Archive for June, 2018

REUTTER AND THE PORSCHE 911: A STORMBIRD, A MISPLACED ZERO AND THE LAUNCH OF RECARO

Karosseriewerk Reutter in Stuttgart
The first Porsche 901 during a photo shoot in 1963: with (front to back) Ferry Porsche, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche and Ferdinand Piëch (in white shirt), along with Reutter car body specialists in the middle group, including Theodor Bauer, Gottlob Sturm and Walter Beierbach. (© Porsche archives)

A family resemblance across generations: the Porsche 754 (T7), presented during a special exhibition at the Automuseum Prototyp in Hamburg, was developed during the transitional phase from the Porsche 356 to the Porsche 911. (© Photographers-Hamburg)

A family resemblance across generations: the Porsche 754 (T7), presented during a special exhibition at the Automuseum Prototyp in Hamburg, was developed during the transitional phase from the Porsche 356 to the Porsche 911.
(© Photographers-Hamburg)

A short note from Ferry Porsche outlined the idea for one of the most famous sports car icons of all time: “Two-seater with comfortable jump seats. Improved entry.” On the sales side, the planned successor to the Porsche 356 would “maintain the previous Porsche lines. Not a fundamentally new car. Sporty character.” Stuttgarter Karosseriewerk Reutter (the predecessor of RECARO) participated in the design engineering of the car body and built the first prototypes of the Porsche 901. In the fourth part of this look back at the sports car history shared by RECARO and Porsche, we examine the “Sturmvogel” (“Stormbird”) project, a French veto, endings and beginnings – and a partnership that endures into the present day.

After the triumph of the Porsche 356, it was time for a worthy successor to take over from this iconic bestseller. After the early ideas developed under the name Type 754 (T7), the team led by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche then turned to the so-called T8 design. In November 1961, Reutter received a development contract for the design engineering of a Porsche car body in coupe and cabriolet versions, bound by a strict nondisclosure agreement. A joint team of Reutter and Porsche engineers then went to work, with the first T8 prototypes emerging in 1962 at Reutter. That same year, the model was renamed Type 901, and in November 1962, the “Sturmvogel” (“Stormbird”) was ready for its first official test drive. Its name was derived from its snow-white paintwork. The prototypes were all built at Reutter’s special design department, headed by master craftsman Gottlob Sturm. But the T8 would not stop at concept cars, since the decision to pursue serial production was already settled. The car body’s design engineering was placed under the responsibility of Reutter.

Sporty seats in a sporty car: the new sports car was known as the Porsche 901 until October 1964, before officially becoming the 911 in November 1964. (© Porsche archives)

Sporty seats in a sporty car: the new sports car was known as the Porsche 901 until October 1964, before officially becoming the 911 in November 1964.
(© Porsche archives)

Although not yet ready for serial production, the Porsche 901 marked its world debut at the 41st Frankfurt Auto Show in 1963. The French company Peugeot later informed Porsche that it had registered naming rights to any three-digit model number with a zero in the middle. That’s why the 901 was later renamed to 911.

At the same time, the shareholders of Reutter decided to sell the car body plant to Porsche. The sale was completed on December 1, 1963. After 58 years, the company history of Stuttgarter Karosseriewerk Reutter und Co. GmbH had come to an end – and the first chapter had begun at the new company RECARO (a name derived from REutter CAROsserie).

From today’s viewpoint, this turned out to be very much a win-win situation: it was not only the car body plant in Zuffenhausen that Porsche took on, but also some 950 employees from Reutter, thereby acquiring their know-how. From December 1963 onwards, around 250 remaining employees continued working at the Reutter headquarters on Stuttgart’s Augustenstrasse, where they manufactured seats and seat fittings, particularly seat reclining mechanisms, under the RECARO name. The economic basis for this new direction was built on an agreement that RECARO would provide all seats for Porsche sports cars during the next ten years.

Partners in motorsport: with its P1300 GT racing shell, RECARO is currently equipping the Porsche GT3 Cup vehicles—the winner at this year’s 24-Hour Race on the Nürburgring. (© RECARO)

Partners in motorsport: with its P1300 GT racing shell, RECARO is currently equipping the Porsche GT3 Cup vehicles—the winner at this year’s 24-Hour Race on the Nürburgring.
(© RECARO)

The close partnership between the two automotive pioneers Porsche and RECARO has endured, from that first decade up until the present day. RECARO supplied Porsche with almost every seat for the 911, up to and including the 993 generation, along with the seats for the Porsche 928. The sporty seats for the 914, 924 and 944 models also came from RECARO. RECARO Automotive Seating is currently supporting Porsche in motorsport as a technical partner and seating supplier for its GT3 Cup vehicles. One of the latest highlights here is the Porsche victory at the 24-Hour Race on the Nürburgring in 2018, with RECARO seats on board. It’s another outstanding milestone in more than 70 years of shared sports car history – and another page in this album of so many shared memories …

We look forward to many more thrilling Porsche models in the future, with their trailblazing ideas sure to create even more automotive icons!

