Sunday, November 22, 2015

One-Off (Bertone) Porsche 911

"Undistinguished" of "bland" comes to mind when viewing this Porsche. 

While I'm something of a Porsche freak, I didn't know about this car until reading about it last week in Karl Ludvigsen's excellent Porsche: Excellence Was Expected.  I was most definitely around in 1966, and paying attention, especially to Porsche, when it was built.  If Road & Track published a picture, it sank from my memory without a trace.

The Bertone Porsche 911 Roadster was commissioned by Johnny von Neumann, the Porsche distributor for Southern California.  One can imagine him trying to sell 911 coupes without air-conditioning in L.A. in 1965.  Open Porsches had been available for over a decade, and the Targa was in development for 1967 availability.  But von Neumann failed to ask about Porsche's plans for a convertible 911 or, if he did, Porsche deflected him.

von Neumann was also well-connected in the Ferrari community, including Maranello.  He chose Bertone of Turin to do the open car (which was created from a coupe von Neumann had shipped from Los Angeles).  One imagines von Neumann hoped to sell some roadsters individually, or maybe have Bertone do a very limited production run.  Either would have involved a considerable price premium over the 911, which itself was expensive compared to the previous 356.

Bertone turned the car around quickly and put it on his stand at the Turin auto show.  One source says that Giorgetto Giugiaro penned this car when he worked for Bertone, before he went on to considerable fame in his own right.   Another source is silent on the individual(s) involved in creating the car.  Within a year, the Targa made whatever plans von Neumann and Bertone had moot.  von Neumann sold it in Los Angeles (one suspects at a considerable loss), where it remained in obscurity through several decades and only a couple of owners.

Going back 50-odd years, as the 356 and recent Cabrios have shown, it is very hard to do an open Porsche without giving
it a bustle-butt.  The 356 Speedster and the 911 Targa were somewhat, but not entirely, immune from this.

Above and below: Bertone went with concealed headlights.  The slats were for signaling ("flash to pass") when the
headlights were not in use.  The picture below (headlights in On mode) was taken when the car was introduced at
the Turin Auto Show.  This Corvette Stingray-like front end works fine for me on a C 2 Corvette.  Not at all on a
Porsche.  Butzi Porsche himself observed that a sloping front end between prominent headlights is "the face of
a Porsche," which was why he retained/developed that look when he did the 911.

Above: this angle illustrates the very low cowl line chosen by Bertone, which forced the relocation of the
instruments to a "center stack" between the seats.

Below: the car repainted and wearing cast alloy Porsche 914-6 wheels in the 1990's.  It is believed to
still exist in the hands of an unknown private owner.  Randy Leffingwell photo.

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