During the Tokyo Auto Show in April 1991, Arno Bohn, the new CEO of Porsche took a walk with Harm Lagaay, the design chief of Porsche through the exhibits showing the concept and soon to be unveiled production cars.
Harm Lagaay was surprised when Anro Bohn asked him the reason for Porsche didn’t produce any futuristic concept cars. At the time Harm didn’t know the answer.
Harm Lagaay returned to his hotel room and called his associates back in Weissach to provide him new ideas and designs for a new car. He was eight hours ahead of Weissach, and he knew he could catch everyone fresh at work. He also asked the hotel to wire a fax machine to his room and asked his associates to fax him all the new ideas. Then he changed his clothes and went to have dinner with his boss.
By the time he woke in the morning, his desk and the floor were littered with new fax papers. All of these papers were about new sketches and all-new ideas for a new car. After going through these ideas carefully, he sorted one out and took it with him when he went to have breakfast with his boss and presented it to him.
This sketch was a two-seat roadster called RSR, and it was designed by Grant Larson. Anro Bohn told him to proceed with the development of the car.
In 1989, Porsche gave Horst Marchart all the responsibility for all new car development. This decision was mainly due to his experience at the company as a senior engineer and as a successful project manager for Porsche’s outside design and engineering clients.
More importantly, he understood Porsche’s practice of taking money from clients for research and development while retaining rights to use the technologies for their products as well. Sometimes they shared costs on projects if they were convinced that they were immediately applicable.
In 1990, Porsche suffered a manufacturing nightmare. They were producing three separate car line-ups, the Porsche 911, Porsche 928, and Porsche 968, but with no common parts at all. This resulted in increased complexity, costs in research and development, logistics, management, etc.
Horst Marchart thought that if next-generation cars might be designed in a way that they shared components and body structure significantly, it would result in reduced production costs.
He also knew that the costliest part of a new automobile was the front fascia and the front section of the car, with its steering gear, suspension, instrument cluster, controls for creature comforts such as heating and ventilation, etc. Also, the door frames and doors to be designed in a way to do well in crash tests. This gave him another idea that sort of backfired on Porsche afterward.
He wanted to try something called two cars one face. To accomplish this. His engineers developed the required the same “hard points”. Hardpoints were the axle centers, wheel track, cowl height, and several other locations that they had to consider thoroughly when making the chassis.
After developing the chassis that will be the basis of both cars, Harm Lagaay gathered teams of his designers and developers and told them to work alongside the other. One team styled the Porsche 996, the next iteration of the Porsche 911. The other worked on the Type 986 project.
HarmLagaay oversaw both projects and the engineer teams trying to outdo the other soon made things stressful.
Grant Larson, the creator of the RSR roadster concept worked on the Type 986 project in the design studio, while working on his concept car in the concept studio. Pinky Lai was developing the Porsche 996 at the time.
Porsche RSR Concept
RSR concept was unveiled by Wendelin Wiedeking and Harm Lagaay at the 1993 North American International Motor Show in Detroit. This was now designated as the Porsche Boxter. Boxter name was suggested by Stephen Murkett who combined the word Speedster with Porsche’s well-known Boxter type flat-six engine.
Due to the strong reception the concept received from the public, Harm Lagaay suggester his teams at Weissach that they should adopt the Boxter design to the Type 986 project. This meant that they had to enlarge all of its proportions by 20% to make the new Boxter.
Type 986 was supposed to be a small entry-level Porsche and now with-it incorporating design elements from the RSR concept, it could be now equipped with a considerably more powerful and larger displacement engine than they were intending to. This also allowed them to fit it with bigger cooling radiators, and other mechanical components.
To cut costs, Harm Lagaay decided that Porsche Boxter must share the front fascia with Porsche 996.
Boxter powertrain was designed by Jurgen Kapfer and his engineers. This was an all-new flat-six featuring four valves per aluminum cylinder head derived from the Porsche 993 engine technology, and adapting it to a more challenging mid-engine location. The placement of the engine meant that it absolutely needed water-cooling, something that Porsche engineers couldn’t ignore or run away from due to the ever-strict emission regulations in their key markets.
The flat-six engine had a displacement of 2480cc and developed 204hp at 6000rpm. This engine was coupled to a five-speed manual as standard alongside an optional five-speed Tiptronic S automatic gearbox.
Production of the Porsche Boxter began in late 1996 as a 1997 model year car. In 2000 the car received significant upgrades including a new 2687cc flat-six engine delivering 220hp maximum output. An optional 3179cc flat-six engine was also available and this engine was equipped in the Porsche Boxter S variants.
From late 1996 to 2000, Porsche manufactured and sold more than 55,000 Porsche Boxter units, making it one of the most commercially successful Porsche cars of all time.
In 2003, the maximum power output was increased to 228hp and the Porsche Boxter S variants now packed 260hp. Both Porsche Boxter and Porsche Boxter S received a facelift to make them more modern.
To celebrate the 50th birthday of the Porsche 550 Spyder that went on to win the 1953 Targa Floria event as well as the Carrera Panamericana tournament, Porsche unveiled a limited-edition production of a commemorative “50 Years 50 Spyder” edition in 2004 and 2005. These cars were equipped with the Boxter S engine and packed 266hp.
Following the success of the Type 986 Porsche Boxter, Porsche began work on the next generation Boxter to be produced as a 2005 model year car. The Second-generation Porsche Boxter featured significant styling changes and improvements to the entire body to make it differentiate from the Porsche 911 series. This was done due to the complaints from Porsche customers who were claiming that their higher-end more expensive Porsche 911s are sharing the looks of entry-level Boxter variants.
Porsche Boxter still reflected the styling of a Porsche 911, but anyone could differentiate it from a Porsche 911 at a second glance.
The second-generation Porsche Boxter was internally known as the Type 987 and the base engine was now delivering 245hp while the Boxter S variant delivered 295hp.
Arno Bohn became the CEO of Porsche in March 1990 and left in September 1993. Within his short stay, he laid the foundation for the projects Type 986, and Type 996. The Project Type 986 became the Porsche Boxter and Type 996 is the next iteration of the Porsche 11 series, the Porsche 996.
He also managed to create a resemblance among the Porsche models. Before his time, hardly any resemblance existed among the Porsche 911, Porsche 924, and Porsche 928. But, some considered that it was blasphemous that the new Porsche 911 also looked exactly as its entry-level sibling, the Porsche Boxter.