On 30th November 1965, an independent lawyer called Ralph Nader, published a book called “Unsafe at Any Speed. – The Designed-in Dangers of the American Automobile”.
This book was focusing on the increasing rate of traffic-related accidents and their consequences. It mainly criticized the negligence of automotive manufacturers regarding the introduction of safety features such as seat belts and their resistance to spend enough money on research and development to improve safety.
Ralph Nader relied on information and materials passed to him by industry experts and it soon became the best seller in non-fiction in 1966.
The book criticized Chevrolet Corvair for its swing axle suspension design which was prone to tuck under in certain circumstances, questionable cost-cutting strategies like the lack of a front stabilizer bar, being relied on an unusually high front to rear pressure differential, inflated tires that could result in massive oversteer, etc.
He also criticized the auto design elements such as instrument panels and dashboards that were often made with chrome and glossy enamel trim which could reflect sunlight or the headlights of an oncoming vehicle into the driver’s eyes that may result in accidents due to loss of vision or distraction.
One of another main concern was regarding the gear shift quadrants in earlier cars that in the hands of an unfamiliar customer with the shift pattern, causing them to shift in to reverse when they actually intended to shift into low gear vice versa. His solution was to standardize the gear patterns as a safety precaution to stop runaways and people being run over.
In 1972, following the success of Unsafe at Any Speed, Ralph Nader wrote another book called Small at Safe, a book focusing on the safety issues of the Volkswagen Beetle.
When Ernst Fuhrmann joined Porsche in 1971, he was very concerned about the public response and laws passed over regarding the handling and safety equipment.
In 1972, Porsche’s supervisory board named him chairman of Porsche. He already had another crisis on hand that required more of his time and efforts than any other issue.
With the reformation of Porsche as an automobile manufacturer, it heavily relied on Volkswagen-made mechanical components for its cars. Volkswagen relied on Porsche for research and development behind its model lineup.
Heinz Nordhoff, managing director of Volkswagen and a huge supporter of Porsche was forced to retire from his position by the director board. Then they hired Kurt Lotz to succeed Nordhoff. Heinz Nordhoff passed away barely a month later.
Kurt Lotz sort of inherited a new car in development, nearly ready for production. It was supposed to be the replacement of Porsche 912, the all-new Volkswagen Porsche 914.
Porsche 914 had a monocoque all-metal body and chassis with four transverse bulkheads for additional structural rigidity. Heinrich Klie, Porsche’s head of body designing was the mastermind behind the car. Despite it being very different from the Porsche 911 range or any other Porsche car in terms of styling, it still was an air-cooled car.
The United States and European authority boards were taking drastic actions against higher engine emissions as well. The only way to effectively reduce the emissions was by adopting water-cooled engines instead of air-cooled ones.
Kurt Lotz was fired from his position in 1971, few weeks after Ernst Fuhrmann returned to Porsche. Kurt Lotz followed the footsteps of his predecessor and respected Porsche and its involvement in research and development. Rudolf Leiding was appointed as his successor and he had something entirely different on his mind.
Rudolf Leiding canceled all the Volkswagen Porsche research and development projects when the current contract between them expired in 1973. The decision for this was the higher cost of the research and development projects which left Volkswagen owing money to Porsche.
Leiding asked Ernst Fuhrmann to develop something relatively less expensive and modern with a water-cooled engine mounted in the front.
Ernst Fuhrmann was fine with those requirements and enlisted Wolfhelm Gorissen and Helmut Flegi to work on Porsche’s next generation sports cars. These were to develop with new US emission regulations and highway safety requirements in mind.
Projects Type 928 and Type 924
Project Type 928 was a high-performance GT model that was supposed to become the Porsche flagship. Type 924 was an entry-level variant. Type 924 eventually became the Volkswagen EA425.
Porsche 928 is the first Porsche to come with passive steering of the rear wheels with the help of a clever toe-compensation Weissach steering suspension setup.
Helmut Flegi directed the development of the Porsche 928 and he kept his eyes on the US lawmakers to make sure that the new car complied with every law they came up with. The US is the biggest customer for Porsche, it was impossible to fail.
Volkswagen with access to their unused assembly plant volume, it was decided that they will manufacture the Type 924 / EA425 in their assembly plants. It was supposed to be branded as an Audi.
