The Porsche that just wouldn’t sell

When you hear the name Porsche, you immediately think of the timeless, almost half-century old 911 sports car or the luxury SUV Cayenne.

One does not think of a Jeep-like military vehicle like the one shown here. Having never seen one before, this example at the Good wood Festival of Speed in 2008 immediately caught my attention.

It’s not that surprising to have never seen one before considering they were only built from 1955 until 1958, with a total production of just 71 examples.

The official year and model designation of this one is a 1956 Porsche 597 (Porsche likes to attach numbers to everything).

When the German army was allowed to be re-established, 10 years after the Second World War, manufacturers were solicited to present their offerings of a light utility military vehicle for consideration of a large order.

The Porsche submission was very innovative and included a number of engineering firsts, such as shifton-the-fly four-wheel drive, and a 5-speed transmission (driven by a 4-cylinder, air-cooled engine that was in the back where you would expect to find it).

And it was amphibious.

Unfortunately, the Porsche fitted with all of these wonderful features came at a cost, resulting in the German army order being awarded to the cheaper and rather basic alternative, the DKW Munga.

Trying to recover from the loss of what would have been a substantial order, Porsche tried to market the vehicle calling it the Jagdwagen (roughly translated ‘hunting car’) to farmers and outdoor sportsmen, who were purchasing Land Rovers and Jeeps.

Having produced 49 civilian examples, the 597 Jagdwagen days came to an end and went down in the history books.

1956 Porsche 597.
Photograph by: Nigel Matthews , for PNG

Nigel Matthews is the director of sales and marketing for Hagerty Canada-Hagerty is the world’s leading provider of Collector Car and Boat Insurance.