There exists a small warehouse in the Zuffenhausen neighborhood of the German city of Stuttgart. It belongs to Porsche, but they don’t like to say where it is. And they rarely open it up to personnel who aren’t employees of the Porsche Museum—let alone outsiders. But I’ve been there. I’ve seen it. They even let me take pictures. And I can tell you it contains some of the rarest and most bizarre creations in the automotive world.
(Full disclosure: Porsche needed us to check out the 2019 Cayenne and drive some Panameras with adaptive cruise control so badly, they flew us to Germany and put us in a nice hotel near the airport. Oh, and they took us here as a last-minute surprise, which they don’t often do for anyone.)
I thought I had seen things. Been around the block, you know? I’ve been working at Jalopnik and running it long enough that not much truly surprises me now.
By now I’ve driven everything from a Ford Model A to a $2.35 million Bugatti Veyron. I’m around vintage cars and modern hypercars every week. Very little of it fazes me anymore.
But this place—this place was different. Inside lies more than 90 Porsches and Porsche-related cars, some kept and preserved by the automaker itself, some acquired from private buyers, all ranging from rare and important historic models to mutant cars, design studies, one-offs, test vehicles and prototypes never meant for public consumption.
For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t just enthralled by what I saw, but deeply unsettled by some of it. And I liked it.
Here, the people from the Porsche Museum work to house and restore these cars, maintaining secret collection closed off to most of their personnel and the public—a collection that makes the museum itself pale in comparison. It is, without a doubt, one of the great hidden gems in the world of cars.
Enough with the words. On to the madness. While I’m no Kurt Bradley, I do hope these admittedly not-great photos can capture some of the insanity I witnessed.
First up, on the right: an aerodynamic test prototype for the legendary 959. A good way to set the tone for what’s to come. Check out the body measurements written all over it.
Next, behind that, a rolling chassis for the 918 Spyder. I love this because it’s made from 997 body parts; it’s what a hybrid hypercar would look like if Doc Brown cobbled it together in his garage, screaming about how he needs plutonium and more jigowatts to set the right Nürburgring time.
Behind that, another 959 (I counted at least five here) and a more finished 918.
Here is the engine bay on a 959, complete with the listed firing order.
This interior makes me drool. It’s so simple by modern standards, so uncluttered and functional.
A very nice 356 Cabriolet. They have a bunch of these, as you’d expect. I’m not certain of the historical significance of all of these cars, because as soon as I entered I went into a fugue state and wandered off from the guided tour to completely lose my shit on my own, more personal terms.
A Porsche 928 convertible concept car. While conversions exist, I’m amazed they never made one from the factory. It probably would have sold well enough in its day, and been a decent competitor to the Mercedes-Benz SL—back when people actually bought luxury sports coupes and convertibles instead of luxury SUVs.
It looks really nice and clean.
Behind that: the Porsche Panamericana concept car! Definitely one of their weirder ideas. This is one of my favorite concepts ever, from any car company.
It’s from 1989, and it’s a 964 built into this wicked zip-top convertible lifted off-road beach buggy thing. As they say, 10/10, would daily.
A pristine 40th anniversary 911. I’ve been on a weird 996 kick lately, air-cooled snobs be damned (or rather, because of them) and this was not helping me get past it.
Race cars. Tons of them, including the famed 917 and 962.
A 911 GT1 race car. They have the road-going Strassenversion here too, which I had never seen in person before.
Across from the racing 911s is a row of vintage 356s. This is one of my favorite cars of all time, and very likely what I’d buy if I hit the Powerball tomorrow. (Well, one thing.)
Here’s a pair: a very pristine 944 next to the wood frame buck for the Type 64, now considered the ancestor of all Porsche sports cars. That thing is a survivor.
This kelly green 356 coupe with a tan interior was just really lovely. Nothing too insane about it, just a tasteful and gorgeous classic.
Hell yeah, it’s the Rothmans 959 that ran in the 1985 Paris-Dakar Rally. Your car is a pussy compared to this car.
Okay, teens: this has all been well and good so far, but you want to get nuts? Let’s get fucking nuts. This, here, is an internal design study for a Cayenne convertible. As far as I know it’s never been shown to the public; no other reporters on my trip had seen it before, and our Porsche Cars North America host was as bewildered as we were.
But a museum official explained what it was, and said that it later informed the trick folding roof design for the current 911 Targa. So it did some good in the end.
It doesn’t have a name, but we took to calling it the Cayenne Cross Cabriolet, for obvious reasons.
The back end is split like this too. They must have been trying to show off different design ideas.
The nearly forgotten 984 concept from the 1980s. Had it been made, it sort of would have been the Boxster or Cayman of the Reagan era: a new entry level sports car, below the 911, focused on handling rather than outright speed and power. It was powered by a four-cylinder boxer engine mounted in the rear.
This concept was canceled amid Porsche’s money crisis in the ’80s, but it looked fairly close to production here.
Inside was a duffel bag marked “984.” I didn’t look in it, but now I wish I had.
The 904 race car, behind some other crated race cars in various states of disassembly.
A very nice 914 next to a 924. I would not kick either of these out of my garage today.
More crazy stuff out back, like the 928 H50 concept. I want a 928 wagon. Don’t you?
What I think is a painted clay model for a 968, although the pop-up headlights are like the 944.
Update: As one reader pointed out (this was all a lot to take in in a short period of time) this appears to be an early Boxster mule, built with the body parts from a 968 convertible. The side intakes are a giveaway here.
Again, it’s amazing how much of this stuff they kept.
Yeah, don’t do it. Whatever that means.
Tons more cars, bodies and frames on these lifts out back.
Look at the delightful graphics on that 924! It’s like something from a Datsun, or a Trans-Am. I love it.
Wonder what this was for.
As promised, the Strassenversion GT1. I probably would have stolen this if the keys were nearby. I apologize for nothing.
More 959s, as one does.
I don’t know anything about this Porsche motorcycle. But it looks fun.
Here we go: this is the Porsche 932 sedan concept. It’s from the late ’80s. I kind of hate this thing; it looks like a Saturn.
Even if it’s not great, you can see shades of the current Panamera in the silhouette; it’s like Porsche always had some idea of the sedan it wanted to make. I’m kind of glad it wasn’t this one.
A different kind of car company.
Here’s one I like a lot better: the Porsche 989 concept from 1989. Despite the looks, which very much previewed the Boxster and 996 911 to come, this was meant to be front-engined and powered by a new water-cooled V8. It’s basically the Panamera that never happened, after the project was scrapped in 1992. This is apparently the last surviving prototype.
Here’s the prototype of that V8, under the hood of a Mercedes test car. I couldn’t get a good picture of the inside, but it had a manual too.
The sheet was covering it, but here’s Porsche’s car of the future circa 1978, the Concept Car Type 995. It was meant to preview what technologies future cars use, and it had a double-clutch transmission, an aluminum body, and a turbocharged 3.0-liter V8 with cylinder deactivation for better fuel economy. I’d say they had it nailed back then.
Here’s a teal 996, which is the most ’90s car ever. This one is bulletproof, designed for customers who may have been pharmaceutical entrepreneurs in places like Miami or Colombia.
Those are the cars! Seeing them all was an experience that will be hard to top.