Porsche has developed a colour specific to Australia to kick off its 70th anniversary of selling sports cars here.
The new Fish Silver Grey metallic is a “modern interpretation” of fish silver grey, which was the colour of the 356 Cabriolet imported to Australia way back in 1951.
Ahead of its 70 years in Australia celebrations, which will be marked in a number of ways, Porsche hinted at a special edition car to commemorate the occasion.
Just 25 limited edition models will be sold exclusively Down Under in the Fish Silver Grey metallic, though Porsche is staying quiet on exactly which model will receive the celebratory treatment.
“Australia holds a special place in the history of Porsche,” said Porsche Australia CEO and managing director Sam Curtis.
“2021 will be a special year for Porsche enthusiasts. It is fitting that we will celebrate 70 years in Australia just as we launch the Taycan, our first all-electric Porsche sportscar and a signal of the future of the brand.”
As the precursor to the 911 that in many ways defines the Porsche brand, the 356 is still loved by enthusiasts and collectors - and it was the car that started it all when the original Porsche importer, Norman Hamilton struck up a deal to bring the cars to Australia.
That deal came about partly thanks to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme that is one of Australia’s biggest engineering feats.
Hamilton travelled to Austria seeking new pump technology for the Hydro Scheme but was quickly impressed with a sports car blasting past him on the Grossglockner Pass.
He later followed what turned out to be a Porsche back to the factory where he met then Porsche chief Ferry Porsche – son of founder Ferdinand Porsche – and later shook hands on a deal to import Porsches to Australia and New Zealand.
The United States was the only other market outside Europe at that time selling Porsches and Australia became the first right-hand drive market for Porsche.
That silver 356 Cabriolet and a maroon Coupe were collected by Hamilton and a friend in August before being driven to Italy and shipped to Melbourne.
Hamilton began selling them, but the early years were slow going, with just 22 sold between 1952 and 1955.
As part of the occasionally innovative marketing efforts, in 1953 he even completed 10,460km in a 356 on the gruelling Redex Round Australiaendurance trial.
That a sports car completed the wild and variable course impressed many, Hamilton finishing 99th of 186 starters.
Hamilton’s son Alan – who successfully raced Porsches for years - later took over the business and oversaw the addition of front-engined sports cars such as the 924, 944 and 928... not all of which were welcomed by fans of the 911 who loved its rear-engine character.
By the mid-1980s Porsche was selling more than 600 cars a year in Australia; a remarkable achievement, given the relatively small size of the market.
But sales dived with the late ’80s recession, and in 1992 Porsche took control of the Australian operations, in turn forming Porsche Cars Australia.
Plenty has changed since then. The company that has always worked closely with Volkswagen – the original Volkswagen Beetle was designed by Ferdinand Porsche – and is now owned by it.
Once known only for sports cars, these days Porsche sells far more SUVs – the Cayenne and Macan - taking advantage of a boom in high-riding soft-roaders.
In 2019 some 81 per cent of Porsches sold here were SUVs and in the first 11 months of 2020 that increased to 83 per cent.
Many Porsche SUVs were powered by diesel engines, which have since been chopped from the lineup.
And Porsche has pushed into plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, using electric motors to supplement the petrol engines that deliver so much performance and character.
In 2021 Porsche will launch its first pure electric car, the Taycan; it was originally planned for 2020 but COVID has pushed it into the 70th anniversary year.
The 911 makes up a little over one in 10 Porsches sold here, although it still pulses the heartbeat of the company.
While Porsche has not announced which of its models will get the 70th anniversary limited edition treatment, it’s difficult to imagine it won’t be applied to the 911.
The closest the brand came to confirming that is by saying that “the new special edition model for Australia will be based on an iconic, modern Porsche sports car, but with a nod to the very first car we shipped to Australia all those years ago”.
“Porsche and Australia have a close bond and tradition and Australians love our sports cars, especially the iconic Porsche 911,” said Detlev von Platen, member of the executive board for sales and marketing at Porsche head office.