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Porsche: Excellence Was Expected

Published on Fri, Feb 21, 2020

By: Don Taylor Book Review
Porsche: Excellence Was Expected
Bentley Publishers 2019
ISBN: 978-0-8376-1769-5
9in. X 10.5 in.
4 volumes, 2,834 pages/2912 photos, illustrations, and diagrams
$524.95 USD
Review by Don Taylor

If you are really a “Porsche Person” you need to have this book set, or to present it as a special gift to someone who is, even if you/they already own a previous edition.

Yes, there have been several previous editions of this classic, with the original being a single book, published in 1965. This most recent version is now in four volumes to handle its heft.

Why do you need this one?

This edition is not simply a reprint of the previous three-volume 2008 version, with a fourth book slipped in to bring the Porsche story up to date. Each of the other three has been gone through, with many details and photos added, and new findings presented. An example of the latter being new details on the origins and evolution of the original 911’s timeless shape. (Volume 1)

No other book covers the complete breadth of the Porsche marque’s history. It is presented on a whopping total of 2,834 pages, with close to 3,000 photos, diagrams, and illustrations, written from the research, interviews, and observations of one uniquely qualified gentleman, Karl Ludvigsen. He, with his support staff, have been continually assembling material for this book, now referred to as a “set” of books, for four-plus decades.

In that time, Ludvigsen has known and interviewed every Porsche family member, except for Ferdinand who passed away in 1951, and every key engineer or manager in the firm, past or present, including much time spent with the controversial Ferdinand Piech, grandson of Ferdinand Porsche. He’s been there, in their shops, garages, test facilities, plants, and offices, seeing, touching and hearing things first hand and reporting on it in fine fashion.

This is the comprehensive Porsche reference that one will own forever. It is not a book to just sit pretty on the coffee table. It is meant to be read. Not all at once certainly, but in its nicely defined, and now re-defined 132 bite-size chapters (up from the previous 66).

… For me, this book is “Exhibit A” for the argument of why we still need to print physical books. It has great presence. It contains so much knowledge. And such great visuals. Viewing this masterpiece on a Kindle would shrink, drain, and pale the experience. If you had the choice, you wouldn’t want to experience the Gutenberg Bible on an e-reader, and this “bible” is no different.

Just how comprehensive is this treatise on Porsche? Covered in-depth are the full breadth of production cars, 356, 911-912, 914, 914/6, 924, 944,948, 959, 993, 997, 918, Boxter, Cayman, Panamera, Cayenne, Macan, and Taycan. They’re all there. Add to that all the internally and externally built concept cars, the prototypes never produced, and drawings for vehicles you never knew about (Volume 1), and of course, the many, many race cars.

The ever presence of race cars in these books reminds us of how important racing has always been in the marque’s DNA. Porsche is the winningest manufacturer ever at LeMans. While they might have stopped and rested on the laurels of the iconic 917, 936, 956, 962, or the 911GT1, from the last century, they didn’t.

They felt they had to go back to Le Mans, and did so in 2014, and with advanced hybrid technology. They then proceeded to win the following three years in a row (Volume 4), bringing their total to 19 wins at the Sarthe circuit. Take that, Ferrari!

Beyond the prototype factory cars, the F1 cars, rally cars, engines and a stint with Indy Cars (Volume 3), so much of Porsche’s racing activity has focused on producing customer GT race car variations, most often based on the 911. You’ll see them so nicely illustrated one after another on the quality page stock. You’ll want to tear them out and frame them but don’t. If you look at the breadth of Porsche’s racing activities you are reminded of their commitment to racing not only to improve the breed but also to ‘define the breed’ in each of the four volumes.

As one reads through these books, you’ll see how that “Excellence Was Expected” tag is not simply a hollow cliché. And even now, in this day and age of the SUV and “shared platforms”, and Porsche being under the VW umbrella, you’ll read how the engineers are still in charge, and that excellence is still expected.

For example, they made sure the Macon is not simply a re-badged Audi Q5. Beyond its shared basic platform, Porsche engineers stiffened the structure, developed their own 4WD system, added an optional air suspension, and gave it unique powertrains offerings (Volume 4).

The takeaway from this suite of books?

In a time when some legacy carlines have stumbled, and new ones have popped up from places with no car-culture history, this book testifies to Porsche’s fabled past, its authenticity, and its strength to meet the future with the dedicated Porsche engineers taking on that challenge. Book 4 ends with Porsche now tackling the transition to electric-powered vehicles, with the development of the new Taycan.

Porsche: Excellence Was Expected will work to make the true believer, even more of a believer. -DT

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