(first posted 11/10/2011) The questions of global commodity shortages, overpopulation, and resource depletion may be back in the spotlight a bit, but are hardly new. In 1972, the book Limits to Growth, rocked the world, and became the best selling and most influential book of its kind. The general mood of the time, which in Europe included radical politics, and the energy crisis of 1973 all weighed very heavily on the future of the automobile.
Limits of Growth strongly implied that there would not be cars (as then known) at some point in the 21st century. Needless to say, companies like Porsche (and the whole Italian carrozzeria/sports car industry) were pretty freaked out. Porsche took the threat seriously, and invested considerable resources to develop a prototype Long-Life Auto, the FLA (Forschungsprojekt-Langzeit-Auto). A 75 hp hatchback that looks like a late seventies Subaru, it was anything but a typical Porsche.
The FLA’s main goal was to explore materials and construction techniques to create a vehicle that would have exceptional longevity. In the early seventies, when cars rusted away and wore out all-too quickly, that certainly seemed like a goal worth pursuing. Materials for the body were chosen both for corrosion resistance, as well as for ease of recycling. Curiously, the FLA never received its outer skin, which could have been aluminum or stainless steel. All manner of details for long life were addressed, even the wiring system was split into multiple looms for ease of future replacement. Now that would make restorers happy.
The power train was also designed for maximum life, with a very detuned 2.5 liter engine making 75 hp, and hooked to a three-speed automatic for minimum wear. Large oil reservoirs meant long intervals between oil changes, or perhaps just guarding against oil depletion?
There’s not a lot of detailed info still available, but it looks like the engine is in the typical Porsche location, and from the looks of those Fuchs wheels, I suspect that for obvious practical reasons, the FLA was heavily based on the 911, including the engine.
The whole subject is a royal downer, and not one humans are inclined to dwell on for any length of time. Porsche got the message, and their pendulum quickly swung the other way. In 1975 they introduced the 911 Turbo, their contribution to using up the world’s oil resources just a wee bit faster.
But the legacy of the FLA was not totally lost: the first truly corrosion-resistant steel bodies were introduced by Porsche (and Audi) shortly after, and the number of vintage 911s still on the road is a testament to the long-life characteristics of the brand. Resource depletion may (or may not) be just around the next bend, but who wants to oversteer through it with a 75 hp hair-shirt Porsche?