Ferdinand Porsche was responsible for some of the most groundbreaking cars of the early twentieth century -- from the V-16-powered Auto Union grand prix car to the Volkswagen Beetle -- and by 1948, he and his son Ferry figured it was time to put their name to some of them. Two years later, in late 1950, legendary auto importer Max Hoffman introduced Porsche to America, hawking the 356 out of his Manhattan showroom. Shortly thereafter, Hoffman persuaded Porsche that Americans would buy a stripped-down, racier version of the 356. That was the Speedster, and it cemented Porsche's reputation as a builder of primo sports cars.
According to my calculations, 1950 was sixty years ago. Matrimonial tradition suggests that a sixtieth anniversary be celebrated with diamonds, but automotive tradition says that a sixtieth anniversary demands a test drive in one vehicle from each decade. Or at least, I say it does. Whatever gives me the chance to drive a bunch of old Porsches, OK?
If you were going to drive a Porsche from each decade, which ones would you choose? From the '50s, you'd want a Speedster. The '60s saw both the final evolution of the 356 and the introduction of the 911, so that one could go either way. With all due respect to the 914, I'd rather drive a 911 from the '70s. In the '80s and '90s, I'd want to see how the 911 stacked up against its would-be successor, the 928. Then you need a Boxster and, to take us into the current decade, some kind of new Porsche. Lots of tasty options there.
This kind of ambitious project might be impossible with some brands -- I think the only way I'd get my hands on a 1950s Ferrari would be if I imitated the valets in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. But Porsche people actually drive their old cars, and, amazingly enough, a number of owners were willing to let me behind the wheel. Ultimately, we assembled quite a cast: a 1958 Speedster, a 1965 356C, a 1973 911T Targa, a 1987 911 Cabriolet, a 1990 928GT, and a 2004 Boxster. Representing today's Porsche: the fantastic and generally misunderstood Boxster Spyder (it's not actually more expensive than a typical Boxster S, I tell you). We convened in one of the leafier environs of Boston, and I set out to time-travel through sixty years of Porsche evolution in a single day.