BBC Autos

The Roundabout Blog

This relic helped create the Porsche 918 Spyder

(BBC Autos)

(BBC Autos)

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)