By   January 6, 2017

Porsche and Ferrari

Porsche and Ferrari

Porsche and Ferrari are rivals, but how did it get to be that way? Most models are marketed to different segments, but from a performance stand point they are extremely comparable. We have made this documentary style video that covers the history of the two makes and just how they became rivals.


Porsche and Ferrari are two of the most iconic brands in the world. They build some of the best performance cars money can buy and both have had much success on the race track. However, how they have gone about doing this is quite different. One highlights German engineering and the other Italian art.

It is this that separates the two marquees. As a result Porsche tends to make vehicles that can be driven on a daily basis where Ferraris have more of a sense of occasion. This also means that it is common to find used Porsches with over 100,000 miles on the odometer where Ferraris rarely hit that mark before a major engine overhaul, if ever.

Porsche had humble beginnings with ties to the Volkswagen Type 1 (more commonly known as the Bug) which was designed by Ferdinand Porsche himself. The early Porsche 356s started with many parts from VW, but over time evolved into something much different.

In the science world Evolution may be a theory, but it is a proven fact with Porsche. There is a DNA in their vehicles that shows itself in their designs. If you place a first generation car from Porsche next to the latest generation, you can tell that they are the same model.

The very first car from the German performance car maker was a mid-engined sports car, but the rest of the 356s had their engines in the back. This became a tradition for most Porsche road cars and until the mid-70’s only mid-engine and rear-engine layouts where used.

Until the Porsche 924 went into production in 1976 all of their cars were cooled by God’s good air. This along with an Audi sourced engine sitting in front of the 924 made it a sacrilege to purists. For them all this got worse in 1977 when a V8 powered front-engined water-cooled GT car took the top spot in the model lineup. The 928 was the best GT car ever made, but it didn’t have the racing pedigree of the 911. At the time most Porschephiles thought that the rear engined, air-cooled car was the only true Porsche in the lineup.

The 911 is the car that the marquee is best known for. After all the sports car has been around for over 50 years now and is known for good performance in the street legal versions as well as successful racing machines.

While Porsche in the 911 took a layout that is daft for neutral handling and used engineering wizardry to make it a superb car in the corners. Ferrari took a more traditional route in layout.

Enzo Ferrari had started Scuderia Ferrari back in 1929 working with Alfa Romeo racing. In 1938 Alfa brought its racing team back in house and hired Mr. Ferrari as manager of racing development thus disbanding Scuderia Ferrari.

In September of 1939 Enzo left Alfa Romeo and in 1940 he built a race car with his new company based on a Fiat platform. Due to World War II the first car wearing a Ferrari badge was not built until 1947. The result of that was the 125 S which featured a 1.5-liter V12 sitting in front. Enzo Ferrari reluctantly sold his cars to fund his racing endeavors. The Scuderia Ferrari name was resurrected to denote the works racing cars versus customer competition machines.

In 1960 the company was restructured as a public corporation which led to Fiat eventually buying a 50% stake in Ferrari in 1969. The investment of Fiat resulted in more available funds and led to increased production capacity. The Fiat Dino came out of this business deal as did many other important machines.

From the start Ferrari road cars had been synonymous with the V12 engine. Cars like the 365 Daytona, Berlinetta Boxer and Testarossa became the company’s trademark. While there is a special place in the heart of Ferrari enthusiasts for the V12, the V8 has proved its worth in the Ferrari lineup.

The Ferrari Dino was originally just marketed as a Dino. It was to be a less expensive sports car from the Italian automaker with performance and a price to take on the Porsche 911. The Dino name was to honor Enzo’s son who had passed away at just 24 years old. Unlike other Ferrari’s sitting in the middle of the Dino was a V6 engine that first appeared in the Fiat Dino. The design for the engine was credited to Alfred “Dino” Ferrari, being created before his passing.

While the Dino only had 6-cylinders it opened the door for the 308 GTB / GTS with a V8 sitting in the middle. The 308 is an iconic car that was made famous by the TV show, Magnum PI. For many the zenith of the mid-engined V8 Ferrari is the F40. The turbocharged machine was able to reach the magical 200 mph mark in the late ’80s giving it a higher top speed than its rival, the Porsche 959. The F40 is considered by many to be the last great analog supercar.

Some great mid-engined V8’s came later such as the 458 Italia and 488 GTB. Even with recent great V8 powered cars, Ferrari has not lost its V12 touch. Machines like the f12 Berlinetta and LaFerrari have kept the legend alive.

Both Ferrari and Porsche have produced some of the best road cars ever built. Both badges are status symbols, although in most cases a Ferrari is a sign of a higher income status as the most expensive 911s cost about the same as the lowest priced Ferraris.

While they may not be going after the exact same market, their performance is often comparable. However, it is in motorsports that the comparison of the two brands stems from. Ferrari and Porsche have had many great battles over the years, most recently in GT racing. However, their status as racing rivals grew out of the 70’s when the two competed at the top level at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

This is where the battle for a Le Mans title between the Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512 became the stuff of legend. Ferrari had already had plenty of success winning at Le Mans, but Porsche had not yet managed an overall victory. Ferrari was the king but had lost to the Ford GT40 the past few years and was determined to climb back to the top of the endurance racing mountain.

