More than 4.75 million visitors have passed through the doors of Porsche’s Museum in Stuttgart since the company officially opened its doors to the public on 31 January 2009. There is no question, the road and race cars on display make for fantastic viewing, and when compared to the old museum…well, there is just no comparison – read our earlier feature on “Then and Now.”
At any one time, there are around 80 vehicles on display, but these are constantly changed around, and swapped out for other vehicles, so that the display always looks fresh. Some of the cars are rotated with others from the vehicle warehouse in Stuttgart, others are loaned out to dealers or for external exhibitions around the world, while still others participate in historic racing events such as Goodwood, Monterey Classics, and many other top meetings. In the last year alone, Porsche notched up more than 3000 vehicle movements in this way. You can imagine that in order to carry out this number of vehicle movements, it takes a small army to ensure that the vehicles are safely transported and well protected during international transfers.
During this past week, I have been photographing a selection of six historic race cars, some in the Museum and some in Porsche’s secret warehouse in Stuttgart. Watching the vehicle management staff at work, moving these (in some cases) multi-million Euro cars with ease and proficiency, it is obvious that they are well skilled at this important task. On the first day that I was photographing in the Museum, the Museum’s vehicle movement team were removing eleven cars from display, and replacing them with eleven new ones. That’s twenty-two vehicle movements in one day, in addition to all the moving around that I required that day!
So when it came to celebrating the company’s mighty haul of 19 Le Mans victories on the anniversary of Porsche’s first win back in June 1970, you can imagine that it was all hands on deck to make this one special exhibition. While that exhibition has come and gone, it is worth considering the significance of that milestone. They say that achieving your first victory in an international sport of any kind is the hardest, but once you have the first one in the bag, those victories that follow seem a little less daunting. That is not to say that winning at Le Mans for Porsche has become easy, because it hasn’t, but that first victory certainly opened the floodgates for the Stuttgart manufacturer.
Porsche’s first victory came in 1970 with a 917 KH and the following year, no less than 33 of the 49 starters were Porsches – a record that still stands today. A Porsche 917 KH also won the race in 1971, and victories followed in 1976, 1977 and 1979 making it five victories in that decade alone.
The decade of the 1980s saw Porsche notching up the longest unbroken tally of wins in the race’s history, when they took the chequered flag at every race between 1981 and 1987. This amazing achievement included wins by the 936 Spyder, the 956 and 962 C models. The 1990s saw four overall victories by the works team and Porsche customers in three different types of racing car, starting in 1994 with the Porsche 962 Dauer Le Mans GT. This was followed by the Joest TWR Porsche WSC Spyder that won in 1996 and again in 1997. A special victory came in 1998 when the Porsche 911 GT1/98 took the chequered flag on the eve of the company’s 50th anniversary.
Porsche only returned to the top echelons of the sport in 2014 when the company unleashed the Porsche 919 Hybrid. Victory eluded the team that year, but from 2015 there followed a succession of three straight victories at Le Mans with this car. To date, with 108 class wins and 19 overall victories to its name, Porsche is the most successful manufacturer in the almost 100-year history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Organising Special Shows and Exhibitions
Putting on a show or an exhibition in celebration of some milestone or anniversary is a big deal at the Porsche Museum. There are three different levels of displays that the Museum could consider: a Special Exhibition, a Special Show and a general display. A Special Exhibition is bigger in all aspects: it gets more physical space, it has a higher budget, it takes longer to organise and it’s also on display for longer. An Exhibition takes 12 months of planning to bring about.
A Special Show by comparison takes between 4 weeks to 3 months to plan, such as the recent Le Mans victory celebration Show. Adding a level of complexity, three versions of a Special Show can be created: small, medium and large. For the Le Mans 50 years victory celebration on 13/14 June 2020, the last option was chosen. Once a concept is picked, the layout for the Show or Exhibition is then designed by a professional designer or agency. Cars on general display can be changed around every few weeks.
Only once all of these aspects above have been agreed and finalised, can the matter of selecting the most suitable cars be addressed. The cars chosen must of course be inspected for completeness and correctness, and if they are not in Stuttgart they must be transported to the Museum in good time. Then it is the work of the Museum staff to extract the correct historic information from the archive for creating relevant signage for the Museum displays, marketing and promotional literature and press releases. Relevant images and video material must then be chosen for printing, multimedia and the press.
In addition to this, the content that is fed through the audio system for the visitors to be informed about the various cars on display, must be updated and prepared behind the scenes with every change of vehicles that is made. Then there are the guides who must all be trained and have the knowledge to be able to help visitors or explain a display.
An additional feature of the Museum is the LED wall display. Although this is a permanent feature of the Museum’s landscape, the cars that line up in front of the LED wall are constantly changing showing Porsche’s road cars, race cars or a themed display. The content that is displayed on this wall is stored permanently on the Museum’s systems, and can be called up to enhance the viewing experience.
In addition to the above, there are other general display cars that are constantly on the move. Replacement cars must be sought from the vast secret horde of cars that Porsche owns, and when suitable, these are brought to the Museum and exchanged with those already on display. And that isn’t the end of the story, because all the relevant display boards which stand in front of every car on the floor, must be changed over and fixed in place.
So next time you are enjoying a wander around the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, spare a thought for the many hours of preparation and planning that has gone into creating the displays. There is no question that all the staff involved enjoy what they do, but there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to make it all flow seamlessly.
And one last thought: If you are looking to bring some of these iconic cars into your home, you might want to add one or all four mugs from our Legends Collection to your display cabinet (or may be you want to just enjoy your coffee in them).
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Corporate Archives Porsche AG & Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale