Porsche Typ 542 4-door saloon
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Porsche Typ 542: A Porsche saloon 57 years before the Panamera

PORSCHE TYP 542 PHOTOS: PORSCHE NEWSROOM

One of the keys to Porsche's success has been its work for other brands. Far from keeping all the news created by its engineers to itself, Porsche has always served as an external consultant. A business path that has led them to work with Audi, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Renault ... Perhaps the most obvious example is Volkswagen / Porsche 914/4. The first large-scale mid-engined sports car, which is mounted on a Porsche chassis with its four-cylinder engine from Volkswagen.

Beyond this, we also find cars as mythical as the Audi RS Avant 2. A sporty but familiar-looking legend, partly assembled within Porsche's own Stuttgart factory. A genetics that, for the most seasoned, is remarkable from the moment you look at their Porsche Cup 1 wheels. And that's not to mention all the work done in terms of suspensions, engine and brakes.

However, That Porsche has sold its services for the development of several German sports cars is not surprising.. After all, the Stuttgart ones are, with Mercedes' permission, the distillation of German road-approved sports cars.

For this reason, what is curious is his work for Studebaker. Yes, the historic North American house that began its journey in 1852 selling carriages, continuing until 1967 after launching icons such as the Commander V8 Starliner designed by Raymond Loewy. A brand in the antipodes of Porsche, for which the Germans developed their first four-door vehicle until the arrival of the Panamera in 2009: the 542 Porsche / Studebaker Typ 1952.

porsche typ 542
Static bodywork of the Porsche Typ 542 alongside a 1953 Commander Starliner.

PORSCHE TYP 542. ANOTHER MAX HOFFMAN CREATURE

When in 1976 Porsche introduced the 924 many purists of the brand tore their clothes. Far from carrying the engine hanging behind the rear axle like the 356 and 911, this new model with the American market as its objective was mounted in the front position. In addition, it was not opposite cylinders but in line. News that, for many, were the end of an era while Porsche itself was just trying to adapt to the hit of the 1973 Oil Crisis.

However, what this brings to the table is how much the rear engine was ingrained in the brand. A feature that, even being a four-door sedan, continued to be fulfilled by the Porsche Typ 542. But where did this car come from? Because, after all, as much as its 6º V120 was hanging behind the rear axle ... The truth is that This saloon has nothing to do with the Porsche of that time. Focused on the production of light sports cars, the Stuttgart house was not at all interested in comfortable and heavy American-style cars.

porsche saloon

However, the truth is that Porsche had great success beyond the Atlantic. Its small 550 and 356 forged a legend of cars as fast as they were difficult to drive, representing a driver status for its owner. So things, New York Porsche importer Max Hoffman constantly shipped German sports cars to the United States. A genius when it comes to analyzing the tastes of the American market, which was the inspiration for models such as the Mercedes 300SL, BMW 507 and Porsche 356 Speedster.

porsche typ 542

In fact, if there is a code name in the history of the Porsche Typ 542, it is precisely Hoffman. Not surprisingly, it was he who suggested to the Studebaker manager Richard Hutchinson the possibility of a new saloon to relaunch the brand. To do this, a collaboration with Porsche would give the possible model an exotic and sporty touch to differentiate it from its competitors Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. At this point, around 1950 the Germans went to work to present a prototype that could convince Studebaker.

porsche 4 doors

SENTENCED BY JOHN DELOREAN

Although the Porsche Typ 542 is the first of the brand with four doors, the truth is that it is not the first with two benches of seats. A surprise even for the most connoisseurs of the brand, since the first Porsche with two doors and four seats is a total unknown. We are talking about the 356 Type 530. A curious experiment that did not reach series with which it was thought, for the first time, to open up to a more familiar market. It is a 356 with a greater battle that, unfortunately, was rejected because it did not achieve good performance.

porsche typ 542
Porsche 356 Type 530. Notice the longer doors.

An interesting vehicle that we could delve into in future articles, but which, for now, puts evidence on the table: what ended up with the Panamera in 2009 was already a long way off. In fact, by 1952 the Porsche Typ 542 was ready. On the basis of offering Studebaker two possible engines, Porsche presented the prototype at the 1954 Geneva Motor Show. Driven there by Ferry Porsche himself, the model looked robust and palatable. However, Studebaker was not quite buying the idea for serial production.

porsche saloon

For two more years the Porsche Typ 542 remained in the air, until finally was rejected in 1956 by John DeLorean himself, then a manager at Studebaker before his controversial ravings with more than forty court cases. Curious end for the first four-door Porsche, lit by the genius of Max Hoffman to die by the controversial judgment of John DeLorean. A fairly unknown history in which many want to see the clearer antecedent of the Panamera. Something that, in our opinion, is seeing too much.

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Miguel Sánchez

Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.

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