In 1969 the Porsche 917 was unreliable and exited the race early. The Ford GT40 took the victory, although just seconds over the remaining Porsche 908. For 1970 all the kinks were worked out and it setup a huge battle with Ferraris new 512. The race proved difficult for Ferrari with most of their works vehicles out in one incident. But hope was not all lost for Ferrari as two 512s managed to stay in contention for the lead. The non-factory entered Porsche 917s also had a difficult time and were out of the race by the 12th hour. Two factory 917s remained and were able to hold on for a 1-2 finish. A Porsche 908 finished third overall with the Ferrari 512s finishing fourth and fifth. The victory cemented Porsche and Ferrari as rivals and also was the first of Porsche’s 18 victories at the legendary race.

Ferrari would eventually leave the top level of competition in the 24 Hours of Le Mans to focus on Formula 1. Porsche stayed at the top level of endurance racing before leaving with only GT class racing endeavors remaining. That was until 2014 when they made their return to the top level of competition at Le Mans. Their 24 Hours of Le Mans racing return in the 919 Hybrid did not yield an overall victory with Audi taking the top spot. However, Porsche did get back to the highest level of endurance racing with overall victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in both 2015 and 2016.

With Ferrari focusing on F1 they have brought technology developed in the open-wheeled racing series to their road cars. This has resulted in cars like the f12 Berlinneta with its Formula One inspired aerodynamics and the LaFerrari with its KERS hybrid system.

Philosophies are much different between the two brands. Where Porsche is known mainly for rear and mid-engined sports cars (with the exception of the front engined cars of the late 70’s – 90’s), Ferrari has gone with more traditional front and mid-engined performance vehicles. Over the years Porsche has also expanded the brand to other market segments with the Cayenne and Macan SUVs as well as the Panamera performance sedan.

Where Porsche has become an option for those that would like a luxury performance vehicle that can also haul the family, Ferrari has made it clear that it will not be making a four door vehicle anytime soon. They have especially laughed at the idea of an SUV wearing the prancing horse. For those wanting an Italian four door high performance car you need to look to other makes such as Maserati and soon Lamborghini.

Philosophical differences were very much on display when the two companies built hybrids. Where Porsche is looking into full electric vehicles and currently has hybrids for the Cayenne and Panamera road cars, Ferrari only offers one hybrid vehicle, and that isn’t for saving the planet. Porsche is engineering high performance, fun to drive machines that can meet more strict fuel economy and emissions standards.

Thus when Porsche released a hybrid supercar it was capable of driving on all-electric power as well as in a fuel saving hybrid mode. The Porsche 918 Spyder was the first hybrid supercar shown in concept car form and it would help revolutionize the way we think of a hybrid. Up until the 918 Spyder most thought of a hybrid as a slow and boring car like the Toyota Prius. But the 918 showed that you could have much more fun in a fuel efficient car while not suffering from less performance, in-fact the hybrid system could provide additional power.

Using technology that was first tested on the race track, the Porsche 918 could offer up to 887 horsepower when the fire breathing mid-mounted V8 worked together with the electronic motors. Add this to its lightweight construction, all-wheel drive system and four-wheel steering and you have a very fast car. How fast? It is the fastest production car to ever go around the famed Nurburgring with a lap time of just 6:57.

In response to the 918 Spyder, Ferrari released a car that is about as Italian as you can get. Just like the battle between the 959 and F40, the 918 Spyder is a technical showcase of the car of the future but the LaFerrari is a car that makes the best car of today’s technology. It may have a hybrid system, but one that is more like those used in Formula One. As a result the V12 used to power the machine never stops being tapped, it is only given added boost by the hybrid system. There is no way to drive on electric only power, the LaFerrari is one that is built for a single purpose. It was made to provide ecstasy to its owner.

The LaFerrari, at least on paper, is the far better car. It offers 949 horsepower in an uncompromising package. Even the seat is tailor fit to its driver removing the need for seat adjustments and lowering the ride height and thus the center of gravity. It is automotive nirvana. While it may never save the planet it is a work of art and should be appreciated as such.

The Porsche 918 Spyder and Ferrari LaFerrari pretty much sum up both marquees. The Ferrari is a work of art with only one purpose, to take its driver to the highest levels of performance. It originally cost about half a million dollars more and is made for a spirited weekend drive as well as a status symbol.

The 918 on the other hand, while still having a price tag close to $1 million dollars costs well less than the LaFerrari. It is down on power, but has beaten the LaFerrari in many head to head track tests. While most won’t use a 918 Spyder as a daily driver, you could.

Porsche may be the more attainable brand, but it is no less potent. Ferrari and Porsche both make some of the best machines on the road. It is a rivalry formed on the race track that has carried over to the streets and one that will continue for many years to come.

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