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TG’s guide to concepts: the shocking Porsche Panamericana

Turns out the Cayenne was far from Porsche’s first sporty crossover muse

  1. No, it doesn’t matter how long you stare at it, and from what angle. Porsche’s Panamericana concept won’t stop looking completely bizarre.

    The back story is a familiar one. The Panamericana, like so many one-off motoring creations, was a birthday present. The year was 1989 and Stuttgart needed to mark the 80th birthday of Ferry Porsche. The 964-gen 911 was also knocking on in years, so the company needed to signpost its new design direction, and give the faithful some clues about what they could expect for the upcoming 993.

  2. Using a 964 Cabriolet chassis as a base, the Panamericana (named after the classic 1950s endurance race) sat upon chunky, Porsche badge-engraved tyre tread housed in cutaway arches to give a chunky, almost beach-buggy look to the familiar 911 silhouette. 

  3. Designers Steve Murkett and Harm Lagaay (of BMW Z1 fame) apparently intended the trademark cutaway wheelarches as more than a styling flourish. They envisaged that the car, if produced, could be offered with different terrain tyre options, and binning conventional arches would give the necessary clearance for longer-travel suspension and knobbly rubber.

  4. The body itself was fashioned from carbonfibre, and pushed along by a standard Carrera 4 flat-six developing 250bhp and 229lb ft. Porsche even went so far as to quote a 0-62mph time: it’s a respectable 5.8 seconds, since you ask.

  5. In the late 1980s, Porsche’s financial situation was precarious. There was no hope of the Panamericana making even very limited production to please the most ardent Porschephiles. However, its rounded bodywork and faired-in light clusters were cues that appeared later in the 993-gen 911 and Boxster, which secured Porsche’s future in the early 1990s. You can even see the 993 Targa’s look in the roof arrangement.

  6. Ironically, it was Porsche’s first proper SUV, the Cayenne, which finally put paid to financial turmoil at Porsche, and accelerated it on the road to profitability that it’s famous for today. Over a quarter of a century on, is it time the 991-gen Neunelfer gave us an idea of what the Baja-buggy treatment would do to its lines?

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