However, Volkswagen abandoned the EA425 project without a moment of notice and hired an Italian design house to design and develop a new water-cooled, front-wheel drive, and front-engine compact car which was eventually unveiled as the Volkswagen Golf.
Porsche engineers unaware of the corporate backstabbing went on to take the delivery of Volkswagen mechanical components for their Type 924 project. What happened was that they were left with an out-of-date sports car equipped with an Audi 1924cc inline-four engine and a four-speed gearbox. It was supposed to be produced at Volkswagen assembly plants and then sold to Porsche for resale to its dealers.
The Audi engine was retuned by Porsche engineers to deliver 125hp at 5800rpm for the EU spec cars and just 95hp for US-spec cars, with US cars being equipped with catalytic converters to reduce emission.
Handling and the balance of the car were excellent from the start and the compact body designed by Harm Lagaay, a new designer who was closely supervised by Tony Lapine, Porsche’s design chief. Tony Lapine recently arrived at Porsche from Opel and has something to do with designing future Corvette concepts for Chevrolet.
Porsche unveiled the Porsche 924 for the 1976 model year and kept on improving and upgrading it. Eventually, it was given four-wheel disc brakes for better braking and handling along with an optional five-speed transmission. 25,656 cars were sold in 1976 followed by another 21,517 in 1977.
Following the success of the model, Porsche unveiled a turbocharged variant of the Porsche 924 with a maximum performance of 170hp at 5500rpm.
Porsche 924 Carrera GT, Porsche 924 GTR, and Porsche 924 GTP
In 1977, Ernst Fuhrmann told his engineers at the racing department to get ready to race Porsche 924 in upcoming FIA events. Three Porsche 924 Turbo cars were raced in 24 Hours of Le Mans. To compete in the Production GT class, Porsche had to build at least 400 cars, dubbed as Porsche 924 Carrera GT to qualify for Group 4 events, but due to the assembly not starting until mid-1980, the Porsche 924 competed in the GTP category. GTP variants were now equipped with better engines and packed 320hp. One of the racers won the sixth overall place behind the wheels of a Porsche 924 GT.
In 1981 Porsche 924 Carrera GT ended production in 1981 with a total production of 406 units, qualifying the Porsche 924 Carrera GTS and Porsche 924 Carrera GTR variants to compete in FIA events as a homologation.
Porsche launched their new flagship, Porsche 928 as a 1978 model year car. This car was now equipped with a 4474cc V8 engine. Front-mounted V8 delivered 240hp at 5500rpm. A five-speed manual was the standard transmission, and an optional three-speed automatic was also available as an option. The curb weight was officially measured at 3200 pounds.
Porsche 928 was designed by Wolfgang Mobius. When it was unveiled in 1978, many considered as too futuristic due to its extraordinary looks.
Acceleration from 0-62mph took only 6.8 seconds and the top speed was a respectable 143mph. In comparison, its sister model, the Porsche 930 Turbo was packing 300hp, utilizing its power to achieve 0-62mph in 5.4 seconds with a top speed of 161mph.
In 1982 the Porsche 924 Turbo was discontinued due to low sales and the Porsche 924 was phased out in the mid-1985 model year.
Porsche 944 and Porsche 928 S
In 1982, Porsche added the Porsche 944 to their model lineup as the successor of the aging Porsche 924. Porsche 944 was equipped with an inline-four engine, derived from the Type 928 V8 engine.
This new engine had a displacement of 2479cc and the maximum power output was now measured at 163hp at 5800rpm. This engine was also then used to power the Porsche 924 S, the final iteration of the Porsche 924 series. Porsche 924 S was equipped with a detuned engine, delivering 150hp.
Porsche 944 achieved 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds.
Porsche 928 S was unveiled in the meantime, now packing an engine with an enlarged capacity of 4664cc, delivering 310hp. A small rear spoiler was added to improve downforce, which results in better grip and handling.
Design chief Tony Lapine wasn’t pleased with the rear spoiler design. He considered it as a way of spoiling an aesthetically pleasing clean design.
