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Spotted: Hitting the autobahn in Porsche's homeland

Spotted is Globe Drive writer Peter Cheney's weekly feature that takes you behind the scenes of his life as a vehicle and engineering journalist. In coming weeks, we'll also highlight the best of your original photos and short video clips (10 seconds or less), which you should send with a short explanation. E-mail, find him on Twitter @cheneydrive (#spotted), or join him on Facebook (no login required). All photos by Peter Cheney.

The road to Stuttgart

I’m in Germany this week doing some stories that you’ll see soon (my initial report on the Porsche Macan is online now.) After testing the Macan I headed down to Stuttgart, spiritual home of the Porsche 911. Of course I did the trip in a 911 – a new Carrera 4S. This is the retractable spoiler, which I deployed for my trip down the autobahn from Leipzig. It reduces lift at high speed.


This is why I kept the spoiler deployed. The highest speed I saw on the digital readout today was 245, but that’s when I stopped looking. The peak was probably 275 or so, but who knows? You need to focus when you’re running at speeds like this. And the spoiler probably helps.

Aftermath on the autobahn

I spotted this German road crew cleaning up the aftermath of an autobahn crash south of Leipzig. When things go wrong on the world’s fastest highway, the results can rival an air crash.

Home of Bach

I snapped this picture of the 911 just before I left Leipzig, a beautiful old German city that was the home of Johann Sebastian Bach. Leipzig used to be part of East Germany, and was the epicentre of the 1989 revolution. I loved Leipzig, but the wi-fi service was the worst I’ve ever experienced. The Berlin Wall is still there – but it’s digital now.

Beauty in odd places

I stopped along the autobahn to send some emails. This looked like a quiet place, so I pulled in. It turned out to be a slaughterhouse. But wow, look at how beautiful that 911 looks. True beauty is timeless.

Panamera Precursor?

Behold the forebear of today’s Porsche Panamera (maybe.) I spotted this in the museum area of Porsche’s delivery centre in Leipzig. It’s the 928S Viersitzer (“four seater“). Built by Porsche employees in 1984 as a gift for CEO Dr. Ferry Porsche, the Viersitzer was based on the late and unlamented 928. The Viersitzer reminds me of a stretched AMC Pacer.

Spotting New Species

For a car buff, going to Europe is like taking a trip to the bottom of Marianas Trench in a deep-sea submersible – you see entirely new species. I spotted this VW Life Caddy minivan in an old East German village outside Leipzig.

Life Caddy

The tail end of the Life Caddy. Until I saw the badging, I had no idea what it was. Like I said, this is a trip to the Marianas Trench of cars.

Fiat Punto

Another Europe-only car model – the Fiat Punto. I saw this one in a little village near Leipzig that was once part of communist East Germany. (This may or may not explain the styling add-ons.)

Beam Me Up (Please)

Until this week, I’d never seen the Porsche delivery centre in Leipzig. It looks like it descended from another planet. I parked the new Porsche Macan in front for perspective. Beam me up, Dr. Porsche.

Art Everywhere

In Europe, the streets are art. This is Leipzig, not far from the church where Bach is entombed.

Porsche Museum

I spotted this Porsche Carrera GT chassis at the Porsche museum in Leipzig. Built in 2003, the Carrera GT was a work of art, but it was also a highly unforgiving car, with 612 horsepower, a 330 km/h top speed, and no stability control system. Actor Paul Walker, who starred in The Fast and the Furious film franchise, died in one last year.

Carrera GT

Few cars are as beautiful beneath the skin as the Carrera GT. The flowing, carbon-fibre chassis gives the GT the look of a high-tech insect, and the milled suspension pieces are masterpieces of the machining arts.

Porsche 956 C

Another treasure from the Leipzig museum, this Porsche 956 C racecar is one of the fastest and most brutal track tools ever made. Built in the early 1980s, the 956 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans seven times. The driver’s feet stuck out past the front wheels, making crashes particularly unappealing.

Porsche 956 C

Drivers Derek Bell and Hans Stuck made history with the 956. Comfort was not a design priority.

King of Cool

This was my favourite item in the Porsche gift shop at Leipzig. More than 33 years after his death, Steve McQueen remains the King of Cool. As one writer noted: “even when relaxed, he was steely and poised.” Great shirt, anyway.

Dr. Ferry Porsche

As I headed to the racetrack to test drive the new Macan SUV, I noticed this 1950s picture of Dr. Ferry Porsche standing in a workshop filled with 356-series Porsches.

Station Wagons

Living in North America, it’s easy to think that the station wagon is dead and buried. But in Europe, the wagon is one of the most popular vehicles on the road. In the past few days, I’ve seen hundreds.

Sensible Choice

On the autobahn, it seems like every second car is a wagon. They make a lot of sense here in Europe.

More Wagons

These ones were lined up outside the hotel in Leipzig.

Dacia Duster

Here’s another car you’ll never see in North America: the Dacia Duster. I spotted this one outside a defunct nightclub north of Stuttgart, and had to check the badges to figure out what it was. When it comes to cars, North America and Europe are very different worlds.

Autobahn Pitstop

Another innovation I’ve never seen in North America – a coin-operated turnstile outside the bathroom of a roadside service stop along the autobahn.

Mister Lady?

As I exited the autobahn for fuel on my to Stuttgart, I noticed this store near the off-ramp. The name may sound better to non-English speakers. (I didn’t go in to see what they were selling.)

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