In 1948, the Porsche 356 was road-certified, launching one of the most popular and resilient automobile brands the world over. Seventy-five years later, brand loyalty remains very strong and Porsche owner affiliations — such as the First Coast’s own Porsche Club of America, Florida Crown Region — continue to attract members from successive generations of enthusiasts.
This year’s Ponte Vedra Auto Show will include a special focus on this ever-popular brand.
The 356 model was designed by Ferry Porsche who had complained that he couldn’t find an automobile he wanted to purchase. It was produced first by an Austrian company founded by Porsche and his sister, Louise Piech, and later by a German company founded by their father that had previously produced the first Volkswagen Beetles.
The original price of a 356 coupe was $3,750, and the cabriolet was $4,250. In today’s dollars, those prices would be $47,892 and $54,278, respectively.
As new models were produced, the Porsche name quickly became associated with automobile racing following wins in the 1950s and 1960s.
The late Hans Mandt, a 30-year member of the local club, actually served as the chief racing mechanic for several championship Porsche teams in the International Motorsports Association series. Porsches under his care won the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1977, the 24 Hours of LeMans, 12 Hours of Sebring and the Targa Florio in Italy.
As a result of his father’s career, son Hans Mandt grew up around Porsches and always had one himself. He went on to crew for Porsche teams for several years.
Today, Mandt serves as the dealer liaison for the local club, which has approximately 1,000 members, though not all active. In this role, he acts as the single point of contact for the club with outside organizations, such as the local dealer. It’s an important position, as the club is very active. It helped out with the dealer’s 75th anniversary of Porsche event last summer, holds a car show and swap meet at the dealership most years, conducts a car show at The Brumos Collection, participates in the Porsche Corral at the 24 Hours of Daytona, has a monthly social gathering and more.
For years, the Porsche Club took part in the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. In fact, Mandt got involved in the very first one in April 1996 at the request of the event’s founder, Bill Warner.
Though the club is no longer affiliated with The Amelia, it does hold its Porsche Club of America’s Werks Reunion Amelia Island on the Friday before the event. That draws more than 300 Porsches.
“It’s an event worth seeing!” said Mandt. “It’s been a phenomenal event for many years. A lot of famous Porsche drivers come to that.”
Porsche’s popularity continues unabated these many decades since its introduction. Part of the reason may be its stylistic integrity.
“The Porsche 911 — it’s gone through many generations, but it still looks like a Porsche 911,” Mandt said. Introduced in 1963 at the Frankfurt International Motor Show, today’s 911 “still has those same lines,” said Mandt.
“People are just loyal to the brand,” he added. “Even those that now buy the Cayenne and the Panameras and such.”
In fact, even among the model cars that hobbyists prefer, Porsches remain the top-seller.
And living on the First Coast is a benefit to devotees of the brand. Mandt called The Brumos Collection of Jacksonville “one of the best Porsche museums in America,” though it features other automobiles as well.
Mandt has been affiliated with, and even been a judge at, the Ponte Vedra Auto Show over the years.
“The field is incredible,” he said. “And it’s a family-friendly event. If you want to go to a car show, this is one to go to.”
This year, the club will sponsor two awards: Best Early Porsche Pre-1969 and PCA Florida Crown Region Judges’ Choice.