When the first generation Porsche Cayman was launched in 2006, Porsche’s press pack was full of references to the venerable 904 Carrera GTS – a car which Porsche Ambassador Walter Rohrl once described as his favourite Porsche and which won its class at the Targa Fiorio in only its first year of competition.

The Cayman supposedly paid homage to the 904 GTS, but short of a paternity test, I could never see the family resemblance. Where the 904 GTS was compact and beautiful, the Cayman was almost 911 sized with a rear three-quarter profile that only a mother could love.

Ferdinand Alexander (“Butzi”) Porsche with the 904 GTS he designed.

I tried several times to buy one, but opted instead for a Boxster, despite having little interest in open-air motoring.

It’s taken six years for the Cayman to finally transform from ugly duckling to graceful swan, but looking at this video featuring the 271bhp Cayman and 320bhp Cayman S, I think it might just have been worth the wait.

You can almost hear the Porsche executives ‘high five’ each other in the corridors of Stuttgart, realising that finally der wunderkind can be driven around in public without wearing the imaginary label saying, “yes I know, it’s not a 911″.

Much of the video focuses on the rear of the new third-generation Cayman, and who can blame them for doing so, the Cayman has finally found its place in the range and I’m sure more than a few Porsche enthusiasts will at last we happy to say the 904 is back.

The new Cayman. Follow the code of the curve. “Wouldn’t it be boring if the direct path was always straight? With the new Cayman we have given our all. As a matter of principle. Out of passion. And in anticipation of the next curve.”

The 904 Carrera GTS

As the new Cayman made its debut at last week’s LA Auto Show, in the corner of the Porsche stand was a perfectly preserved 904 Carrera GTS looking proudly on.

In 1963, the 904 Carrera GTS was one of the most advanced cars of its time, with a unique design and engineering philosophy which Porsche has tried to carry forwards with the latest Cayman.

Although it was officially named Carrera GTS, it opened a new chapter in Porsche’s sporting history under the internal designation 904. The 904, designed by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche (“Butzi”), anticipated, from a technical point of view, much that did not become the norm in racing car manufacturing until later: namely a mixed steel/plastic construction with low weight and a small frontal area.

It was the first Porsche with a plastic body and 100 examples had to be built in order to qualify for the GT class. This was followed by a further 20 units, only 16 of which were ever assembled. The rest were used as a source for spare parts.

Although small and compact, the 904 GTS was powered by a four-cylinder two-litre engine producing 195bhp. It weighed just 655 kg and was capable of accelerating from 0 – 60mph in less than 6.0 seconds, while its small frontal area helped it reach 160mph.

The 904 GTS was victorious in the Targa Florio, Tour de France, 1,000 km of Nürburgring, Le Mans 24 hours and the Reims 24 hour race and finished second in the Monte Carlo Rally, proof, if ever it were needed, that the 911 isn’t the only Porsche road car with a competition winning legacy.

Written By

Steve Davies

Steve is an investor, private equity advisor and former Partner at KPMG, PwC and Bain.   Most importantly he's a life-long car enthusiast, mountain biker and active sports enthusiast. He designs and builds technology platforms and is the architect behind Transmission.

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