When Grant Larson first put pen to paper to draw the Porsche Boxster, he couldn’t have envisaged the profound impact it would have 25 years later. Here, he’s joined by Porsche designers past and present to laud a car that set the company on a glorious new adventure
Fortune favours the brave
If you were compiling a list of Porsche landmark moments, what would you choose? When Roadster #1, the first 356, rolled out of the sawmill in Gmünd, Austria back in 1948? When the first 911 was unleashed in 1964? Maybe the 917 KH roaring to a debut Porsche victory at Le Mans in 1970? Or the reveal of the Taycan all-electric concept at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show?
One you couldn’t ignore is the launch of a model that celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2021 – the Boxster. Recently, Grant Larson and Harm Lagaiij, two of the men central to the creation of its design, joined one of the new breed of Porsche designers – Fabian Schmölz – to reflect on their accomplishments. They also looked forward to the future of the car now known as the 718 Boxster – a future that now includes the release of a limited-edition anniversary model, the Boxster 25 Years.
The genesis of the Boxster, recalls Grant Larson, who still has a big influence on Porsche design as director of Special Projects, came in late 1991. That’s when the Porsche board green lighted a new, two-seater, mid-engine roadster, one that they hoped would gain them a foothold in a younger target market. The decision would prove to be a masterstroke. Grant was charged by Harm Lagaiij, director of design at Porsche from 1989 to 2004, with designing the concept, with a view to unveiling it at the 1993 Detroit Motor Show. “We had originally planned to present our concept car in Geneva in spring 1993,” says Grant. “But we decided on Detroit in January because we did not want to waste any time.”
“We had originally planned to present our concept car in Geneva in spring 1993,” says Grant. “But we decided on Detroit in January because we did not want to waste any time.”
A beautiful surprise
The early 1990s was a time of global recession. Porsche, with its high production costs and particular susceptibility to the ups and downs of the failing US economy, had more to fear than most. Looking back today, Harm Lagaiij recalls how the Boxster’s Detroit reveal was particularly low-key. “You only get so much space at a motor show,” he explains. “If you're not successful, you'll get the smallest amount of space – which was the case with this particular car. The journalists were actually expecting some statements about low sales again, but they had noticed, in the corner, that there was a car covered.”
Harm and his Porsche colleagues were expecting a grilling from the pack of automotive journalists – a notoriously hard-nosed group – but when they took the wraps off the Boxster the mood changed. “Here was a car which nobody had expected,” he recalls. “It came as such a surprise to many journalists, [who] couldn't believe that we were actually showing such a beautiful and innovative new sports car.”
A concept car is usually designed to blow people away, to whip up enthusiasm, but finished cars often end up watered down. Not the Boxster. The car unveiled to the press in Motor City had very few amendments made to it by the time it went on sale in 1996. Twenty-five years on, and into its fourth iteration as the 718 Boxster, it has sold more than 350,000 units worldwide.
A special birthday
The Boxster isn’t just one of the greatest cars ever made but, for Porsche, one of its most important. What do you do on special birthdays? Pull out all the stops to celebrate. Enter the Boxster 25 Years.
“In the case of the new Boxster 25 Years, going way back 25 years to the original show car, there are a lot of similarities,” says Grant of the anniversary model. “We took certain elements of the car and made them new – starting with the wheels, of course. A very important element of that car. It's like a reinterpretation of the Cup, five-spoked wheels that we had in the original Boxster show car. And we also painted them a colour called Neodyme, which also references the show car back then.”
This colour also appears on the front apron, side air intakes and the script on the car’s rear. And references to that Detroit car in the Boxster 25 Years don’t end there, Grant points out, notably in its red Bordeaux leather interior. Red is a landmark colour in Porsche racing history, particularly in the seats of the 550 Spyder and 718 RS 60 Spyder racing cars.
“We always try to take the Boxster a few notches higher in every generation – try to be a little bit revolutionary in some of the areas,” says Grant, who is joined by Fabian Schmölz, a Designer Exterior at Style Porsche since 2015.
We always try to take the Boxster a few notches higher in every generation – try to be a little bit revolutionary in some of the areas
A tale of reinvention
Fabian recalls how, at the age of eight, he was inspired by footage of Grant sketching the silhouette of the Boxster in the Porsche Challenge video game. Twenty years on he was working alongside the man who fired his imagination into becoming a designer.
“I was like, mind blown… I want to do that when I grow up,” says Fabian.
The Boxster story is one of reinvention, calculated risk and, more than anything, of reinterpreting your past to create an exciting future. Here’s to the next 25 years.