1989 Porsche Panamericana Concept Car

Image Gallery: Concept Cars The 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car was created for the 80th birthday of Porsche president Dr. Ferry Porsche. See more concept car pictures.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

When Dr. Ferry Porsche turned 80 years old, he received a 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car as a gift. Now, receiving a car as a birthday present isn't too farfetched, especially for the owner of a car manufacturing company. Getting one specially built to mark the occasion -- now that's a tad more exciting.

Note that the 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car was quite distinct from the Porsche Panamera. The latter is a four-door Porsche sedan -- the automaker's first-ever sedan -- that's do for production as a 2010 model.

The 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car, by contrast, was a striking two-seater concept study, shown to the public for the first time at the 1989 International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany. Arriving without prior fanfare, the 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car stole the show, drawing surprised and admiring sighs from ordinary motorists and industry observers alike.

Neither Ferry -- son of company's founder Ferdinand Porsche -- nor anyone else might have had much of an opportunity to drive this wild, low-cut machine; there were no plans for production. Even so, it demonstrated once again the future-oriented thinking, creativity, and technical competence that had for the previous four decades identified the Porsche organization at Stuttgart.

This was a free-spirited, free-thinking Porsche, bursting loose from the final constraints of traditionalist thought. It was a Porsche to tempt the aficionado -- the driver who's seen them all, driven them all.

Even more than Porsches in general, the Porsche Panamericana concept car combined the best elements of high-tech while spurning faddish gadgetry.

More exciting yet, Porsche advised that the racy concept car just might "indicate the potential of future developments for the 911." Perhaps, Porsche enthusiasts hoped, this prototype wouldn't fade away like so many show cars, after the enthralled early observers had their fill, but could metamorphose into a 911 of the 1990s.

Considering that in some well-to-do neighborhoods of the late 1980s, Porsches had become a little too popular -- indeed, almost common -- a bold two-seater guaranteed to turn the heads of the most jaded onlookers would have been sure to be snapped up in a hurry.

Though the 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car was innovative, it still adhered to Porsche tradition. Learn more on the next page.

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out:

1989 Porsche Panamericana Concept Car Body Design

The fastback top of the 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car was transparent and removable.
The fastback top of the 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car was transparent and removable.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car body design stunned the auto world. This wasn't surprising: Virtually every Porsche produced since 1948 stood above the crowd. Yet the Panamericana was unlike any Porsche on the street.

The 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car body design was an amalgamation of striking curves, cut by the occasional sharp edge.

What stood out from the very first adoring glance, though, was the car's low and completely transparent top. Apart from a narrow structural band around the perimeter that led into the rear engine access cover, it was all glass above the driver and single passenger. And if that wasn't enough openness, both the roof and rear window slipped off for open-air motoring.

Moving down from the clear top, the next styling touches to strike the eye were the startling open wheel arches. Massive cutouts in the body's contour completely exposed both the front and rear wheels, with plenty of open space ahead of and behind each tire.

The front arch reached over the wheel to form a sharp crease that faded away as it entered the door panel. Farther back on the door began yet another assertive crease. That one flowed backward to form a jutting bulge above the back wheel, before curving serenely into the rear panel.

The Porsche Panamericana concept car's imaginative design worked through a mix of fantasy and freedom, stretching beyond the normal confines imposed by "legislative limits." More than one observer at the Frankfurt debut commented on the car's similarity to a dune buggy. Could be, but if so, it was a dune buggy with more power than the typical desert racer would ever expect.

For more on the 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car styling, go to the next page.

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out:

1989 Porsche Panamericana Concept Car Styling

The shapely carbon-fiber and glass body of the 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car rekindled memories of the 1950s-era Carrera Panamericana race car.
The shapely carbon-fiber and glass body of the 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car rekindled memories of the 1950s-era Carrera Panamericana race car.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car styling was groundbreaking, but also harked back to tradition.

The 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car styling, according to the company, was meant to serve as a reminder of the renowned Carrera Panamericana, the legendary endurance road race of the early 1950s. A demanding and harrowing trek through Mexico, the annual race featured cars that had to be "as fast on asphalt as on a loose surface."

One such entrant was Porsche's 550 Spyder, which gained international fame as a result of its distinguished competition in Mexico in the 1953 and 1954 events. That twin-cam Spyder engine went into Porsche sports-racing models in 1954, carrying the Carrera designation as a mark of the car's racing origin.

The Porsche Panamericana concept car design was a clear evolution of the traditional 911 shape, but added a vibrant personality of its own to suggest the future of that classic profile.

A nearly straight, flat tapered line reached from the windshield to the end of the rear deck, above sharply tapered quarter windows, to form a fastback profile that really looked fast.

