Vehicle Spotlight: 2000 Porsche Carrera GT Prototype

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In an age where automobiles increasingly must respond to emissions regulations, self-driving technology, and hybrid engines, car enthusiasts are flocking to the older, more mechanical vehicles of their youth. Defining what makes a vehicle “mechanical”  tends to vary from one car enthusiast to the next, but most can agree that features such as a manual transmission, naturally aspirated combustion engine, a loud exhaust note, and most of all, minimal use of onboard computer systems all define a traditional car. While there are many “mechanical” vehicles that continue to be produced by companies such as BMW, Ford, and Audi, to a Porsche fan nothing seems to rival the mighty Carrera GT. In order to understand this 603hp manual V10, one must go back to the 1990s.

The origins of the Porsche Carrera GT can be traced all the way back to the year 1990 when Japanese businessman Wataru Ohashi began investing in the Arrows Grand Prix International, a British Formula One team active from 1978 to 2002. The Arrows racing team, which went on to be named Footwork after Wataru Ohashi’s company, struck a deal with Porsche in order to supply engines for their F1 cars. After the first two seasons, the Footwork F1 team went on to switch engine suppliers, because they felt that Ford motors would give them a greater advantage. With this shift, Porsche shelved the V-10 that was intended for the Footworks F1 vehicles. Seven years later Porsche was looking for a new engine to place in their Le Mans prototype. This prototype was set to replace the mighty GT1 and the LMP1-98 which had a 3.2 liter flat-six powerplant. Porsche originally planned on using this flat-six design in the prototype, but they pulled the V-10 intended for F1 and bored it out to 5.7 liters. After two days of testing the engine, Porsche executives pulled the plug on the project and shifted most of the motorsport engineers towards the new Cayenne. Porsche was looking to increase sales volume and like other automakers felt the best way to do that was entering the luxury crossover market. 

Eventually, Porsche created a prototype that included the V-10 for the 2000 Paris Motor Show. This concept, later known as the Carrera GT, was designed to draw attention to the Porsche booth at the motor show. Porsche did not expect it at the time, but there was major interest from the public in having the Carrera GT actually created. that is why the car ended up going into production. 

Today, the Porsche Carrera GT is among the most renowned vehicles ever to come out of the Leipzig factory. With a 5.7 liter naturally aspirated V10, carbon fiber brakes, a titanium exhaust, and of course a manual transmission, it is different than all Porsches of the time period. While it varies from enthusiast to enthusiast, most agree that the sound of the V10 alone is worth the near $800,000 price tag. The V10 combined with 603hp is a combination that leaves owners truly speechless on a drive. 

One of the signature features of the Carrera GT is the balsa wood shift knob. To most enthusiasts, it seems strange to have a wooden shift knob when the rest of the car has carbon fiber trim. In the 1970s, the 917K used a balsa wood shift knob because it was the best available material for reflecting engine heat. The designers of the Carrera GT decided to use this same style shift knob in order to pay homage to the famous race car. 

Currently on display at the museum is the holy grail of all Carrera GT's. When most enthusiasts think of the ideal Carrera GT they might think of a low-mile version or a PTS color car, but we actually have one of two existing prototypes. For people who know the road going version, it is very interesting to compare the car with the prototype. While the design is very similar and the wheels are nearly identical, the interior is completely different. With an LCD dash and space-age buttons, it looks like a totally different cockpit. Come down to the museum and see all of the differences in the prototype, and you will be pleasantly surprised at the changes that went into the production vehicle. The car is currently on loan to the museum from the Bruce Canepa collection. 

Written By: Connor Wohl