Porsche 928 S4
In 1987, Porsche 928 S4 model with a slightly elevated rear wing was unveiled, which was considered as an outrage by Tony Lapine. Despite his protests, it was clear that the elevated rear wing was improving the overall handling as well as the aerodynamic efficiency of the car. This car featured an enlarged 4957c engine, now packing 320hp maximum output at 6000rpm.
In 1988, Porsche 928 S4 received an optional Clubsport package. This allowed the customers to lose 286 pounds from the car. This resulted in better 0-62mph figures, from 5.7 seconds of the Porsche 928 S4 to 5.4 seconds of the Porsche 928 Clubsport.
Porsche 944 Turbo and Porsche 944 Turbo S
In mid-1985, Porsche 944 Turbo was unveiled. The maximum power output was measured at 220hp. 0-62mph took only 6.3 seconds.
From 1986 model year onwards, Porsche 944 normally aspirated variants received catalytic converters as an option to comply with strict emission regulations.
In 1987, Porsche 944 S received four-valve cylinder heads. This resulted in maximum power output of 190hp at 6000rpm. 0-62mph took only 5.8 seconds.
In 1988, Porsche 944 Turbo S was unveiled. This car had two-valve heads along with a large turbocharger unit mated to the engine. The maximum power output was now measured at 250hp.
Porsche revised the Porsche 944 model lineup again for the 1989 model year with the introduction of the new 2.7-liter engine for the base Porsche 944 and Porsche 944 S2. This Porsche 944 S2 replaced the previous Porsche 944 S, now packing 211hp maximum output.
In 1991, Porsche 944 S2 cabriolet, Porsche 944 Turbo Cabriolet was unveiled. Porsche 944 Turbo was discontinued after the 1991 model year.
Porsche 928 GT and Porsche 928 GTS
In 1989, Porsche unveiled a new GT variant of the Porsche 928. Porsche 928 GT delivered 330hp maximum and the top speed was measured at 171mph. Until 1992 it was the highest performance variant of the Porsche 928 series.
In 1992, Porsche 928 GTS was unveiled. Porsche 928 GTS packed 350hp.
Porsche 928 was unveiled in 1978 and its production continued until 1995. Wolfgang Mobius designed the car and within this time period, the iterations of the Porsche 928 remained true to his original creation in terms of styling, so by the mid-1990s the sales were falling and many considered the styling was too outdated. Porsche manufactured Porsche 928 in their Zuffenhausen plant, and according to Porsche, the Porsche 928 series had no mechanical components in common with any other Porsche model.
In 1991, the final evolution of the Porsche 944 was unveiled as the Porsche 968. Porsche 968 was available in either coupe or cabriolet body styles. Porsche 968 was basically an evolution of the Porsche 944 S2 variants with subtle mechanical and stylish changes.
Porsche 968 was equipped with a 2990cc inline-four engine, delivering 240hp maximum power output at 6200rpm. This engine had twin cams and four valves per cylinder. The curb weight was measured at 3020 pounds. 0-62mph took only 6.5 seconds and the top speed was 157mph.
Porsche 968 Club Sport
Porsche 968 Club Sport was unveiled in 1993. This car was basically a race-ready variant of the Porsche 968. It featured stiffer suspension for improved cornering and stability. To comply with club racing, various safety equipment were included as standard. It was also 110 pounds lighter than the Porsche 968. Porsche 968 Turbo S was unveiled in the same year.
The power output of the Porsche 968 Turbo S was measured at 305hp at 5400rpm. 0-62mph took only 5 seconds and the top speed was now measured at 174mph. Only 15 Porsche 968 Turbo S were ever built. The total production of all the Porsche 968 variants was 11,245 cars.
Porsche 924, Porsche 928, Porsche 944, and Porsche 968 were in production for nearly two decades and within that time many changes happed within Porsche as well as within the realms of automotive manufacturers.
Despite the fear of being banned from the US market for not complying with new highway and safety regulations along with strict penalties for emissions, Ernst Fuhrmann didn’t have to face any of those predicted handling regulations until his departure in 1980.
He claimed that he wanted to replace the aging Porsche 911 series to keep the cash flow open, but the air-cooled rear-engine Porsche 911 was too much of an image and its strong sales convinced him to keep the production alive for some time. Ultimately that decision ended up saving the future of the company according to the historians