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Throwback Thursday: Porsche Sedans and the Ancestors of the Panamera

The history of the four-door Porsche.

Remember the big stink the Porsche Panamera caused when it was released in 2009? Purists hated the idea of a four-door Porsche, and blamed Porsche’s perceived brand dilution on its corporate partnership with Volkswagen. However, the idea of a four-door Porsche stretches far back beyond the Panamera, and serious whisperings of a Porsche sedan can be found as early as the beginning of the 1980s.

If you squint hard enough, the Panamera can trace its spiritual roots all the way back to 1984, when the automaker presented Ferry Porsche with a Porsche 928 riding on a lengthened chassis for his 75th birthday. The stretched 928 was dubbed the 942, and had its wheelbase extended 10 inches. A longer roof provided more headroom for rear-seat passengers, and both the bumpers and the engine were previews of an updated Porsche 928 that arrived later in its production run.

Porsche Study H50.

The 942 project was not left stagnant, however, as the lengthened Porsche was reimagined with a set of tiny rear outward-opening carriage doors, very similar to the rear doors found on the erstwhile Mazda RX-8 sports car. This Porsche 928 concept was called the “Study H50” and existed purely as a study for future models.

In 1988, the most feasible and recognizable Porsche sedan emerged as the Porsche 989 concept. The 989’s layout is conspicuously similar to the modern Porsche Panamera, with a front-mounted, watercooled V-8 engine powering the rear wheels, a sloping roofline, and a smooth front end. Visually, the 989 looks essentially like a four-door 911, with clear and distinct design lines leading to the 1994/1995 Porsche 911 993, the 1999 Porsche 911 996, and the 1997 Porsche Boxster. The taillights and rear-end profile were carried over to the 1999 Porsche 996 model, while the headlights and front clip made their debut much earlier on the 1994/1995 (U.S.) Porsche 993 911.

Porsche 989 concept.

The 989 spawned a further design study, the Porsche 932 concept. This study moved away from the four-door 911 image, and set itself closer to that of the 928, with a wide rear end and flat front nose.

The mastermind behind this product was Dr. Ulrich Bez, a Porsche engineer who was tasked with designing something on-par with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7-Series. The 989 was styled by noted designer Harm Lagaay, who also penned the extraordinarily wild Porsche Panamericana modular concept of 1989. When Bez left Porsche in late 1991, the project all but perished, with Porsche pulling the plug in 1992 as a result of slow Porsche 928 sales the previous two years. We didn’t see another four-door Porsche (aside from the Cayenne SUV) until the Panamera debuted in 2009.

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