My Car Quest

August 12, 2020

The One And Only Porsche 901 Prototype

The oldest Porsche 911…

by Mike Gulett –

The only surviving Porsche 901 prototype (chassis number 13327) won the Porsche 911 street car class at Amelia Island in 2013 and best in class at Pebble Beach in the Porsche 911 Road Car class and the award for “Most Historically Significant Automobile” at Pebble Beach the same year.

Porsche 901 Prototype

Don and Diane Meluzio get the 901 Prototype ready for judging at Pebble Beach – 2013

It is no surprise to me that this very special Porsche 901 (911) won all of these awards. This is after all the oldest Porsche “911” in existence and it has been perfectly restored by Don Meluzio, the owner, who found this car when no one knew that it existed and he brought it back to glorious life. All Porsche lovers should be grateful.

Below is my photo comparison of the 901 Prototype and my former 1996 911, followed by a history summary written by Don Meluzio and Porsche and finally a Historic Vehicle Association This Car Matters Video featuring Don Meluzio telling us about the 901 Prototype.

Comparing some features of the 901 Prototype to the 1996 911

The photos below compare the red Porsche 901 Prototype to my former silver 1996 Porsche Carrera 911, the last air-cooled engine 911 model.

Porsche 901 Prototype

Porsche 901 Prototype

The shape did not change much.

1996 Porsche 911

1996 Porsche 911

As a prototype, this car exhibits interesting detail differences from the production 901 and 911. Its manual sunroof slides forward to open, in contrast to the electrically-operated, rearward-opening roof that went into production.

Porsche 901 Prototype

Porsche 901 Prototype Sunroof

1996 Porsche 911

1996 Porsche 911 Sunroof

Instruments are housed in two pods, rather than the large central tachometer and four flanking gauges, which have always been a trademark of the production Porsche 911.

Porsche 901 Prototype

Porsche 901 Prototype Instruments

1996 Porsche 911

1996 Porsche 911 Instruments

On the prototype, hot air was ducted to the side window sills to keep the glass free of condensation; early 911s were not so equipped.

Porsche 901 Prototype

Porsche 901 Prototype Side Window Air Vent

1996 Porsche 911 - No Side Window Air Vent

1996 Porsche 911 – No Side Window Air Vent

The front lid is counterbalanced by torsion bar springs, and the engine cover is held open by coil springs; the production version would adopt gas struts to hold the lids open.

1996 Porsche 911

1996 Porsche 911 Engine Compartment

The gas cap lid is round on the prototype and oval shaped on the production 911.

Porsche 901 Prototype

Porsche 901 Prototype Gas Cap Lid

1996 Porsche 911

1996 Porsche 911 Gas Cap Lid

The following information was supplied by Porsche and Don Meluzio

In the early 1960s, Porsche prepared to introduce a new model that would eventually replace its venerable 356. Over the years, several early design and engineering studies were built, based in part on 356 principles.

Porsche 901 Prototype

Porsche 901 Prototype

As production of the new model approached, Porsche reserved ten consecutive “replacement chassis” numbers for pre-production cars. Factory records show that only four numbers were actually assigned to bodies. Of the four cars built, only one is still known to exist – chassis number 13327, the vintage Porsche on display at the New York International Automobile Show.

Porsche 901 Prototype

Porsche 901 Prototype

As a prototype, this car exhibits noteworthy detail differences from the later production versions. Its manual sunroof slides forward to open, in contrast to the electrically-operated, rearward-opening roof that went into production.

Porsche 901 Prototype

Porsche 901 Prototype

Instruments are housed in two pods, rather than the large central tachometer and four flanking gauges, which have always been a trademark of the production Porsche 911.

Porsche 901 Prptptype

Porsche 901 Prptptype

On the prototype, hot air was ducted to the side window· sills to keep the glass free of condensation; early 911s were not so equipped.

Porsche 901 Prototype

The front lid is counterbalanced by torsion bar springs, and the engine cover is held open by coil springs; the production version would adopt gas struts to hold the lids open.

Many components of Porsche #13327 are immediately recognizable to 356 owners. A passenger assist handle from the 356 C model is attached to the right A-pillar. The steering wheel and horn ring were also taken directly from the late 356 models. Its braking system, too, is taken over nearly unchanged from the last of the 356 line, the 356 C.

Porsche 901 Prototype

Porsche has always prided itself on cars that are “made by hand”, but nowhere is this more evident than on this prototype 911. The fuel tank is built up using more than 20 hand-formed steel panels, welded together to form a single fuel cell.