 

 

Superior craftsmanship: leather seats from RECARO for the 1967 edition of the Porsche 911. (© Porsche archives)

Superior craftsmanship: leather seats from RECARO for the 1967 edition of the Porsche 911. (© Porsche archives)

Fitting like a glove: early bucket seats by RECARO. (© RECARO)

Fitting like a glove: early bucket seats by RECARO. (© RECARO)

Seating atelier: RECARO supplied Porsche with almost every seat for the 911, up to and including the 993 generation – and also for many other models. (© RECARO)

Seating atelier: RECARO supplied Porsche with almost every seat for the 911, up to and including the 993 generation – and also for many other models.
(© RECARO)

The world’s fastest fire brigade: the O.N.S. Porsche 914/6 GT from RECARO was deployed as the first racetrack emergency vehicle by Germany’s national motorsports commission back then, the O.N.S. (© archives of Herbert Linge)

The world’s fastest fire brigade: the O.N.S. Porsche 914/6 GT from RECARO was deployed as the first racetrack emergency vehicle by Germany’s national motorsports commission back then, the O.N.S. (© archives of Herbert Linge)

Top-quality fittings: the RECARO Idealsitz (“ideal seat”) in the Porsche 911 Targa S. (© RECARO)

Top-quality fittings: the RECARO Idealsitz (“ideal seat”) in the Porsche 911 Targa S. (© RECARO)

HEAVY PAULA AND OTHER LUCKY BREAKS FOR REUTTER AND THE PORSCHE 356

Karosseriewerk Reutter in Stuttgart
Night shift: finished Porsche 356s in the yard of the Reutter works in Zuffenhausen, awaiting dispatch on the next day. (© RECARO)

Beauty on the line: assembly of bodies-in-white at Reutter, ca. 1953. (© RECARO)

Beauty on the line: assembly of bodies-in-white at Reutter, ca. 1953.
(© RECARO)

“In the beginning I looked around and could not find quite the car I dreamed of. So I decided to build it myself.” This famous quote from Ferry Porsche describes the genesis of a legend, the first sports car bearing the family name: the Porsche 356. In part 3 of this look back at the sports car history shared by RECARO and Porsche, we dive into the fascinating 356, with its breathtaking curves, aerodynamic design and rear-mounted four-cylinder boxer engine, dive into the “adventure in mass production” at Stuttgarter Karosseriewerk Reutter (the predecessor of RECARO) – and dive into the countless details and anecdotes that have come down to us from the 356 production era. Here are a few examples:

The big order was issued verbally. It was given by Ferry Porsche in October 1949: a firm commitment for 500 bodies and frames from Reutter for the Porsche 356. Time was of the essence, so Reutter began the preparations, needing to order new machines and arrange facilities – all with implicit trust in the given word. It was only weeks later that a written contract confirmed the order. But the work had already been long underway.

Close scrutiny: Ferdinand Porsche (2nd from right), his son Ferry (right), design engineer Erwin Komenda (middle) and Reutter engineer Walter Beierbach (left) in March 1950 during inspection of the first body-in-white for the 356. (© Porsche archives)

Close scrutiny: Ferdinand Porsche (2nd from right), his son Ferry (right), design engineer Erwin Komenda (middle) and Reutter engineer Walter Beierbach (left) in March 1950 during inspection of the first body-in-white for the 356.
(© Porsche archives)

Eagle eyes: In March 1950, Ferdinand Porsche arrived at Reutter in Stuttgart’s Augustenstrasse, along with his son Ferry Porsche and design engineer Erwin Komenda, in order to inspect the first body-in-white manufactured by Reutter for the 356. He circled the body while considering it in imperturbable silence, before finally settling onto a stool in front of it. And after a while, he decided it had to go back to the workshop: it wasn’t symmetrical. Porsche was right: later measurements revealed that the body was shifted 20 millimeters to the right of the centerline. For everyone involved at Reutter, it was an inspiration: they respected their customer’s knowledgeability and high quality expectations, and applied their entire expertise to supplying Porsche with a first-class product.

