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Massive 'Porsche Effect' exhibit opens at Petersen Automotive Museum

The Petersen Automotive Museum will be home for the next year to the most comprehensive gathering of historic Porsche cars ever assembled outside Germany.

"The Porsche Effect," opening to the public Saturday, will feature 48 iconic sports cars, including early models, race winners, bestsellers and record holders, along with other important bits of Porsche development and history.

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On display will be the 1938 Berlin-Rome Type 64 that was Ferdinand Porsche's first sports car; a 906 race car; a rare model X83 Turbo S Flachbau 964; a rally-spec Type 953 911; the world-beating Gulf 917K, the Jägermeister 962; and the legendary Porsche 935 K3 Le Mans winner belonging to Petersen Vice Chairman Bruce Meyer.

Timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the first sports cars built by the Porsche family for sale to the public, the exhibit will document the art, design, engineering and racing history of the storied Stuttgart brand.

The exhaustive collection is the result of a "transatlantic" collaboration between the Petersen and many Porsche-related organizations — the company itself, its museum, its owners' groups and other stakeholders — Petersen staff said.

Prized Porsches will be on view in the Petersen lobby, in a main first floor gallery and in a separate "vault" collection in the building's basement.

The thematic, non-chronological layout of the huge exhibit is an attempt to illustrate the effect Porsche has had on culture, and vice versa, said the exhibit's co-curator, Brittanie Kinch of the Scenic Route design firm.

"There is a phenomenon where you can go up to people who have only a distant relationship with cars, and ask them to draw a sports car," Kinch said. "They always come up with something that looks very much like a Porsche."

To that end, the exhibit will also include references to film, celebrities, popular media and even poetry — in the form of a copy of "The Red Porsche," a poem by Charles Bukowski.

There’s a strong local angle too. Kinch feels Porsche’s popularity, especially in America, began in Hollywood, after Viennese expatriate Johnny Von Neumann’s Los Angeles Competition Motors shop sold Porsches to actor-racer James Dean and, later, a list of entertainers including Paul Newman, the Beach Boys and Janis Joplin.

"Porsche was saved by Hollywood and the purchase by these celebrities," Kinch said. "That transformed the Porsche into a symbol."

Porsche motorsports spokesman Dave Engelman said the exhibit's seeds were planted in late 2017, at the Los Angeles Auto Show, when Meyer suggested a comprehensive Porsche show to Porsche board Chairman Wolfgang Porsche.

"Wolfgang was touring the museum, and we went through the Bugatti exhibit, and I said, 'This could all be Porsches. What a great way to celebrate your 70th anniversary,'" Meyer remembered.

The Petersen staff began the job of tracking down the most important cars and persuading their owners to lend them out for a year.

Surprisingly few declined, Engelman said, which meant the company did not have to dig deep into its own collection.

"We thought we were going to have to empty the museum in Stuttgart," Engelman said. "But in the end only one car was sent" — a prototype 928 four-door from the 1980s.

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Other vehicles came from private donors, private collections and other Porsche museums, Engelman said.

Some of them are very rare, including a 968 Turbo S that is one of only four ever made. Some are a little weird too, such as the 1932 Ford hot rod customized to accommodate a V-8 Porsche engine and Porsche brakes.

Celebrating its 70th anniversary, Porsche is having a good sales season in the U.S. The German company closed 2017 up 2.1% over the previous year, with 55,420 units sold.

Though Porsche is most known for its 911 sports cars, its two bestselling models for the year, by far, were the Macan and Cayenne sport utility vehicles — neither of which is included in the "Porsche Effect" displays.

Tickets to the show — and separate tickets to see the Petersen's "vault" Porsches — can be had via Petersen's online ticket sales department.

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