsche had a partnership that produced another car that was considered un-Porsche-like. The first coachbuilder that Porsche chose to work with for its Cabriolet back in 1948 was the Swiss firm of Ernst Beutler. Beutler had already been in business creating cars based on Porsche and Volkswagen parts. Porsche was still based in Austria at the time, but With the 1949 Geneva show as a target, Swiss Beutler was a good choice. Only a handful of the cabriolets were produced, as Beutler reportedly lacked the interest (and perhaps lacked the capability) to become a production house. Only about 50 cars were produced at Gmund Austria, and the majority of the cabriolets were produced by Beutler. Once Porsche moved to Stuttgart, coachbuilding went to Reutter and Glaser.

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In the mid 1950s, Ferry Porsche elected not to produce a roomier sedan version of the 356, despite some market indications that it would be a good idea. Being a coach builder, Beutler saw things differently, and built a 2+2 using a Porsche engine, brakes, and instruments, on a VW chassis. Then they produced a coupe and a cabriolet on the 356A chassis for the Duke of Wurtemburg in 1959. The Beutler body they used was originally going to have an Audi motor up front, so it had front facia with a grill suitable for a water-cooled car. The duke liked the body style, and so it got married to the rear-engined air-cooled 356A chassis.

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While the Duke's car was being built, Porsche visited and decided to introduce a four seater along with Beutler for the 1960 show circuit. Despite a request to make it look more Porsche-like than prior Beutler bodied cars, the initial ones bore little resemblance to a Porsche at the time, and look a lot like the Wurtemburg car. They had more traditional styling from 2+2s at the time, and even kept the front grill from the Wurtemburg car. Porsche 356 designer Erwin Komenda reportedly soon visited Beutler and made clear the need to include more 356 elements front and rear. They did, but ultimately, Beutler and Porsche could not agree on the financial arrangements, and only five Beutler-Porsches were built on the then new 356B platform.

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The cars were a true 2+2 with a stretched wheel base, and a well-appointed cabin. Typical Porsche gauges and steering wheel were combined with seating aimed more toward the luxury end than the sporting end. The body was aluminum, and this brought the car in under 2000 lbs, and ironically lighter than the Reutter coupes. The first cars had Porsche's 1500 engines, but higher performance variants inhabited later versions. As with many items from this era, we are left to wonder what might have been. Would the 356 have been complemented by this 2+2? Would a true sedan have evolved? Would Porsche's 4 door exercise of the late 1960s have become a production hit? We will never know, and some would say thankfully. However, the Cayenne and the Panamera in some ways owe their roots to these very early efforts to create a roomier more practical car that was still a Porsche.