For as much as we talk about barn finds, the window of time for such vehicles tends to be measured in a few decades; any more than that and the ravages of time and memory tend to destroy anything so long abandoned. On Monday, Porsche revealed that it had recently acquired the barn find of the century — the first car ever designed by founder Ferdinand Porsche, which hit the roads of Austria in 1898, and has been locked away untouched for the past 112 years.
Discovered last year in a warehouse at an undisclosed location in Austria, the “P1” had been sitting among a collection of horse-drawn carriages since 1902. It was purchased by one of Porsche’s living relatives, and is now on display at the museum located in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, Germany.
Designed by Ferdinand Porsche at the age of 22, the car was known as the Egger-Lohner, but also dubbed the P1 by its creator, who engraved that code on its major parts. Powered by a 3-hp electric motor in the rear driving a 12-speed control unit, the 2,977-lb. P1 could reach 21 mph, and travel 49 miles on a charge. The body, which no longer exists, could be easily altered from a coupe to a open-top style.
After its first drive on June 26, 1898, Porsche continued developing the car, and in September 1899 won a 24-mile electric-car race with three passengers, finishing 18 minutes ahead of the next challenger. Porsche would go on to work for Mercedes and other German automakers; it wouldn’t be until 1948 that he would found his own automaker. The vehicle will now live at Porsche’s museum in Stuttgart, Germany.
A Porsche museum spokesperson says the vehicle was found in surprisingly good condition and cleaned, but not restored. Its motor still functions, but the batteries have gone missing over the years, along with the seats and some of its bodywork. The last of those is somewhat fitting as the car was designed with exchangeable panels that allowed it to be converted from a closed to open car.