When it comes to the world of Porsche, we know we’re not experts, but after producing this site for nearly 8 years we’ve come to learn a lot. That’s why, when we found a source of mostly obscure terms that even we weren’t familiar with, we knew we had to share. I mean let’s face it, when talking or reading about Porsche, and the nomenclature used to describe it, we sometimes feel like we’re trying to interpret a foreign language, and I don’t mean German. That’s why we started working on this three part series that should help both those new to the brand and those with years of experience to learn something new and maybe win a Porsche trivia contest at some point. Let’s start with the letters A – D of Obscure Porsche Terminology.
Aluminum Can: The nickname given to the aluminum-bodied, 40 hp, Porsche 356 SL that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1951. A restored version of the “aluminum can” can be seen today at the Porsche Museum.
America Roadster: Recent converts to the Porsche Marque are probably more familiar with this term from the 1992 Porsche 964 version. This limited edition variation is not the original America Roadster. Instead, 250 of them were built to commemorate the original 1952 356 American Roadster. There are a number of stories as to why the 1952 America Roadster was built. One of the most popular suggests that it was American GIs stationed in Germany who called for an even lighter, purer Porsche 356 in the early ’50s. They got it – however, only 21 of them were built by Gläser. Lighter than a regular 356 cabriolet by about 130 lbs the American Roadster The predecessor of the 1953 Speedster, known as the “America Roadster“, lost around 60 kilograms compared to the regular 356 convertible, and foreshadowed much of what we would see from Porsche in the future. While only producing 70 hp, the America Roadster barely weighed 1350 lbs. This was a strong enough power to weight ratio to allow this unique 359 to reach a top speed of 112 mph. More importantly, it inspired the original Porsche importer to the U.S., Max Hoffman, to demand a similar model (the Speedster) be produced for the American market.
Bel Air: Porsche loves their internal designations. Every car to come from the factory has a “Typ” number associated with it. However, when a car is in the design or development stage it will often have a “code name” that designers and other employees can use to refer to it without giving things away. Such was the case with the original Targa back in 1965. Not wanting the world to know that their new open topped Porsche would be known as the Targa (derived from the famous Sicilian race “Targa Florio“ – with the word “Targa“ meaning “shield“) the name “Bel Air“ was borrowed from the posh neighborhood in Los Angeles – possibly due to the erroneous assumption that it meant something like “good (belle) air“. Whatever the reason, the ruse worked and Porsche stunned the automotive world with their newest innovation when the 1965 Targa was revealed.
Bohlmann Bags: This term is new to us and as such, we’ll have to take Porsche (our source) at their word. As you might expect, it’s a a very special recognition at Porsche when a technical refinement is named after an employee. Well-known examples include the Fuhrmann engine, the Fuchs rim (an honored supplier), or the Jörg muffler. It seems that a certain Mr. Bohlmann came up with the storage compartments in the trunk of the 924 and the 944. Whether historical sources abstained from passing down the first name because the inventor was employed at the VW plant in Wolfsburg is something that probably only long-serving Porsche (or VW) archivists will be able to answer.
Bonanza Effect: Remember the guitar staccato often found accompanying the characters of Adam, Joe and giant Hoss with Dad Ben Cartwright as they galloped off to fix what ever problem popped up in that episode, Dum-dada-dum-dadadum-dadadum-dadadum-dum…? It’s the same name given to the phenomenon where a Porsche’s engine bucks while coasting (remember, you have to push in that clutch) – or power is transmitted to the clutch too abruptly – causing it to buck and chug.
Crashbox: Do you know how to “double-clutch”? If you drove an early Porsche 356 (those built between 1950 and 1952) you would soon learn. Porsches of this era came equipped with transmissions that were not synchronized. In other words, they lacked the synchromesh rings that allow for the smooth shifting we’re used to in the modern manual transmissions of today. The term “Crashbox” comes from the horrible sounds a Porsche’s transmission would make when the gears were forced to cooperate vs. smoothly meshing by utilizing a double-clutch shifting technique.
Christel von der Post: It’s possible that Austrian driver Gerhard Plattner, aka the king of fuel-efficient long-distance driving, has put more endurance miles on a Porsche than anyone else in history. Porsche would hire Plattner (and usually a co-driver) to run endurance tests on a number of their cars in the late ’70s and into the ’80s (tests that included “around-the-world” road trips and 100-hour driving stints on the Autobahn, etc). One of his more legendary journeys was at the wheel of “Christel von der Post“ (or post mistress Christel). The name can be traced back to a film from the 1950s about a post mistress. Plattner used this rather unflattering name to refer to the yellow 924 that Porsche placed at his disposal (German post vans have always been yellow) and that he used to drive more than 40,000 miles through some of the harshest climates and conditions in the world. In hindsight, Plattner should have been more respectful to his 924 given how marvelously it performed during his trips (this same 924 was later used in Porsche’s advertising of that era to highlight its reliability).
Doctor’s Car: On Ferry Porsche’s 75th birthday, the employees presented him with a very special 928 S as a gift. Finished in moss green, this particular 928 was longer than what was normally produced allowing for more legroom in the back. Over time it came to be know as the “Doctor’s Car”. It remains part of the Porsche’s family collection to this day.
“Dreikantschaber“: While sometimes know as the “Wedgeblade” the original German name translates to “three-pointed scraper” and refers to the aerodynamically styled, aluminum bodied 356 B 2000 GS Carrera GT which premiered at the 1963 24 Hours of Le Mans. Designed by Butzi Porsche, the tail is pulled further down along the back and the roof ends abruptly compared to a production version 356 of the same era. The resulting vehicle led to the nickname “Dreikantschaber“ or wedge blade, a tool used by the designers at Porsche to work on their clay models.
We know this list isn’t inclusive, but they are the terms we recently came across. Did we miss anything? What else should we include in this section? We’ll publish part II next week and Part III the week after that.