Automotive Shoulder Pads – The 1980’s Porsche Style

Remember the 1980’s? The time when excess was good, the more money you had, the more it was perfectly fine to flaunt it. For those with several sets of red braces, shoulder pads in their jackets, more than one Motorola Brick phone and a Guards Red 911 Turbo, the problem is, what to buy next?

Waiting for the call were a number of quite outrageous tuners and styling houses who’s vision of automotive excess knew no limits. While today, we have the RAUH Porsche movement coming from Japan to thank for this style, in the 80’s we enjoyed the outputs of Gemballa, Rinspeed, Strosek and Koenig.

In the 90’s and throughout the new millennium, these cars disappeared. I had presumed crushed in embarrassment, but amazingly these two are amongst the survivors.

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Testarossa meets 911… The Gemballa Avalanche

Recently auctioned by RM Sothebys, they are perfect examples of Porsche modified excess. The first one is the Gemballa Avalanche. Gemballa was founded in 1981 by Uwe Gemballa, an engineer who started out creating bespoke interiors before developing a strong interest in aerodynamics and associated aftermarket products. Not before too long, Gemballa turned its attention to producing whole cars based on Porsche 930s and quickly gained a reputation for outrageous designs and performance.

The wider, the better

The second Gemballa auctioned by RM Sotherbys is this Cyrrus. Based upon a turbo bodied, normally aspirated Porsche 911 cabriolet and thought to be one of only ten cars produced, Guards red with cream leather, of course, I’m particularly taken with the rack of cassette tape holders along the lower knee roll. And as for the leather, colour I just hope the fountain pen never leaked as the owner signed the delivery note.

Gemballa Cyrrus – perfect for Kings Road, St Tropez, Miami.

Looking back, having discarded our rose tinted, red rimmed glasses, these cars are an amazing reflection of the whole era of society at the time. In the UK, Thatcher’s Britain was in full swing, in the USA Miami Vice was gaining record TV ratings. Hybrid drive, corporate responsibility and the environment were figments of scientists imagination.

The rarity of these cars surpasses even that of the iconic 2.7RS or other Rennsport creations from the Porsche factory. But the target owner could not be more different. While the RS car’s natural environment is Spa, Laguna Seca or Le Mans, these cars will have been more at home on the Kings Road, London, Miami and St Tropez.

Beautifully practical leather, complete with CD storage in the knee roll

Whatever you may think of these cars, either in period or even today, like many classics, they are an illustration of how society was living at the time, what was acceptable, what was outrageous and what was just plain crazy.

I’ll never enjoy seeing Testarossa side strakes on the side of a Porsche 911 any more than I will ever love a RUAH Porsche. Yet, while I didn’t like them in the 1980’s, today I have an affection for them that was never with me at the time. Maybe I’m getting old, but just like the Motorola Brick cellphone, These cars remind me of a fondness I have of that time growing up, just out of collage, with a newly minted driving licence, yearning to find something to drive.

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Author: Neill Watson

If you love the sound of the Cosworth V8 as much as the V12 Merlin, the smell of Jet A1 as much as Castrol R and admire the late Ray Hanna as much as Sir Stirling, you’ll find you’re both on the same page. Neill's love of art deco buildings means that his ideal home would be a brilliant white, 1930′s control tower in Southern France, with crisply mown grass, biplane parked on the driveway and a Ferrari 288GTO in the garage. This is something that those around him tolerate, though it does concern them from time to time.

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