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Porsche 901 / 911: the real reason for the name change

September 12, 1963, an unforgettable date for lovers of the Porsche brand, is the date of the presentation to the public at the IAA Motor Show in Frankfurt of the one that will replace the iconic 356 and which will embody the Porsche myth: the 901, coming from his name of his project and at the same time start a BOM starting with 900.

This is the first time that Porsche has used the 3-digit name with a central zero.

The name is presented in a big way by the brand, and yet a year later, on November 10, 1964, before the 1964 Paris Motor Show, the Stuttgart brand suddenly announces a name change to 911. The reason given: Peugeot had registered three-digit model designations with a 0 in the middle. Porsche had no other choice, in front of the resistance of Peugeot, to change this name urgently, and it will opt for 911.

Why did you choose 911?

Some say that this combination of numbers corresponds to the emergency number in the United States and was therefore already well known in this important market for Porsche, but Porsche claims that when Peugeot raised its hand on the trademark issues surrounding their designation 901 of origin, they already had numbers 9, 0 and 1 cast in volume, ready for series production. So, in order not to waste their gold-plated badges once they decided to honor the French request, Porsche simply used a pair of 1s to end up with 911.

How many 901s were produced?

In 1963, Karmann produced 13 prototypes of the 901, the N5 of which was presented at the IAA show in Frankfurt. Some of the test cars totaling thirteen in all were given exotic names like Sturmvogel (storm bird), Blaumeise (blue tit), Fledermaus (bat), Zitronenfalter (lemon butterfly), Barbarossa (red beard) and Quick Blau or QuickBlue.

Then in 1964, Porsche built 232 of the pre-production cars, but only the first 82 examples produced between September 14 and 18, 1964 (chassis 300 001 to 300 082) received the "901" stamping on their chassis plates and none of her was supposed to come out of the factory gates in Zuffenhausen, but some did! The next 150 pre-production cars were badged 911.

Suffice to say that owning one of them will be synonymous with owning a Unicorn. We can however see the 901 N57 at the Porsche museum, but it is badged 911, however, some have done it!

But then why didn't they opt for 910, also recycling all those zeros?

That's because there was already the 910 racing car that debuted in 1966.

So why didn't the Porsche 904 change its name?

While Porsche had in the same period given the names of 901 and 904 to its vehicles, Porsche had to change only the name of its 901, Why?

The reason is that the 901 was intended for the road while the 904 was intended for racing, while Peugeot only holds the rights to the names for vehicles intended for the road.

Peugeot only attacks Porsche

If Peugeot's request to ask Porsche to change its name, the reasons behind are devious.

Indeed, Peugeot began to use this nomenclature since the 201, i.e. for 8 generations of cars. So as much to say that it was not new and that several brands were able to use it without being worried by Peugeot. But since the Second World War, things have changed, and that's where Peugeot put Porsche in its sights.

If Franco-German relations are not the best, and rightly so, BMW was nevertheless able to name its cars 501, 502, 503 and roadster 507 without being worried by Peugeot, just like the English brand Bristol with its range going from the 400 to the 412, or the Italian Ferrari with its 208 and 308.

So why Porsche?

This revenge does not come directly from the Peugeot brand and does not directly target the Porsche brand, it is actually a settling of scores against Ferdinand Porsche (founder of the Porsche brand) and his son-in-law, Anton Piëch (father of Ferdinand Piech).

We tell you the story

Porsche and Piëch take control of Peugeot

In 39, the Second World War broke out, Germany quickly conquered ground and invaded France in May 1940. A month later, the French automobile manufacturers, Renault, Citroën and Peugeot were forced to pass under German control. The Sochaux company saw itself obliged to serve the German war effort. Like many companies, the Peugeot family complies with it. Peugeot is placed under the supervision of Adler automobiles after a struggle for influence between Daimler-Benz and Auto Union. The first is assigned the supervision of Renault, the second that of Citroën. But Auto Union also had views on Peugeot and it was to maintain balance and fairness between the two that Peugeot was entrusted to the small firm Adler. From December 1940, the Sochaux firm began production on behalf of the Reich of 6,500 vehicles, then many spare parts.