The door sills and seat rails are also hand-made, with abandoned seat mounting holes and file marks in evidence. The car was obviously the object of extensive experimentation. Over time, several different, mutually exclusive heating and ventilation systems, including a gasoline heater, were installed; experiments finished, the abandoned openings were sealed by small aluminum plates.

Porsche 901 Prototype

In the exotic world of hand-crafted, custom-bodied automobiles, it is not unusual for two cars to have apparently identical but subtly different bodies or even to exhibit dimensional differences from side to side. The first 911 shows some of these traits, indicating that it was built to a tight schedule, possibly for one of the major European auto shows of early 1964. Some trim items vary dimensionally from side to side, and the backs of the gauges bear a September 1963 date stamp.

The new Porsche Type 901, as the car was called, was introduced to the automotive world on September 12, 1963, at the Frankfurt International Automobile Show. Series production lay a full year in the future.

At the time of its introduction, the Porsche 901 offered the next step up in performance and top speed from Porsche’s top model of the time, the 356-based Carrera 2000 GS. Production Porsche 901s began to come off the Zuffenhausen assembly line in September 1964, along with the last of the 356 models, which would remain in production until the end of April 1965.

In October 1964, just a month after the start of production, the designation of the new six-cylinder Porsche was changed to 911, to avoid a possible conflict with Peugeot, which had always had a zero in the middle of its model designations.

Although many parts of Porsche #13327 were still of a cut-and-try nature, it was powered by Porsche’s then-new six-cylinder boxer engine, essentially in the form in which it would reach production. Many of this powerplant’s characteristic design features are still with us today in the engines of the Porsche 911 Carrera 2, 911 Carrera 4, 911 Turbo, and their derivative special models.

With bore and stroke of 80x.66 mm, the early 911 engine displaced only 1991 cc (121.5 cubic inches), developed 128 horsepower at 620.0 rpm and 119 Ibs.-ft. of torque at 460.0 rpm.

Porsche #13327 sits on a wheelbase of 86.8in. (220.4mm); in the late 1960s, Porsche increased the wheelbase to 89.4 in. (2272 mm). Front and rear track are 52.4 in. (1332 mm) and 51.7 in. (1312 mm) respectively. Overall length is 162.8 in. (4135 mm ); at 168.3 in. (4275 mm ), today’s cars are nearly 6 inches longer. At the time of its introduction, the 911 was about 5 inches longer than the 356.

Porsche 901 Prototype

With 128 horsepower available from two liters, the 911’s power output matched that of the exotic four-cam Type 356 Carrera 2, without the latter’s mechanical complexity. In top speed, too, the 356 Carrera and the new 911 were equals, with a maximum speed of 130 mph. In acceleration, the new Porsche achieved a zero to 60 mph time of less than 9 seconds and a quarter mile time of 16.4 seconds, again similar to the last of the 356 Carreras. In the early 1960s, such performance qualified the 911 as a supercar.

After service as a prototype and show car, Porsche #13327 was eventually used on the road by the late Richard von Frankenberg. Von Frankenberg had been with the Porsche car company since 1950, when production of the Porsche 356 relocated from Gmund in Austria to the more favorable conditions of Stuttgart. Over the years, he served as factory race driver, chalking up wins at Le Mans, the Mille Miglia, the Nurburgring, and countless other motor sports events. In 1952, with graphic designer Erich Strenger, he founded Porsche’s house magazine, Christophorus, and was working as its editor at the time of his death in 1973.

The Porsche 901 Prototype Owner Don Meluzio – The Video (2:37)

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Porsche 901 Prototype

Porsche 901 Prototype

Ron Spindler stops by for a chat with his old friend Don Meluzio at Pebble Beach – 2013

Porsche 901 Prototype Logo

Porsche 901 Prototype Logo

1996 Porsche 911 Logo

1996 Porsche 911 Logo

All photos by Mike Gulett.

Summary
The One And Only Porsche 901 Prototype
Article Name
The One And Only Porsche 901 Prototype
Description
The Porsche 901 Prototype is the oldest Porsche 911 in existence and has been perfectly restored by Don Meluzio who found it when no one knew that it existed and brought it back to glorious life.
Author

Comments

  1. Lee Jester says

    I attended the Frankfurt Auto Show and remember the new 911 very well.

  2. Congratulations Don, it is a wonderful car!

  3. Don Meluzio says

    Thank you Mike for a wonderful article. I love your pictures and the comparison to your 911. I remember the day well. What a thrill and it’s hard to imagine that it is over 6 years already. I will see you again this year at Pebble Beach when we celebrate the Iso Rivolta Class with Piero Rivolta. Don

  4. This car is awesome. And a real part of Porsche history.
    Special congrats to Don Meluzio who made this possible.

  5. Don meluzio says

    Thank you Voiture collection. I sure love my 901

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