In my column last week I showed a picture of a 1948 Porsche 356 with the caption stating is was the first Porsche.
Most petrolheads will give you the same answer if you ask them, but we are all actually out by some 50 years.
Last week the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen marked its fifth anniversary with the unveiling of the rediscovered and unrestored very first Porsche, the P1 built in 1898.
But don’t blame the petrolheads for getting it wrong. Many regard the 356 as the first because it was the first model to bear the name Porsche. Previous cars built by Ferdinand Porsche did not carry his name.
On June 26, 1898, Ferdinand Porsche’s Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2 Phaeton model better known as the P1, rolled onto the streets of Vienna for the first time.
A year later Porsche scored his first racing victory when the P1 won the gold medal in a race against a field of other electric vehicles in Berlin.
With three passengers on board, Porsche steered his P1 across the finishing line 18 minutes ahead of the next competitor. More than half the participants failed to finish due to technical difficulties.
Porsche also came out on top in the efficiency test, as the P1 recorded the lowest energy consumption in urban traffic.
In 1902, as Porsche put his first all-wheel drive passenger car into production, the P-1 was parked in a warehouse. And there it gathered dust for the next 116 years.
But now it’s the centerpiece in the museum of a new, permanent exhibit detailing the early history of Porsche and its founder.
Porsche stamped P1, standing for ‘Porsche 1’, on all the major components. It’s important historically, not only because it was the first car to be built by the founder of the Porsche company, but also because it contains a number of remarkable technological features.
A quick look under its wooden frame reveals a novel octagon-shaped compact electric motor weighing only 286 pounds and capable of 3-horsepower output. However, the P1 ran off more than 1,100 pounds of lead-acid batteries, giving it an impressive range of 49 miles or three to six operational hours
The P1 had a 12-speed controller with six forward gears, two reverse gears and four braking gears. There was also a mechanical hand brake and an electrical short circuit brake activated by pressing on the steering wheel rim.
The company could have spent a fortune restoring the P1, but decided to keep it was it was. Little remains apart from the chassis and the heavy, wooden dashboard.
The tires, seats, body and floor are all gone, and what’s left looks more like a hay cart than a car, but the museum has fitted what remains with a translucent blue plastic body to give some idea of what the P1 looked like in its glory days.
The P1 was unveiled last week by Wolfgang Porsche, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Porsche to a gathering of invited guests and goes on public exhibition from Saturday.