Porsche Museum 007
A must-see for any automotive enthusiast touring Europe is Porsche’s spectacular museum in the Zuffenhausen district of Stuttgart, Germany. The stunning monochromatic steel structure at Porscheplatz, constructed at a cost of nearly $130 million, first opened its doors to visitors in early 2009.
Delugan Meissl is credited with designing the silver and white monolith, which is completely supported on just three V-shaped columns (a freight elevator is cleverly hidden within one of the pillars, allowing the vehicles to be moved between floors). The shape gives the illusion that the massive 35,000-ton building of polished stainless steel and glass is suspended — floating completely above the ground. Porsche says the architecture reflects the company’s philosophy, which is to convey a sense of reception and approachability to welcome visitors in a friendly manner.
A recent trip to Germany with my 16-year-old son had the Porsche Museum at the top of our list — it was one of our most anticipated stops. Visitors enter from street level, walking down a sloped entryway with mirrored 30-foot ceilings into the lobby to face Guest Services and Ticketing. From there, they may enter the Museum Gift Shop on the right, the Boxenstopp restaurant on the left (my son and I dined on the “Turbo” — Schweineschnitzel paniert mit Pommes frites, after our tour), or continue straight to the Coffee Bar in the back of the foyer.
Visitors start the tour by traveling via escalator nearly 100 feet into the upper part of the building, which puts them in the heart of the 53,800 square foot exhibition space. From there, the exhibition spirals around logically in a contiguous chronological path.
In addition to the attractions on the ground floor, the museum building includes a very large operating workshop and restoration center (visible from the foyer), historical archive center that is open to the public, and a conference center. Upstairs, on the top floor, is an upscale restaurant named Christophorus, which is an incredible five-star culinary experience (I ordered an “Original Cut” filet mignon during a recent visit without my son, and it was one of the best-prepared pieces of beef I have ever tasted).
Since this was my son’s first visit, and I wanted to learn more behind-the-scenes trivia, we opted for a guided museum tour that would give us special insight to the exhibits and facility. Our assigned guide, Severin, was an enthusiastic young man who was very knowledgeable and passionate about Porsche and the company’s extensive racing heritage — his guidance and insight was well worth it.
Porsche has split the displays into two groups. First is the history of Porsche prior to 1948, and second is the history of Porsche after 1948. (Trivia: The first vehicle with a Porsche badge was a 356 Roadster built in 1948.) All told, there are about 80 vehicles on display, and most are in running condition — verified by their ongoing participation in historic races around the globe. More important is that the automaker owns hundreds of classic vehicles and is continuously rotating them through the exhibits. Thus, no repeat visit to the Porsche Museum is ever visually the same.
In an almost unprecedented manner, nearly all of the cars are openly presented on the floor sans barriers or barricades. This allows visitors to peer inside the cockpits, beneath the chassis and examine the details of the engine. The scrutiny seems almost encouraged, as the soft white light of the halls reflects off the crystal white synthetic glass/stone floors and bright white seamless synthetic acrylic polymer walls to illuminate every exhibit perfectly.
Also in contrast to many U.S. museums, run by curators who find it necessary to erase history with a full ground-up restoration, Porsche has left most of its inventory in original running condition, complete with race scars, paint chips, and blemishes. Get close enough, and you can even smell the oils and lubricants on the engines. The overall impression of the presentation seems to affirm Porsche’s passion for driving.
My son and I spent several hours in the museum, drooling as each new exhibit came into view. His favorite vehicles included the street-legal Porsche GT1, Porsche RS Spyder LMP2 race car, and the Martini racing Porsche 935. I couldn’t seem to get enough of the 1200-hp turbocharged Porsche 917/30 (the most powerful Porsche of all time), the groundbreaking Porsche 959, or the Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7 — a driver’s car for the traditional Porschephile.
The Porsche Museum offers something for everyone, and even those not well-versed on the automakers 60-plus years of history will find the exhibits about engines, technology and racing interesting and easy to understand. While German- and English-speaking guests will be able to understand everything without assistance, Guest Services offers audible narration via headset in several other languages to accommodate nearly every guest.
Put aside the better part of a day to tour the Porsche Museum, as there is plenty to see at this fabulous feast for Porschephiles (those with even more time on their hands will want to sign up for a factory tour, which originates in the foyer of the museum). My son and I both agree that it is one of the finest automotive museums in the world — engaging and educational — even for those who aren’t Porsche aficionados.