Porsche has been putting legendary sports cars on the road for seven decades. We are delighted to celebrate the ’70 Years of Porsche Sports Cars’ anniversary year and look forward to more automotive icons emerging from Zuffenhausen that will certainly thrill sports car enthusiasts all over the world,” said Thomas Hiebaum, Head of Sales at Recaro Automotive Seating. Porsche and Recaro Automotive Seating share the same fascination for sports cars. Their shared history began in the early years of German automotive engineering.
Highly prized, innovative car bodies from Reutter
As early as 1906, Wilhelm Reutter understood clearly where mobility was headed. Rather than continuing with horse-drawn carriages, he wanted to build automobile bodies. He therefore founded his own business, developed relationships with the chassis and engine manufacturers of the time, and began to win business. Reutter turned many of his ideas into reality, including his patented Reutter-Reformkarosserie, a vehicle body that featured a folding roof – the constructional precursor to today’s cabriolet. His solid, quality craftsmanship combined with his innovative foresight was highly successful. Indeed, by the 1920s, all of the renowned German automobile manufacturers, including Daimler, Benz, Wanderer, BMW, Opel, Adler, and Horch, were clients of Stuttgarter Karosseriewerk Reutter & Co. Another German engineer, Ferdinand Porsche, who had founded his own engineering and design firm in 1931, knew Reutter and considered his work outstanding. Porsche’s team designed engines for a variety of clients, and starting in 1931 Porsche had most of the bodies for them built by Reutter. One of these was the prototype for a streamlined 8-cylinder auto body. Though it never went into series production, Ferdinand Porsche used the forward-looking one-of-a-kind vehicle for many years as a private and company car.
Reutter makes top-secret prototypes for Volkswagen
In the late 1930s, the collaboration between Porsche and Reutter further intensified when Porsche settled in Zuffenhausen, only a year after the new Reutter plant went into operation. Behind the factory gates of the Reutter plant and under the utmost secrecy, a series of prototypes for the so-called Volkswagen – the People’s Car – emerged. The general public, it was planned, would get a first look at the new car on May 26, 1938, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Volkswagen plant in Fallersleben. For the occasion, Reutter built two presentation prototypes: a hardtop sedan and a cabriolet sedan. At the ceremony in Fallersleben (today, a district of Wolfsburg) the two prototypes were the big attraction. Reutter then made forty more prototypes of the Volkswagen for testing purposes, including those for the 1939 International Motor Show IAA in Berlin.
The Porsche 356: from niche product to global hit
In October 1949, Ferry Porsche issued Reutter a spoken, yet firm, order for the production of 500 bodies and frames for the Porsche 356. In addition to the bodies and frames, Reutter was asked to supply the seats and all of the interior trim, as well as to install the vehicle’s electrical and heating systems. Porsche also entrusted Reutter with conducting the final inspection of the finished vehicles. An array of options was included from the very start so that, even in 1950, customers could choose between eight exterior paint colors and eleven different seat covers: seven textile covers and four of leatherette.
As early as March 1956, the 10,000th Porsche 356 body left the Reutter production line. In the same year, Reutter celebrated their 50th anniversary. The first Porsche sports car, which began as a niche product became a worldwide hit and played a major role in Reutter’s corporate success. Despite the originally planned production run of 500 cars, some 78,000 Porsche 356s ended up being sold by late 1965 – most of them built by Reutter. Every Porsche 356 manufactured by Reutter is identified by two body number plates featuring the word “Karosserie” and the Reutter word mark, one on the inner side of the A-pillar and on the outer right side between the wheel arch and the door.
The iconic 911: Project Sturmvogel
In November 1961, Porsche awarded Reutter a development contract to design a coupe version and a cabriolet version of a car body. The agreement included a special nondisclosure clause. A joint team of Reutter and Porsche engineers went to work to design first prototypes of a successor of the 356 until, in 1962, the T8 emerged at Reutter. That same year, the model was renamed Type 901, and in November 1962 it was ready for its first official test drive. Due to its snow-white finish and high performance, the 901 was nicknamed the “Sturmvogel” (“Storm Bird”). The prototypes were all built by Reutter’s special design department. Although not yet ready for serial production, the Porsche 901 (later re-named the 911) marked its world debut at the 41st Frankfurt Auto Show in 1963.
The end and the beginning: the start of Recaro
In the same year, the shareholders of Reutter voted to sell the car body plant to Porsche. After 58 years, the company history of Stuttgarter Karosseriewerk Reutter und Co. GmbH had come to an end – and the first chapter had begun at the new company of Recaro (a name derived from REutter CAROsserie). With this, Porsche not only acquired Reutter’s car body plant in Zuffenhausen but around 950 of its employees, along with their know-how. From December 1963 onwards, some 250 remaining Reutter employees continued working at company headquarters on Stuttgart’s Augustenstrasse, where they manufactured seat and seat fittings – in particular, seat recliners – under the Recaro name. The economic foundation for this new direction was an agreement that Recaro would supply all the seats for Porsche sports cars for the next ten years.
Porsche and Recaro: pioneers and partners
The close partnership between the two automotive pioneers has endured to this day. Recaro supplied Porsche with almost every series seat for the 911 including the 993 generation, along with the seats for the transaxle models 924, 944 and 928. The company also supplied the sporty seats for the 914. Recaro Automotive Seating is currently supporting Porsche in motorsport as a technical partner and seating supplier for its 911 GT3 Cup vehicles. Also, at this year’s 24-Hours Race at the Nürburgring, Recaro was onboard the victorious Manthey-Porsche 911 GT3 R – yet another outstanding milestone in more than 70 years of shared sports car history.