It turns out that BBC Autos’ supercar of 2013 is not the novel chunk of whizz-bang machinery we once thought it was.

A forbear from 1898, the Porsche P1, pioneered some of the very systems and concepts used to such devastating effect by the 918 Spyder. And by some measures, the 19th-century ancestor would have outperformed its overachieving descendant.

Herewith, a look at how the P1 laid the groundwork for the 918 Spyder, 116 years ago.

Purely electric range

  • The 918 Spyder can travel up to 29km (18 miles) under battery power alone. In its day, the P1 could make it as far as 80km.

Peak power on demand

  • In its Race drive mode, the 918’s Hot Lap feature gives the car a temporary boost of stored power. The idea has roots in the P1, which could overload its 3hp electric motor to a maximum 5hp.


  • Both cars position their main motive power plant mid-ships, in front of the rear axle. For the P1, it was an octagon-style electric motor and for the 918, a 4.6-litre V8 gasoline engine.

A racing pedigree

  • The P1 gave Porsche its first racing victory in 1898, ushering in a competition ­­­heritage that would lead to the 918 breaking the unofficial lap record for a production car at Germany’s 12.9-mile Nürburgring circuit.


  • Porsche has capped production of the 918 at a fitting 918 units. It can’t match the exclusivity of the hypercar’s ancestor, though: only four P1s are known to have been produced.

(Research: Sean McFarland)