Porsche’s crossover lineup will soon expand to include the Cayenne Coupe, but the company’s history of building off-roader extends far beyond the original Cayenne which was introduced in 2002.
In fact, the story begins almost 50 years earlier when Porsche began developing an off-roader for the German military. The government was looking for a vehicle that would be fast, lightweight and agile and those were Porsche specialties. However, the government also required the model be reliable, easy to service and suitable for off-roading.
Porsche didn’t have much experience in this area, but they went to work and created a new vehicle which would become known as the 597 Jagdwagen. Looking a bit like the Volkswagen Kübelwagen, the Jagdwagen was a relatively basic vehicle which weighed 1,918 lbs (870 kg).
Power was provided by a modified version of the four-cylinder engine that resided in the Porsche 356. It produced around 50 hp (36 kW / 50 PS) and it enabled the model to hit a top speed of up to 62 mph (100 km/h).
The engine was connected to a four-speed transmission which featured an additional off-road gear. However, its defining feature was an adjustable drive system which could switch between front and all-wheel drive. With the system activated, the Jagdwagen could scale grades of up to 65 percent.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, the model could also float and this made the vehicle ideal for crossing rivers. As a result, early versions of the vehicle were built without doors.
The Jagdwagen was presented to the German government in 1955 and it was later shown to British and French militaries. Porsche continued to develop the model in preparations for production, but the government contact was eventually awarded to Auto Union and Porsche stopped working on the project.
Despite never going into mass production, Porsche built a total of 71 Jagdwagens before the project was halted. Approximately 50 of the models still exist and they occasionally go up for sale. Nearly two years ago, a 1957 Jagdwagen sold for $229,573 (£175,100 / €196,352).