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Porsche museum opens in Stuttgart

2009-01-30 14:36
Stuttgart, Germany - Porsche's new museum is a sprawling monument to 60 years of German engineering, with its exhibits displayed in surroundings worthy of the masterpieces it considers them to be.

Engines, interactive displays, Porsche memorabilia and 80 cars, including prototypes and icons like the 911, all polished to a mirror-sheen, are parked on two floors of pristine, white galleries. The museum opens to the public on Saturday.

The collection includes a 550 Spyder - the model James Dean was driving when he died in a collision with a Studebaker in 1955.

Other models, like the 917 type that Hollywood star Steve McQueen made famous in "Le Mans" and the 928 version Tom Cruise's character in "Risky Business" used to elude trouble, are parked bumper-to-bumper under dazzling spotlights.

Three dramatic concrete pillars support the museum building, designed by the Viennese architecture firm Delugan Meissl, which seems to float above its industrial surroundings.

A handcrafted aluminum recreation of the very first Porsche, a Type 64 'VW Aerocoupe,' shines in the center of the first floor.

On the top floor five generations of 911 turbos rotate together, showing off the slight differences in their styling.

Other cars stand out for their oddity, such as the 1957 "Jagdwagen" or hunting car, an amphibious vehicle ready for road and pond, whose unique design brought back memories for invited guests at this week's official opening of the museum.

"Oh, would you look at that," exclaimed a white-haired visitor to an elderly friend, as he came around the corner face-to-face with the Jagdwagen. "That thing was the best in the Black Forest and in the lake. But it was so expensive."

Visitors can get up-close-and-personal with the vehicles, with no barriers keeping them at a distance.

Another favourite is the 917/20 race car nicknamed the "Pink Pig." The extra-wide car was painted pink and labelled with the names of different cuts of meat after a designer complained about its shape.

Prototypes on display include a 928 model almost long enough for four doors, a 1989 "Panamericana" with odd curves, and the darling of the museum staff: the 1992 Boxster prototype that won Best in Show at the 1993 Detroit Motor Show.

"I love it. It's my favorite," said museum guide Liron Koll. "It's so much more beautiful than the production model."

Porsche owns more than 400 classic race and sports cars.

Many of those in display still race in events around the world and almost every car in the museum is road ready, leaving the building perfumed with the smell of fresh grease and motor oil.

When models are taken out of the museum on the road, Porsche plans to rotate in others to take their place.

Behind a glass wall opposite the main entrance, visitors can watch mechanics working on the museum's collection.

Porsche hopes to lure 200 000 visitors a year to the museum, competition for the rival Mercedes museum, located a half-hour away in Untertuerkheim, a Stuttgart suburb.

The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 6pm Admission is 8 ($10.50) for adults. Children under 14 enter for free when accompanied by an adult.

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