These Are the Coolest Cars You Can Find at the World's Largest Porsche Exhibition

The Petersen Automotive Museum is celebrating Porsche's 75th anniversary by showcasing over 40 of the automaker's most famous vehicles. From iconic models that made history to fan favorites that graced the silver screen, here are some of the coolest cars visitors can see at the world's biggest Porsche exhibit.
Original Porsche 356 No'1 Roadster 11 photos
Photo: Porsche
1962 Porsche Type 804 on race trackPorsche 356 "No. 1" RoadsterPorsche 550 SpyderPorsche 550 SpyderPorsche 911 "Sally Special"1962 Porsche Type 8041962 Porsche Type 804Porsche "Sally Carrera"Porsche "Sally Carrera"Porsche 356 "No. 1" Roadster
It's been 75 years since the very first Porsche rolled out the factory, leading to the birth of a brand that's synonymous with both racing and style. Earlier this year, the Austrian automaker debuted its Vision 357 concept to pay homage to the first Porsche ever made. The very first model that kick-started it all – the 356 “No. 1” Roadster – is an interesting historical piece in its own right. It was a modified Volkswagen, sporting a tuned VW four-cylinder flat engine.

Despite generating a meager 35 horsepower, it could still push the vehicle up to 83 mph (135 km/h) – much faster than other Volkswagens of its era. Since then, the company has produced a myriad of vehicles that are just as reputable, models that have etched their nameplates into history books. Departing from its Volkswagen roots led to even more powerful models with captivating designs to help them stand out. Although this blend of power and beauty eventually made Porsches so desirable today, it wasn't until importer Max Hoffman brought them over to nearby American shores that the marque's popularity truly blossomed.

By the end of the Porsche 356's production, the company owed 75% of its total sales to the U.S. Decades after the original model's conception, the most significant Porsches have now gathered on American soil in an exhibit described as a “once-in-a-lifetime collection of vehicles.” Some of the cars on display come with storied motorsport accomplishments, while others are unique, one-off examples. One thing's certain, though - there's more to them than meets the eye.

Porsches that wrote their names in history books

Porsche 550 Spyder
Photo: Porsche
The 550 Spyder is arguably one of the most popular Porsches of its time. Known by many as the last car actor James Dean drove prior to his tragic passing, this stylish roadster saw its share of fame and notoriety throughout the years. However, the PAM exhibit won't be displaying Dean's 1955 “little bastard” 550 Spyder – the supposedly cursed vehicle that's been MIA for years – but rather, it's going to be another icon that's just as reputable. We're talking about an older 1953 550 Spyder used by notable pro drivers. One of which was Ken Miles, who was immortalized in modern cinema courtesy of the film “Ford v Ferrari.”

Another driver was Betty Shutes, one of the “Spyder women” – a renowned, if not the only, all-female racing group in the '50s. Speaking of competing Porsches, another noteworthy model to appear is decorated racer Dan Gurney's 1962 Porsche 804. Aside from being Porsche's only Formula 1 racecar, it also gave the company its sole victories in the sport. Only two Formula 1 Porsche 804s exist, making this a model that's both rare as well as a cherished motorsport symbol.

1962 Porsche Type 804 on race track
Photo: Porsche
Although Porsches tend to be loved by fans from all over the world, this exhibit will feature a vehicle that also happens to be quite polarizing: Dean Jeffries' customized 1957 356 Carrera. It was responsible for starting the “Outlaw Porsche” movement that urged other owners to customize their Porsches – an act many purists deemed irreverent to the brand. Compared to a regular 356 Carrera, Jeffries' custom Porsche featured several unique touches, including longer front quarter panels, more pronounced hood curves and recessed headlights, among others.

What makes this particular custom coupe even more intriguing is that it was at one point reportedly owned by an actual outlaw, making it infamous among enthusiasts as well as auto historians. Many Outlaw Porsches today owe their existence to the original vehicle that sparked both inspiration and controversy among the community. Its presence on the exhibit floor might just exude a similar effect.

Porches that embraced the limelight

Porsche 911 "Sally Special"
Photo: Porsche
Hollywood certainly had a strong affinity towards Porsches, from their various dramatic depiction in films to the plethora of celebrities that drive them. One such example is actor and Porsche lover Steve McQueen, whose beloved 1976 911 Turbo will also be displayed. McQueen's Turbo Carrera fetched the generous sum of almost $2 million when sold at auction in 2015. Fans who missed out on this celebrated Porsche now have a chance to witness this Carrera and its distinct slate gray paintjob first-hand - perhaps even take home a sliver of the actor's signature coolness.

The next featured Hollywood icon comes in the form of a fictional character affiliated with a totally different McQueen: the posh 911 known as Sally Carrera. One of the leading stars of Disney-Pixar's animated film Cars, Sally transitioned from CGI to reality when the automaker built a full-scale model to grace its museum in Stuttgart, Germany.

Porsche "Sally Carrera"
Photo: Porsche

Despite looking silly, Porsche claims Sally is a functional 1998 911 that's actually driveable. In 2022, the automaker made a different one-off road-going example based on the character dubbed the 911 Sally Special, which was auctioned for charity. Visitors now have a chance to meet the only official Sally Porsche in person by stopping by PAM's exhibition in October.

Then there's the Top Gun: Maverick Porsche that outdid the car from the original film. Driven onscreen by actress Jennifer Connelly, this car was a non-replica 1973 Porsche 911 S estimated to be worth over $1 million. The definitive Top Gun Porsche will be joining 40 other equally important examples in what seems to be the most eclectic collection of Porsches ever showcased. Those hoping to catch a glimpse of the automaker's most legendary rides can book a visit to PAM's “We Are Porsche” exhibit, which kicks off April 16.
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About the author: Kyle Encina
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Kyle still remembers the times when people read magazines, after all that's what sparked his passion for cars and tech. In 2016, he's turned that passion into a journalism career fueled by a unique view afforded by his mix of philosophy and business degrees.
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