If you stood back, squinted your eyes a bit, you could discern elements of other modern Porsches in its makeup. The shape of the front end, for instance, wasn't so far removed from that of Porsche's 959 supercar.

Viewed from the rear, with a full-width red panel joining the wraparound taillamps, there was a touch of 928. A shapely oval exhaust outlet was built into the back panel. Heavy-looking six-spoke wheels displayed an over-and-under design, and carried the oversize tires that were expected on a car of this caliber.

Mechanically, the Porsche Panamericana concept car was based on the production all-wheel-drive Porsche Carrera 4, introduced in 1989. Their kinship ended at the body skin, which in this case was carbon fiber and glass rather than the customary metal.

The 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car shared traits with Porsches past in other ways as well. Read more about these similarities on the next page.

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out:

1989 Porsche Panamericana Concept Car Performance

Borrowing the all-wheel-drive powertrain from the Porsche Carrera 4 made the 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car a roadworthy 160-mph machine.
Borrowing the all-wheel-drive powertrain from the Porsche Carrera 4 made the 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car a roadworthy 160-mph machine.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

In mapping out 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car performance, designers realized that on the racing circuits of the late 1980s, steel bodies were going the way of the dinosaur. Even aluminum panels were disappearing, replaced by materials that originated in aircraft technology and the space program, then made their way to the auto race courses.

So 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car performance would benefit from a high-tech carbon fiber and glass blend, formed into a "sandwich" that combined light weight with structural rigidity.

Beneath that skin, however, lay a conventional Carrera 4 powertrain, with a horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine driving all four wheels. This meant 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car performance would be just as spectacular as the Carrera's.

That translated to a top speed in the 160 mph neighborhood or beyond, and acceleration to 60 mph in under 6 seconds. Even so, the car was all stock and roadworthy, right down to the "environmentally-friendly, three-way catalytic converter."

The exotic turquoise-blue Panamericana, said Porsche, served as a clear statement that the company would "continue to be able to provide answers to the demands of the times in the future, using pathfinding technology and intelligent detail solutions."

Responsibility for its creation lay in the hands of Dr. Ulrich Bez, who'd been at Porsche for only a year but had formerly lent his talents to the creation of BMW's Z1, a two-seat sports car in production from 1989-1991, but not sold in the U.S.

A vision of pure motoring pleasure for two, the passionate 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car was clearly a future-coupe for the open road, not for frenzied rush-hour expressways or traffic-laden city streets.

Everything was designed with the driver in mind, from the suspender-style shoulder harnesses that reach back to the rear panel to the functional, no-nonsense instrumentation.

Whether the prototype would evolve into the real-life Porsche of the future, or fade away like so many short-lived stars of the European and American auto-show circuits, remained to be seen.

Meanwhile, auto lovers could imagine the envious eyes that would follow their course in a ramble down Main Street, if only they could slip behind the wheel of this inspired Stuttgart creation.

If nothing else, the 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car demonstrated the inevitable trend toward super-light, super-strength construction techniques that were coming soon to the supercar arena -- and even to everyday automobiles as the future approached.

Go to the next page to learn more about 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car specifications.

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out:

1989 Porsche Panamericana Concept Car Specifications

Though the 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car never emerged from the realm of idea, it still captured the imagination of Porsche fans everywhere.
Though the 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car never emerged from the realm of idea, it still captured the imagination of Porsche fans everywhere.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Dr. Feryr Porsche earned the envy of car enthusiasts the world over when he received a 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car as a birthday present. That envy only increased when people saw the 1989 Porsche Panamericana concept car specifications, detailed below.

Manufacturer: Dr. Ing. h. c. F. Porsche AG, Stuttgart, West Germany

Body design: 2-passenger, 2-door coupe; glass/carbon fiber body, steel frame

Powertrain layout: rear-engine, 4-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 89.5 inches

Overall length: 164.4 inches

Overall width: 74.6 inches

Overall height: (with roof) 52.2 inches

Track, front: 54.3 inches

Track, rear: 54.1 inches

Weight: 3,197 pounds

Approximate price: not available

Engine type: sohc horizontally-opposed 6-cylinder

Displacement (liters/cubic inches): 3.6/220

Horsepower @ rpm: 247 @ 6100

Torque (lbs./ft.) @ rpm: 228 @ 4800

Fuel delivery: Bosch Motronic port fuel injection

Transmission: 5-speed manual

Suspension, front: independent struts with lower wishbones, coil springs, stabilizer bar

Suspension, rear: independent with semi-trailing arms, coil springs, stabilizer bar

Brakes: front/rear vented discs, anti-lock

1989 Porsche Panamericana Concept Car Performance

Top speed: approx. 160 mph

0-60 mph: less than 6.0 seconds

Quarter-mile: approx. 13.6 seconds

Speed @ quarter-mile: approx. 102 mph

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out: