When the Porsche Boxster debuted in 1996, I felt like the only person in the world who wasn’t exhilarated. It’s not that I didn’t think the Boxster was a terrific car. On the contrary, at its debut the Boxster was beautiful in design and execution, a redefinition of the open-topped sports car that combined the fun of a Mazda Miata or an MGB but with a much sharper performance edge. All of those things were and are true, and by any measure the Boxster is a fantastic car.
No, I was disappointed because my heart had already been claimed by the Boxster show car that debuted in 1993 at the Detroit Auto Show. Compared to that svelte knockout, the production Boxster felt like a milquetoast disappointment. At a glance the two cars look fairly similar, but the show car was just enough more sultry, just enough more edgy and daring than the elegant but straightforward production Boxster that the show car fired adrenaline while the Boxster merely provoked admiration. Slick, smooth, tightly wrapped, and with the air of the exotic, the concept Boxster recalled the Porsche 550 RS Spyder without obvious retro pandering.
When the Boxster show car debuted, it was also fascinating in that it promised a new kind of Porsche–built only as a droptop, with the engine mounted amidships, and with a strong character of its own. At the time, the long-lived 911 was still air-cooled and had undergone only evolutionary change over the previous decade. Other 911 sidekicks–namely, the 914, 924, 944, and 928–were lauded by a few of us fanatics but didn’t really capture the world’s imagination.
The Boxster show car had the charisma to change all that–and despite the dilution required for production, the original formula was still potent enough to make the Boxster the most visible and broadly coveted Porsche sidekick since at least the 928 and possibly ever. There must be others that feel as I do about the concept–unlike most show cars, it is available as a die-cast collectible. I am the proud owner of a 1/18-scale version, which is unfortunately as close as I’m likely to get to the Boxster concept car.
Both of the photos in this post were taken by John Lamm for Road & Track. The second picture is part of a great page of Boxster photography at the Porsche Club of America.