Porsche 356Veloce PublishingISBN 1-903706-48-3Price: $24.95
If you think there are two camps when it comes to Porsche enthusiasts-those who favor the aircooled cars and the advocates for the cars with water in their veins-you are only half correct. There is another division, that between the devotees of the 356 and the 911. Actually, calling it a division is like calling the Grand Canyon a scuff mark on the Arizona landscape.
I must admit, I once fell in line with the 911 mob who regard the 356 as a quaint little motorcar but hardly more than a footnote in Porsche's grand history and legendary status. That is, until I was handed Brian Long's "Porsche 356."
While strictly a non-technical book, Long delivers an excellent overview of the Porsche marque, from the Lohner-Porsche of 1900 to the termination of the 356, and a little beyond that. Some accounts are unfortunately light on detail, but it is clearly not the fault of the author but rather the sheer volume of the subject matter the book tries to cover. At 160 pages, this large format, paperback narrative is well written and well illustrated.
Long includes some of Porsche's key engineers and designers such as Friedrich Weber and Ernst Fuhrmann (father of the Carrera engine), all of whom were critical to the success of the 356 and ultimately to Porsche itself. There are the promoters, in particular Max Hoffman, who brought the first three 356s to America in 1950. And, of course, the drivers. Famous names such as Wolfgang von Trips, Edgar Barth, Han Herrmann, Richard von Frankenberg and even Dan Gurney are placed with the Porsches they drove and the races they won.
Long's reportage of the car company, however, does read as though there were never a bump in the pavement. It seems Porsche needed only employ more workers to build more cars to meet the ever growing sales. If there was any dissension amongst the ranks, either no one mentioned it to Long or he simply deemed it unimportant.
If there were setbacks at Porsche, it was with their competition cars. Here again, the entries leave one wanting more embellishment, although Long delivers a sense of what was happening during the early period when class victories were all Porsche expected and even those were hard earned. Along with the main subject of the 356, the book delves into the factory racers as well. The 550, 550A, the 718 RSK and the Formula cars are given respectable coverage.
Long keeps the era in perspective by noting the purchase price of the 356 in comparison to its automotive contemporaries. There are a number of entries discussing the specially built 356s, including an interesting account of the Speedster's development.
The author offers a chapter on how to purchase one of these delectable road cars, and there is even a section highlighting the plethora of companies producing 356 and other Porsche replicas.
Long narrows the gap between the two camps by addressing the 356-911 connection. While the 356 crowd knows Porsche built cars after 1965 but doesn't really care, and the 911 people balk at the thought that an inverted bathtub could possibly be the predecessor of their elegant road machines, the remarkable amount of history presented here reveals why the company has become one of the most successful icons of the automotive world.
Porsche 356 is a must not only for owners of the legendary four-cylinder machines but for those wanting to know why Porsche was the maker of great sports cars even before anyone had heard the name 911.
Porsche 911 Competition BooksWhen you look at the hundreds of Porsche books that have been published over the decades, it's curious to note there are so few that deal primarily with motorsport.
Some of the following titles are out of print but can usually be found at a used bookstore or automotive swap meet. Get out your wallet, as some of these are mandatory reading. The rest... well, you be the critic.
"The Racing Porsches," by Paul FrereWhile this title covers the pure race cars from the 904 to the 917, this well-written book is instrumental for those interested in how the 911 motor was adapted for competition.
"Porsche: Racing Cars of the '70s" by Paul FrereHis access to factory documents give his text the authenticity lacking in most journals. The chapters on the 934, 935, 2.1 RSR and "Moby Dick" are still the standard.
"Porsche Story," by Julius Weitmann (revised by Michael Cotton)If Frere is the technocrat, then Weitmann is the cheerleader. His wonderful period photographs coupled with his enthusiastic text covered Zuffenhausen's involvement from 1951 to the late '60s. While very dated today, the book has faithfully been updated to the '80s with a minimum strain.
"Porsche Sport 1972-73-74-75-76-77," by Joe RuszFor those who have read Road & Track, the name Joe Rusz needs no introduction. Joe's yearly collection of the comings and going of Porsche sport in the '70s were useful because of the coverage given to the U.S. motorsport scene. The 911 RSR is featured throughout, as well it should be. Available only in softbound.
"Carrera RS," by Gruber and KonradsheimOne of the best titles ever published for a single model. The chapter dealing with the development of the 2.8 RSR is worth the price alone. Plus the list of all the chassis numbers for the entire production run will help you when you lay out the bones for everybody's favorite 911. Hotcha!
"The Porsche Book," by Jurgen Barth and Lothar BoschenThis title has grown into two volumes in a slipcase. There are a number of errors in the text, mis-captioned photos, etc., but this is still the best collection of factory archive photos that has ever been printed. Interestingly, it has been published in two different editions in France and Italy, including a number of photos not in the German edition. Worth the search; demand it.
"Porsche GT-1," by Uli UpietzUli's book covers the super racer from its birth to the beginning of the 1997 FIA GT season. Great photos, some interesting comments from the engineering staff, but overall way too much fluff. One gets the impression that Norbert Singer was busy and didn't want to be bothered. Still a great effort, though.
"Porsche: Six Cylinder Supercars," by Henry RasmussenFrom 1964 to 1991, the top ten according to Rasmussen. While most are road-going 911s, there are chapters on the 1974 RS, the 911R and the very rare 964 Carrera RS lightweight. This was a risky book to do at best, but you and your friends can spend hours arguing over the choices. Not for PCA newlyweds.
"The Racing Porsches, R to RSR," by John StarkeyThe first edition was nothing more than a fanzine, an enthusiast's try at a book. The new, revised edition is something else. Starkey has his chops up for this one. A lot of time and effort were put into this version, and if there were a better book on these particular cars, it hasn't been written.