What’s the best way to celebrate a 50th birthday? Should the celebrant look to the past or envision the future? The answer, of course, will differ depending on the person. But, for Porsche and Lamborghini, the choices are clear. Both are marking their five decades of existence known in decidedly different ways. One is embracing its roots, the other is trying new and different things. Which one will leave a greater mark on automotive history is anyone’s guess at this point.
Porsche’s New Old 911
Mention the Porsche name to the average person and chances are good he or she will imagine one of the various incarnations of this iconic sportscar. Released in 1963, it was first called the 901. Peugeot objected, however, saying it had dibs on numerical car titles with a “0” in the middle. So the Germans changed the name by one digit and released their flagship vehicle to the world.
Since those days the 911 has changed in countless ways while remaining essentially the same. For example, it still sports a rear-mounted six-cylinder engine with opposing cylinders. Yet it incorporates state-of-the-art performance enhancers as well, like a steering system that turns the front and rear wheels in either the same or opposite directions, depending on driving conditions at the time. With its blend of old and new, the 911 is ably summed up by the title of this NY Times article: “Timeless, but not Frozen in Time.”
Lamborghini’s New Hypercars
Lamborghini went in a different direction at March’s motor show in Geneva, displaying a pair of vehicles that both resemble a jet fighter more than anything else. The Veneno, combines a 6.5 liter V-12 engine with a carbon fiber frame. The final product is lighter than a Kia Optima, yet it can easily top 200 MPH. Not all the air bags in the world would save you if you were to hit a brick in this baby. Still, it would be one helluva last ride.
The other, titled the “Egoista” (Italian for “selfish”), is driven by a 10-cylinder, 5.2 liter powerplant that tops out at over 600HP. With its single seat and cockpit-type styling, this insanely powerful machine looks for all the world like a modern jet fighter, which is exactly what the designers intended. Design chief Walter De Silva said it all when he commented that the Egoista “represents hedonism taken to its extreme.”
Who Does it Better?
That’s a subjective question, but, since I write these articles, I get the final say, at least in this forum. IMO, Porsche has done a better job of marking its 50th. Performance issues aside, part of driving a truly fine vehicle is being in touch with a tradition of beauty and craftsmanship that hearkens to yesterday even as it embraces tomorrow. You, of course, are welcome to disagree.