Home Porsche History Porsche - Origin of the Species

911 & Porsche World - October 2012

Book Review

A new Porsche book from Karl Ludvigsen is always eagerly awaited and this is no exception. Porsche - Origin of the Species tells the story of how Porsche's work, firstly as an engineering consultancy and then post war as a fledgling sports car manufacturer, has influenced every Porsche that has followed.

Obviously the Porsche sports car story starts with the 356 - firstly the roadster and then the 356/2 Coupes, which were the first production Porsches. Used and pictured throughout the book is Jerry Seinfeld's own 356/ 2-040 Coupe - 040 signifying its production number and its origins as a Gmünd car. That is significant in itself, but it's also a very original car, receiving only sympathetic restoration. The photography, by acclaimed automotive photographer, Michael Furman, captures its time worn patina perfectly.

But before the 356 was the Beetle and the other projects that Porsche undertook. There are pieces of all these in the early Porsche cars, often out of sheer necessity. Just building a sports car out of the ruins of WW2 was something of a miracle and Origin of the Species conveys this remarkable story. The move to Gmünd from Stuttgart, the immediate post war years when Ferdinand and son Ferry were held by the French as war criminals (and asked to advise on building post war Renaults), their return and the start of Porsche as a manufacturer in its own right after failing to interest Volkswagen with the original mid-engined 356 roadster.

It is a remarkable story and it's one that is ongoing to this very day. That the 911 is still rear-engined, and that its shape still owes much to the 356 is part of its enduring appeal. The fact also that Porsche is still linked seemingly umbilically to VW also makes this a book of the moment, despite dealing with events of 60+years ago.

It is a fascinating read and one that we would put in the Top 10 of Porsche books. At 356 pages, with a great deal of unseen archive material, and some genuine revelations, its asking price seems a genuine bargain. Oh, and it should be mentioned that when Ludvigsen was researching and writing this book, he was also contributing his column to 911&PW and some of the fascinating material that he uncovered was previewed in these pages first. An honour indeed.

Karl Ludvigsen
Karl Ludvigsen

In addition to his motor industry activities as an executive (with GM, Fiat and Ford) and head of a consulting company, Karl Ludvigsen has been active for over 50 years as an author and historian. As an author, co-author or editor he has some four dozen books to his credit. Needless to say, they are all about cars and the motor industry, Karl's life-long passion.

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