911 road trip: Willem Verbeeck tours the Porsche Museum and factory
The acclaimed film photographer on his Porsche experience of a lifetime
Technicians work on Porsche 718 W-RS Spyder at Porsche Museum
Join the photographer as he gets up close and personal with cars classic and new before heading out on a memorable 911 road trip
“My earliest car memory was a neighbour in Belgium who had a bright blue sports car. I was in love with its rear wing,” says Willem Verbeeck. The photographer, who was born in Belgium but moved to the USA as a child, started out as a videographer in high school. But after a trip to Japan, where he bought his first film camera, he made the switch to photography. His engaging approach to portrait and landscape photography has caught the attention of many – with cars often making frequent guest appearances.
Porsche Taycan on assembly line in car manufacturing plant
A line of built Taycan cars on the way to their final inspection at the Porsche factory in Stuttgart. Willem says that he could easily spend several weeks photographing every aspect of the process
Willem says his fascination with Porsche began, aged 12, when a neighbour bought a 991 GTS. “He took me for a drive and it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced,” says Willem. “The sound of the engine and the way the acceleration pushed me flat into the seat was exciting. As a kid, it obviously made a huge impression.” Fast forward over a decade and Willem is standing in the Porsche factory in Stuttgart, ready to capture Porsche cars in the making, following a tour of the cars and workshop at the Porsche Museum as well as the Porsche Penske Motorsport HQ and Porsche Archives. That same, familiar thrill he experienced with the passenger ride in the neighbour’s 911, he says, had returned. All the images you see here were captured by Willem using his trusty Mamiya 7 – a film, or analogue, rather than digital camera.
Porsche assembly line in modern automotive manufacturing plant
Seeing Porsche cars being made was a unique experience for landscape and portrait photographer Willem – and his first time professionally photographing cars
What was it like to tour the Porsche Museum and factory in Stuttgart?“Visiting Stuttgart was an absolute dream for me. To be immersed in all these incredible experiences felt surreal, and I managed to take so many photos. It was impressive to see the different cars on the assembly line and stacked on top of each other as the crew worked on their final details. We kicked off with a tour of the Porsche Museum workshop. Somewhere in there I even saw a classic Le Mans race car, getting stripped down, disassembled and then re-built for a race. It looked like something straight out of the future.“Everything was so efficient and beautifully constructed. Not a spot on the floor. At the factory there were robots and car parts being moved over my head. I imagine this is what I would have drawn in a cartoon 20 years ago, showing what the future looks like.”
Porsche racecars in racing livery in the Porsche Museum workshop
The Porsche Museum workshop is like walking into a candy shop says Willem. With so many models to photograph, he admits that it was a tough decision to find which ones to focus on
You got to see the factory where the Taycan is made as well – that’s a rare treat, isn’t it?“When I arrived, the Porsche staff asked me if there was anything specific I wanted to do. I think everyone was really surprised by my request to see the Porsche Taycan factory, as it was probably very unusual compared to what other visitors typically ask for, such as a racetrack experience. But for me, capturing the Taycan being built was the goal. When I got the green light, I was on cloud nine. The special access I was given to such an advanced facility made this opportunity so unique. And to be one of the first people to take non-corporate photos in there, to just walk in and do my thing… that was incredible.”
How did it feel to take photos of the cars in the Porsche factory?“I had to be especially picky as to what I wanted to photograph, since we were only allowed in the Taycan factory for a few hours. I had to really think about which details of the cars I wanted to capture. I stood there for probably an hour, just looking at all these little details on the car and really getting my camera in there and photographing them. And every time I did that, I kept looking back, kind of raising my eyebrows at everyone and asking, is this allowed? Am I allowed to get so close to these cars and be photographing them? It was insane. I am so grateful for that experience.”
Porsche 718 W-RS Spyder undergoing maintenance at Porsche Museum workshop
The goal of the Porsche Museum workshop is to always keep the cars that it looks after in working order to keep their spirit truly alive – like this 718 W-RS Spyder racecar
What was it like meeting the community of Porsche engineers and technicians at the Porsche Museum?“What really stood out to me was seeing the passion that everyone has for these cars. No matter who you talk to, there’s such a strong Porsche community around the brand. Experiencing that was almost as special as experiencing the cars themselves. Everyone was so eager to talk about Porsche and share their stories. Each person had such a different connection to the car and they talked about all the different ways they fell in love, their story of owning one or wanting to own one in the future. I think that part really stood out to me and was super cool to see.”Tell us about how you got to test drive a classic Porsche after the museum and factory tour was over?“Oh yes! I got to test drive a classic Porsche 911 Carrera 2 Cabriolet (type 964) fresh from one of the stands at the Porsche Museum. It was the first time I had driven a car like that. Seeing it roll out of the museum was just so special. What makes the Porsche Museum unique in my eyes is that most of the cars on display are kept in running condition. They believe that these cars should be taken out and experienced, not just stored under a dust curtain. I’m really grateful for the Porsche Museum’s willingness to let people actively engage with these classic cars and just drive them. I think that’s what really keeps these cars’ spirits alive.”
Porsche 911 Carrera 2 Cabriolet (type 964) on tree-lined road
After his tour of the Porsche Museum and factory, Willem got to test drive and take photos of this 911 Carrera 2 Cabriolet (type 964)
You then went on a road trip with a Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS Cabriolet (type 992). What was it like driving a new Porsche after your classic Porsche experience?“There’s nothing quite like a Porsche road trip. I knew that if I wanted to get the full Porsche experience, I would have to drive one – not just photograph it. So I went on a three-day, six-country road trip in a new Porsche 992 GTS, which was a completely different experience to the classic Porsche I had driven near the Porsche Museum. I covered about 1,000 miles, travelling from Stuttgart to Switzerland, through France and then back to my family’s hometown in Belgium. This was a very special trip for me. It was the first time I experienced this remarkable car in some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. Of course, a big part of the experience was photographing the trip, capturing the 992 GTS in many different landscapes.”
Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS Cabriolet (type 992) in mountains
Snaking through the imposing Swiss mountain passes, Willem found countless opportunities to photograph this Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS Cabriolet (type 992)
What was the highlight of your road trip with the Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS Cabriolet?“It was so satisfying to explore the countryside around Belgium, my childhood home. Growing up, we rarely travelled far within Europe, especially by car. But this road trip in the 992 GTS allowed me to see Belgium from a whole new perspective. You also get to see how the distances between countries in Europe, which as a child seemed so far apart, are actually comparable to the driving distances we are used to in the US. Seeing these places in such an exceptional car made this adventure even more special.”Do you have a favourite Porsche?“It’s almost impossible to answer this question. I think the enthusiast in me wants to say that I love the classic air-cooled 911 because they're so raw. But then a current 911 model? I just had such a special experience in that car on the trip to my hometown. It’s really hard to choose, but I think I’d go for the 911 Carrera 4 GTS Cabriolet. After the Porsche factory tour and this road trip, I’m seriously thinking about buying my first Porsche.”
Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS Cabriolet on dark, icy road
Rain or snow, there was no stopping Willem and the 911 on his European tour
What’s next for Willem Verbeeck? Are you planning to go deeper into car photography?“I’d love to photograph cars, especially Porsche cars, in an American landscape. I find that photography works best when you are familiar with a place and you really know its ins and outs – the quality of the light or how the landscape looks at a certain time of year. I think that’s when photography is at its most special. And also when the photographer is connected to the subject. I think for that reason, continuing my car photography journey in America would be my next step. Who knows? Maybe there will be another collaboration with Porsche one day!”
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