No parts without Paula: Reutter manufactured the first coupes at the headquarters on Stuttgart’s Augustenstrasse. A handpicked team of car body specialists welded the individual sheet-metal parts into the perfectly formed outer skin of the 356 coupe. Smaller parts were wrought by hand over wood, while the larger drawn and pressed pieces were supplied by their colleagues at the second Reutter plant in Zuffenhausen, where the big press brake nicknamed “Paula” had doing her job. Actually, she should have been confiscated by the French occupiers, but was too big and heavy for transport. A blessing for Reutter!

Unique specimen: an original 1950 Reutter car body with serial number 5006 at the Automuseum Prototyp in Hamburg. (© Automuseum Prototyp)

Unique specimen: an original 1950 Reutter car body with serial number 5006 at the Automuseum Prototyp in Hamburg.
(© Automuseum Prototyp)

Cigar lighters and key pouches: At Reutter, the order for the Porsche 356 involved not only the delivery of car bodies and frames, but also the manufacture of seats and the entire interior trim, along with the installation of electrical and heating systems. Porsche also entrusted Reutter with the final inspection of the finished vehicles. Diverse options were included from the very start, so that even in 1950, every buyer had a choice of eight colors for the paintwork and seven fabrics for the seat covers, as well as four different leatherette covers. Even before the first production vehicles were delivered (each with two door keys and two ignition keys in individual pouches), there was already talk of optional extras, such a secondary car horn, a cigar lighter and a radio, as well as genuine leather seats and side panels.

A two-paned windshield with central divider? While unthinkable today, it was one of the hallmarks of the first Porsche 356, up until April 1952. Although curved glass was already available, it was expensive. Incidentally, this characteristic was also something that the Porsche 356 shared with the Volkswagen, whose famous rear “pretzel window” (with two flat, distinctively shaped panes, divided by a metal upright) was developed as an ingenious cost-saving expedient.

Proof of origin: every Porsche 356 manufactured at Reutter carried a nameplate from the coachworks, as seen in this early example. (© RECARO)

Proof of origin: every Porsche 356 manufactured at Reutter carried a nameplate from the coachworks, as seen in this early example.
(© RECARO)

The logo: Every 356 manufactured by Reutter can be recognized by the coachwork label showing the Stuttgarter Karosseriewerk logo – it was affixed inside the A-pillar of the roof panel, with another one always outside on the right, between wheel arch and door. And while the first Porsche 356 did carry the Porsche name on the hood (using individually applied letters!), at least one early 356 customer was already yearning for a distinctive company logo. A “Porsche Prize” competition was set up in 1951, with the goal of creating a logo for the sports car company. Since none of the submissions was persuasive, Ferry Porsche and his engineer Franz Xaver Reimspiess quickly designed the now world-famous Porsche emblem themselves, with its rearing black horse. The emblem began adorning the steering wheel in late 1952, before it was then added to the hood in 1954, placed above the Porsche lettering and integrated into the hood latch.

Initially brought to market as a niche product, the first Porsche sports car developed into a worldwide success. Instead of the originally planned 500 cars, some 78,000 Porsche 356s had been sold by the end of its production run – most of them built at Reutter. Next week on the RECARO blog, we’ll look at the iconic Porsche 911 – and how Reutter participated in its genesis.

From a single source: Reutter also supplied the seats and the entire interior trim for the Porsche 356. (© RECARO)

From a single source: Reutter also supplied the seats and the entire interior trim for the Porsche 356.
(© RECARO)

A fast seller: it was barely a year after production launch that the 500th Porsche 356, a coupe, rolled from the yard of Stuttgarter Karosseriewerk Reutter. (© Automuseum Prototyp)

A fast seller: it was barely a year after production launch that the 500th Porsche 356, a coupe, rolled from the yard of Stuttgarter Karosseriewerk Reutter.
(© Automuseum Prototyp)

The finest craftsmanship: seats for the Porsche 356 coming together in the trim shop at Reutter, with a driver’s seat featuring Reutter recliner fittings in the foreground. (© RECARO)

The finest craftsmanship: seats for the Porsche 356 coming together in the trim shop at Reutter, with a driver’s seat featuring Reutter recliner fittings in the foreground.
(© RECARO)

Diverse options: there were many possible variants of the Porsche 356 in terms of model, colors and equipment. A view of the final assembly at Reutter. (© RECARO)

Diverse options: there were many possible variants of the Porsche 356 in terms of model, colors and equipment. A view of the final assembly at Reutter. (© RECARO)