Porsche 70 Years by Randy Leffingwell – Review
By Liam Bird
Apologies, this book review should’ve been with you earlier. I must admit, that when the very weighty Porsche 70 Years by Randy Leffingwell arrived I dismissed it slightly as just another glossy coffee-table tome. I thought it looked nice – photographer Michael Furman’s cover shot is superb in fact; the very thing, that if you’re a lifelong Porsche 911 fan like me, would attract to this publication in the first place; it certainly did its job. But, I suppose, I presumed the text wouldn’t be quite so appealing. I placed this book, carefully I hasten to add, on my (you guessed it) coffee table.
How wrong could I be? I know, “You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover” and all that. I’m now ready to confess I now stand somewhat corrected.
If you’ve even the slightest interest in all things Porsche you’ll find this Porsche 70 Years fascinating. As the subheading suggests, for some of us “there is no substitute”.
Separated into a model-by-model, chronological view of Porsche’s extensive back-catalogue of both road-goers and racers, starting with their unassuming 1948 Gmund coupe and finishing with the latest (991) incarnation of their perennial and all-conquering (some say iconic) 911, the author has gone to great lengths to not only describe each model variant in itself, but also why it was built, who built, it, and how.
The story of Porsche the manufacturer is also told; The Family, the connections with VW that exist even and evermore so today, the collaborators, and the deals done. For example: Did you know that Porsche’s all-conquering 917 (that’s the one Steve McQueen drove in the film Le Mans incidentally) was paid for by Volkswagen’s advertising budget as a result their desire and need to keep air-cooled engines – the ones that powered the Beetle and the Combi/Campervan – in the public’s eye? I didn’t either.
Neither did I know that Carlo Abarth, Italian car maker and tuner extraordinaire, was actually an Austrian (born in Vienna) who was married to Ferdinand Piech’s – once head of Volkswagen, designer of the 917, and also Ferdinand Porsche’s grandson – secretary. Car making is clearly a big industry but it’s clearly still, or at least it once was, a small world.
At times the American English in which the text is written grates a little with this European reader; I do prefer my litres with an E at the end and my favours and colours with a U. But nevertheless I’m willing to give such niggles a miss this time due to the level of the both content and the research that’s been done here. The very well respected motoring writer Leffingwell, and his publishers are Americans after all. Who am I to complain?
Michaels Furman’s photography together with images from the Porsche Archive – 70 years was created with Porsche’s full cooperation – surely make things worth the purchase fee alone. The original sketches of the 959, 928 and even some of the original factory prototype test sheets are also beautifully reproduced.
I’ll readily admit I’m a fan of all things Porsche and have been for more years than I care to mention, but by reading Porsche 70 Years I still learnt things I didn’t know about what surely is one of the most important and iconic automotive manufacturers in history.
Don’t dismiss Porsche 70 Years as just another glossy car book.
‘Porsche 70 Years – There Is No Substitute’ by Randy Leffingwell with photography by Michael Furman is published by Quarto Publishing, £45