At that time, the Volkswagen company was not yet the one we know, dedicated to the automobile. If the firm was indeed created to manufacture the famous KdF-Wagen in its new factory in KdF-Stadt (which will only become Wolfsburg after the war, on the decision of the English administrators), the war rather upset its plans. Directed by Anton Piëch, the son-in-law of Ferdinand Porsche who is in charge of the technical part, Volkswagen will produce almost no Type 1 before and during the war (the post-war Käfer or Beetle): production will in reality be restarted by the Allies, and in particular the English major Ivan Hirst. At that time, Kübelwagen (military liaison vehicle), Schwimmwagen (amphibious vehicles) and a few Kommanderwagen (militarized Type 1) left the factories. And again, this only represents 28.5% of production, when the rest consists mainly of parts for aeronautics, in particular Focke-Wulf planes and the famous V1 missiles.

Peugeot forced to work for Volkswagen

Little by little, Piëch and Porsche will take a closer interest in Peugeot. The KdF-Stadt plant is sorely lacking in a foundry, always promised but never built. However, Peugeot has one that really wins over Volkswagen and its leading duo. Porsche and Piëch will therefore go out of their way to obtain the guardianship of Peugeot instead of Adler. They succeeded in February 1943, when the Peugeot factories were temporarily entrusted to Ferdinand Porsche himself. A decision that became final in November 1943, thanks to the interpersonal skills of son-in-law Anton Piëch. From then on, the Peugeot factories were forced to manufacture spare parts for the Kübelwagen produced at KdF-Stadt, but also for the Focke-Wulf planes, also manufactured in Lower Saxony. Moroccan prisoners of war are even requisitioned to reinforce the manpower of the foundry.

This massive production for Volkswagen transformed the company into a real target for the Allies: on the night of July 15 to 16, 1943, 150 RAF bombers attacked Sochaux, killing 125 and injuring 250. From then on, the Peugeot family and a majority of executives or workers, already reluctant to this collaboration, entered into a kind of passive, then active resistance, especially since Porsche and Piëch wanted to manufacture the famous hulls of the V1 missile (they will never achieve their ends). From September, sabotages became more and more numerous (notably the fire in the tire store, the explosion of part of the forges or the foundry). In mid-March 1944, it was still impossible to actually manufacture the parts of the Focke Wulf Ta-154.

The looting of the Peugeot factories

In 1944, in the Peugeot factories, sabotage multiplied. Arrests and raids become daily. The liberation troops are at the gates of Sochaux but do not enter the city. The German army took the opportunity to organize a looting of industrial facilities in the region. 90% of Peugeot's equipment is stolen by the Germans. The facilities of the Peugeot factory were found after the war in the Volkswagen factory. From August, the transfer of machines to KdF-Stadt begins: 85 tons of material, more than 1,500 machine tools, take the road to Lower Saxony. When the factory was liberated, there was almost nothing left. Peugeot had been literally robbed by Piëch, Porsche and what remained of the Third Reich.

sated revenge

You therefore understand Peugeot's aggressiveness in putting spokes in Porsche's wheels, especially since in 1963/1964, during the presentation of the 901 and then 911 version, Jean-Pierre Peugeot, who ran the factory for the war, is still at the head of the company.

A first revenge had been attempted just after the war. the French government summons on December 15, 1945, the French authorities invite Ferdinand Porsche (aged 70) and his son Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche to visit the French Renault factories, to audit the future Renault 4CV of 1947. He is arrested on the spot, for war crimes, Third Reich opportunism, and for having stolen patents belonging to Peugeot on behalf of the KdF factory. He was imprisoned for twenty months without trial, in various French prisons, as a prisoner of war. Not supporting his detention, his fragile health deteriorates rapidly, and he sinks into depression. He was released in 1947 on bail of one million francs, paid by car manufacturer Piero Dusio (Cisitalia) (best friend of his son Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche). A French court later found F. Porsche not guilty of the war crimes.

It was at this time, without the presence of his father, that Ferry Porsche designed the 356.

After the war, the city of the KdF car was named Wolfsburg and the factory was rebuilt as Volkswagen, without any interaction with the Porsches. The turn of events forces Ferry to tackle the new president of the place. He threatens to assert his rights to the Volkswagen Typ 1. But the family settles on a compromise. A simple deal is then concluded: for each Beetle sold, 5 marks are paid to the Porsche family.

Over 21 million copies were sold and the brand was a success. Enough to ensure the future for the Porsches and the Piëchs!

irony of history,

we haven't seen a Peugeot 901 yet,

while the Porsche 911 has become the benchmark for sports cars


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