LOS ANGELES, California — Brittanie Kinch works for the Scenic Route, a design and fabrication exhibition and construction company. She has been in partnership with the Petersen Automotive Museum for almost four years and co-curated the Porsche Effect exhibition along with Brian Stevens, the Creative Director of the Petersen Automotive Museum. We had the opportunity to speak with her about how the new exhibit delves into the evolution of Porsche and how the brand’s history is inextricably connected with Los Angeles.
How did the exhibit get started?
Bruce Meyer is a passionate Porsche man himself. He has a deep invested interest in Southern California obviously, just growing up here and buying cars here, and driving cars here. He is definitely L.A.’s car man. He has a special place in his heart for Porsche. He had a meeting with Wolfgang Porsche and those two minds came together, looked at this beautiful space and decided that it’s something that was appropriate for the time, obviously it’s the 70th anniversary of the automobile and it’s Southern California, just massive humanity that’s drawn to Porsche in this area.
Can you talk about the car that introduces guests to the exhibit and the how in sets the theme of Porsche DNA?
That car is the 1939 Type 64 from the prototype museum from Hamburg, Germany. It is one of three that were ever built, two that are still in existence, and it is one of these cars that combines what was developed in a pre-war period, as we call the pre-World War II era, and it combines engineering that was developed by Ferdinand Porsche and his son Ferry Porsche on projects such as the Volkswagen Beetle and then that carries over to his post-war projects circa 1939, then the war happens, and then he continued later on. That led into the Gmund Coupe, which is the first production vehicle. The type 64 really set up those technical foundations and platform: rear engine, stylistic foundation, and also in terms of body foundations it’s definitely a car of its time. It has this crazy aerodynamic art deco form and then you see the later Gmund coupes from 1949 and you can see how that style changes as culture changes. That car truly has all the things and elements that you can look at in today’s Porsche and see where the historical lineage came from.
Given that you’re talking about how the Porsche evolved over time, it’s interesting that the exhibit is non-chronological. What was the curatorial intent behind that?
A lot of exhibits here are from year 1900 to 2000 and that’s not necessarily needed in every discussion of the automobile. This is a thematic approach to a story. We are trying to put together very specific factors of Porsche’s history, style, engineering, and dedication to family in order to inform the visitors that all of these are things that exist and that Porsche does so that we can let you know that Porsche is in consequence a force in contemporary culture.
What should people be looking for like oddballs they wouldn’t expect to see here or historically significant artifacts?
The artifacts from the Porsche Museum have never been outside the museum. We have some very rare items from the 901 development. Those items, for people who are extreme Porsche enthusiasts, are going to be special. As David Coleman mentioned we have one car from the Porsche Museum, which is the 928 H50 Study. When we talk about Porsche being dedicated to family, that car is definitely an oddball. At the same time, when you look at it and see the outline of the Panamera which is so popular and has really revolutionized Porsche in our culture and on the roads today. That’s an oddball, I don’t want to call it odd because they’re all stunning but that’s one of the most interesting thing’s we’ve drawn that I don’t think most people have seen. Another interesting pairing is out in our lobby, two GT1s that are together. I don’t think that’s something most people have seen unless they’ve been to Stuttgart to the museum there, I think they have a GT1 and a GT Strasse version at the museum but I think this is the first time they’ve been together since they were created in the 1990s.
What specific ties to Southern California are in the exhibit?
In our section called Zuffenhausen and beyond, we talk about place. They’ve created a pilgrimage site at their home in Stuttgart but also it’s special to America, in Southern California specifically. There is a man named Max Hoffman who opened a dealership in New York who dealt with European imports and brought in the Porsche. He then met a man named John von Neumann who was racing club sports in Southern California. Max Hoffman and John von Neumann worked with Porsche to bring over things like the 356 Speedster and ultimately the 550 Spyders for use as club racers. John von Neumann had a dealership at Hollywood and Vine that was a Porsche/Volkswagen dealership. They sold to the Hollywood elite like James Dean and Steve McQueen. They tuned race cars for people to the point where it became a common sight on Los Angeles’ roads and inevitably truly saved Porsche. Because the Hollywood industry incorporated them into film and television, seeing them on the road and equating elitism for better or for worse, making them a timeless object of desire throughout culture.