Debuting in a Drizzle
Twenty years ago, the rolling rendering that eventually became the Carrera GT was unveiled for the Parisian public. As Walter Rohrl carefully metered out the prototype’s power over the sodden cobblestones that cover the Place de l’Étoile, those that had risen early enough to see this gleaming prototype pointed in astonishment. Photographs quickly circulated and the world was soon awaiting this sleek supercar reportedly powered by a Le Mans-inspired V10.
For a few reasons, the public had to wait for a few more years before this vehicle made its debut at the 2003 Geneva International Motor Show. One of these was the aerodynamics: the standard-production version was to be unchanged from the concept car. Delivering reliable downforce for a car which would ultimately top out at 205 mph required some crafty engineering. The only visible expression of this is the electrically extending rear wing, but underneath the car, the entire carbon underbody is panelled and works with the rear diffuser to suck the vehicle to the pavement.
Now, twenty years after the first time the world witnessed this car, even an unfinished version of it, it seemed right to bring the Carrera GT back to Paris, but Corona quashed that. Instead, a less hazardous area of Berlin, the Pariser Platz, was chosen for an homage. At the Brandenburg Gate, it was again drizzling just as it was two decades prior in Paris—and this romantic setting helps cast our minds back twenty years to better appreciate the elements which made this vehicle a singular creation.
A Singular Character
Its clean contours are the work of the team around the then Porsche chief designer Harm Lagaay; under his direction, they designed a piece of automotive art that still looks fresh twenty years later. More than just gorgeous, the Carrera GT was refined but simple. That character, untempered by the nanny state, is something which will prevent this car from ever being forgotten.
There’s no denying its intensity. Its famously finicky PCCC carbon clutch is one element which helped garner it a reputation as a handful. It also lacks stability control; something which prompted a lawsuit around Paul Walker’s death and, though it might sound callous to say, adds to the ominous allure of the vehicle. However, the pièce de résistance is the motor.
The project started as a lump designed to power a thoroughbred racing car: the long-secret Porsche LMP2000. This Le Mans prototype, never used in a race and called the 9R3 internally, was completed in 1998. The racing car’s chassis was made of carbon fiber, and the motor which powered it sported ten cylinders and dry-sump lubrication. The displacement was increased from 5.5 to 5.7 liters compared with the concept car, and the power output rose to 603 horsepower—more than enough to propel the 3,042 pounds to 120 miles per hour in 9.9 seconds.
What a beauty. Without question, a car with this unique set of traits will never truly go out of style.