Earlier in this series I wrote about Porsche’s design consultancy’s work on pipes and ladies’ jeans. Here’s the C88. It’s a car.
In January 1995 Car magazine described it as a 90’s Beetle for the Chinese: “a simple and utilitarian vehicle that could be partly developed by locals”.
Porsche showed the C88 at the Beijing Family Car Congress, a “light, simple and versatile vehicle” to be built at a low cost and to help motorise a nation of non-motorists. Given the already well-known problems with private transport this was as good an idea as introducing cigarettes to a nation of non-smokers.
The C88’s specifications are pretty well-guessed. It has a 1.1 litre engine, mounted crossways (nobody knows which engine they had in mind) and is a shade over four metres long but has room for five. It weighed 980 kg.
Wendelin Weidekin learned his presentation speech in Mandarin. Porsche were very keen on impressing the Chinese government who had invited Western firms to propose ideas for a cheap vehicle for local production. The whole concept – a government sponsored development programme – went nowhere though, being cancelled in 1995. Many of the ideas were seen on later cars though, indicating Porsche’s thinking reflected local needs quite accurately.
The exterior and interior design reflects 90s organic themes with what might be details to suit Chinese tastes: the curvy-pointy interior and curvy-pointy front/rear graphics. The wing pressings are very shallow and it has unpainted bumpers. A casual study of contemporary cars shows the shift to colourless indicator covers – the C88 still has orange ones.
At the back some effort was made to tie the graphics to the panel gaps and weld-lines.
Porsche didn’t intend to make this themselves; rather it would be made by a Chinese firm unlike the joint ventures such as with Daihatsu, Peugeot, Audi et al. that already operated. For that reason the Porsche C88 didn’t wear Porsche badges.
Mercedes showed the FCC which had an engine and transmission under the car – not unlike the first A-Class – and a very Mercedes dashboard. GM showed a Corsa.