Over the course of high school and college, I doodled hundreds of cars in the margins of my notebooks, ideas pouring out of my head and onto the paper while I should’ve been listening to the lecture and scribbling notes. While my sketches just end up in a folder stored in my room, the doodles of professional cars designers have a shot at gleaming under auto-show lights or being driven at the hands of thousands of people. Even still, many of the most imaginative designs never see the light of day, scrapped before the public can ever lay their eyes on them. Rarely do we get a glimpse at these prototypes and design studies, but Porsche has graciously blessed us with a treasure trove of hidden gems.
The 919 Street was envisioned as a road-going version of Porsche’s dominant 919 Hybrid, which won the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times en route to three Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championships in the World Endurance Championship. Had it progressed past this full-size clay model, the 919 Street would’ve utilized the race car’s hybrid setup: a 2.0-liter turbocharged V4 mated to energy recovery system. The clean bodywork, wraparound windshield, and aerodynamic fins protruding out of the roof and rear haunches make it a stunning creation. It’s a shame that we’ll never see the 919 Street battle Mercedes’ upcoming F1-powered AMG One.
Another hypercar fantasy is the Vision 920, with it’s cab-forward design and central seating position clearly inspired by endurance racing’s top tier LMP1 cars. The blade-thin headlights and taillights and the exposed front suspension elements clearly reveal the Vision 920’s more outlandish approach compared to the more feasible 919 Street. The red, black, and white livery with yellow accents makes this low-slung rocket ship pop.
I never knew I needed a Porsche van until I saw the Renndienst, but now I’m certain I do. Quite possibly my favorite car of the group, the Renndienst echoes a VW Type 2 used by Porsche’s motorsport team in the 1960s. Rear passengers might’ve gotten a bit claustrophobic due to the lack of rear windows, but the Renndienst’s driver would’ve enjoyed piloting this sleek pod from a central driving position. The minimalist styling evokes the streamlined philosophy of the art deco era while remaining futuristic. With Porsche claiming it would’ve been all-electric, it doesn’t seem like it would be too hard to plop this body onto the platform of the upcoming VW I.D. Buzz van. Please Porsche, please.
The Vision Spyder was designed to emulate the 1954 550 RS Spyder, an enormously successful early Porsche race car. While the Vision Spyder’s footprint appears similar to the current Boxster, the styling is far more chiseled and straight-edged than most modern Porsches, with thin vertical headlights, boxy air intakes in the front bumper, and a chunky rear diffuser. The roll bar emerges out of the bodywork like scaffolding and provides visual structure to this mid-engined roadster.
Designed back in 2013, the 904 Living Legend is perhaps the most interesting of the bunch mechanically speaking. It’s lithe bodywork is draped over the carbon monocoque chassis that underpinned the limited-run VW XL1, an aerodynamic diesel-powered masterpiece which maximized fuel efficiency. The 904 Living Legend had a different brief: to be a lightweight, smile-inducing sports car. All signs suggest that Porsche would’ve achieved that goal, as a high-revving Ducati V2 engine would’ve kept the weight below 2000 lbs.
Unlike most of the cars here, the 911 Vision Safari, conceived in 2012 to commemorate the 1978 911 SC Safari race car, is a drivable prototype. Using a 991-generation Carrera as a starting point, Porsche raised the suspension, beefed up the wheel arches, and redesigned the bumpers for off-road duty. The Vision Safari looks absolutely epic with its aggressive stance and GT3-style wing, and I’m honestly surprised Porsche never built this as a pricey, exclusive 911 Safari and cashed-in on what should’ve been high profit margins.
Returning to the realm of hypercars, the Vision E is an all-electric ballistic missile meant to serve as link between Porsche’s road cars and their Formula E race program. Not much was revealed about this design study other than a central driving position and 800-volt architecture (which Porsche currently employs in the Taycan for rapid charging), but the wild bodywork is more than enough to soak in.
Although automakers flaunt their crossovers as off-road trailblazers, the reality is that CUVs are more similar to road-going sedans then they are to true 4x4s. Porsche sought to remedy that with the Macan Vision Safari, which took the pre-facelift Macan and prepared it for a rally stage. Like the 911 Vision Safari, the Macan gained extra ride height and thick wheel arch extensions. Interestingly, Porsche also opted to remove the rear doors, and I’m actually really into the idea of a two-door Macan—lowering it could create a Porsche hot hatch! Maybe they’ll cook up one of those next.
Despite its 911 headlights, the Le Mans Living Legend is another Boxster-based homage to the 550, this time to a closed-roof version that preceded the more iconic Spyder. The smooth bodywork is certainly eye-pleasing, and I especially dig the split rear windshield. Underneath sits a race-car-based V8, and drivers would have accessed a manual gearbox through a set of extravagant butterfly doors. While enthusiasts would have loved the stickshift and high-revving engine, the Le Mans Living Legend sadly has no shot at production.
While the Vision Turismo looks like a Panamera went on a diet, it was actually conceived when Porsche’s chief designer mistakenly saw a line on a sketch of the 918 hypercar as a rear door joint. After debating whether to give the Vision Turismo a mid- or rear-engined setup, they decided they could do more with the slinky design if it were electric, leading to the Taycan that is on sale today. While the Vision Turismo’s styling seems pretty standard for Porsche, this concept also represented the birth of the light bar which now adorns the rear end of all Porsche models.
Instead of honoring a race car, the Vision 916 harkens back to a prototype, the 916, which was a more powerful version of the diminutive 914 sports car from the ’70s. The Vision 916 modernizes the small sports car recipe, with simplistic looks and, had it moved beyond a 1:1 clay model, propulsion coming from four hub-mounted electric motors.
The 918 Spyder, Porsche’s hybrid supercar to rival the LaFerrari and McLaren P1, was already plenty fast, becoming the first production car to record a sub-seven-second lap around the Nurburgring Nordschleife. Yet Porsche decided to up the ante with the Vision 918 RS, which received completely fresh styling designed to optimized the car’s aerodynamics, with fins sprouting from the rear fenders and air inlets gouged out of the bodywork all over the car. No specifications were released, but I have no doubt that it would have been a thrilling machine.
Believe it or not, the 906 Living Legend was penned back in 2005, with its still futuristic design inspired by the street-legal 906 racer which took victory at the 1966 Targa Florio. The jaw-dropping styling is enhanced by the red and white paint job, and I’m a huge fan of the single red panel in the beefy dish-like wheels. The 906 Living Legend was certainly ahead of its time, even incorporating air vents into the headlights like the McLaren 720S did over a decade later.
Photo Credits: Porsche Cars North America
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Great examples and photos of car design concepts.