1964 Porsche 901 Prototype

1964 Porsche 901 Prototype 1964 Porsche 901 Prototype 1964 Porsche 901 Prototype Convertible
Coachwork: Karmann
Chassis Num: 13 360
Sold for $695,072 (€649,600) at 2017 RM Sothebys.
When Porsche decided to replace the 356 with the 911 in the early 1960's, the question arose as to whether an open car should be offered to replace the popular cabriolet. By 1964, Porsche had already built its thirteen 901 pre-production Coupe prototypes. Since Karmann had historically built all 356 Cabriolets for Porsche, the decision was made to commission an open 901 prototype body in June of 1964.

In June 1964, Porsche commissioned Karmann to # 13 360, the first open 901 prototype and today one of two remaining 901 prototypes. Karmann was a natural choice since it was building 356 B&C cabriolets; their expertise would save time and money in developing a new 901 cabriolet. This 901 was delivered to Porsche Research on September 10, 1964. Concern over pending rollover protection in the United States that would eliminate convertible sales resulted in the plan to create an open body style that would meet the future requirements. The result of Butzi Porsche's new design which was approved on February 1, 1965 for final development and production would become the Targa model.

This 901 remained at Porsche for another year in testing service as a 911S being equipped with prototype Fuchs alloy wheels and other 911S model equipment. Famed Porsche collector Manfred Freisinger of Karlsruhe, Germany acquired it during 1966 and stayed with him until the current owner acquired it in 2000. The 901 was not for sale but was acquired in a 'trade' for another Porsche for Manfred's collection. This 901 has not been altered from the way since it left the factory. As a research vehicle it was subject to bumps, scrapes and dings which it proudly wears today along with its original paint. To fully re-commission the 901 systems it was entrusted to Richard Bennett of Thompson, Ohio whose former employer was Porsche legend Chuck Stoddard.

The completed body was delivered to Porsche Research in September of 1964 and development of different types of open concepts began on this car. At a Porsche Management Board meeting on February 1, 1965, they decided to go with the innovative Targa concept for the open 911, using this car as the primary example and test bed. A second Targa prototype was then commissioned and both were on the Frankfurt Auto Show stand in November of 1965 when the Targa concept was introduced to the world.

This car was found in Germany in 2000 and is in essentially the same condition it was when it left its vigorous regimen of factory testing.
The Porsche 901, the forerunner for the famous 911, was the first 'new' vehicle Porsche had ever produced. Prior to the 901, there was the 356. This vehicle had lived a relatively long lifespan and was nearing its end, both in mechanical capabilities and in appeal. Many variations of the 356 had appeared during its production-run, most improvements where mechanical with very few visual improvements. Albeit, the 356 was a very beautiful car and improvements to its design were not necessary.

In the Mid-1950's, the Porsche company began producing prototypes for the successor of the 356. The result was a vehicle built on the same unitary structure used for the 356 but with a new front suspension, front disc brakes, and a six-cylinder engine. The design was penned by Ferri 'Butsi' Porsche and was dubbed the 901. The name would not last due to the French company, Peugeot. Peugeot used the naming scheme where numbers were on the outside with a zero in the center. The 901 name was infringing on Peugoet's claim to the name, so the vehicle was designated 911 a year later. As a result, only a few Porsches used the 901 name.

The Porsche 901 was introduced to the public in 1963 at the Frankfurt Motorshow. The silhouette body was available only in fixed-head coupe form. In 1967 a Targa bodystyle became available featuring a removable center roof section. The 1991 cc flat-six engine was air-cooled. It's 2-litre capacity was the same as its predecessor. The six-cylinder engine was chosen over the four to allow more room for growth and improvement in the future. Two Solex carburetors aided in the 130 horsepower output.

This time-tested design and unmatched performance has made the 901/911 a legend.
By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2008
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