Porsche has gotten into the habit of blowing our tiny minds, of late. Most recently, it was the new 718 Boxster and Cayman GTS twins fitted with monster 4.0-litre motors just when the rest of the industry is downsizing like its collective future depends on it. Which it surely does.
Then there’s the whole manual gearbox saga. First Porsche ditched it on the 911 GT3, declaring the PDK-S box to actually be more involving than a manual shift. Next it not only reintroduced manual on the ultra-rare 911 R and then the facelifted 911 GT3. Porsche also released a series of sports cars exclusively available with manual transmissions in the 981 GT4 and Spyder and the 911 Speedster.
That context has us taking the superficially casual musings of Porsche’s design chief, Michael Mauer, fairly seriously. A puristic, simple sports car is largely at odds with the direction of the industry at large, especially if powered by a combustion engine. But Porsche has done nothing of late if not prove it has a unique ability among the major car brands to buck certain trends.
Competitors like McLaren, Ferrari and Lamborghini haven’t offered a manual gearbox between them for years, for instance. Their customers simply don’t want them. But some – just enough – of Porsche’s do.
So, what would have seemed a total non-starter a few years ago, as Porsche pushed ever more upmarket and its cars became ever techier, now sounds relatively plausible. It’s not hard to imagine a simple sports car based on the existing Type-982 platform that underpins the 718. Think 718, but lighter, simpler. Maybe if they can make it light enough, a version with a naturally aspirated flat-four would be a goer.
Normally you’d assume the numbers wouldn’t add up in terms of profitability, not by Porsche’s latterly lofty standards at least. Which is presumably why it hasn’t been tried since the 914 was removed from sale back in 1976. But maybe the use of an ‘old’ platform is just the thing to turn a cheap Porsche sports car into a money spinner. Stranger things have happened. At Porsche, they seem to happen all the time.