Your Guide to Visiting Porsche's North American Headquarters
Porsche has been in its new North American headquarters in Atlanta for a little over a year now. Everyone has had time to settle in and find the water cooler, so it’s time for a visit, don't you think? This $100 million facility is a truly interesting space. After all, very few offices are built with a view of a test track. But there’s a lot more going on here than just 9-to-5 business. There’s a fine dining restaurant, museum exhibits, an engineering department, dealer training, a workshop, and a test track for Porsche owners and wannabes to thrash their favorite German speed machines. Most of the space can also be rented out for other companies to host their seminars (it was even used in the latest Captain America flick.) All of Porsche North America’s day-to-day corporate business was brought under this one roof. You’re not reading Bloomberg, so we’ll skip over the details. But just know that everyone is here–from the people who track the ships from Germany (in real-time) to those who help finance the final purchase. RELATED: See Photos of the 2014 Porsche 911 GT3
There are more employees than tourists in the building, but the whole facility showcases Porsche’s love for cars. The main lobby looks out on the test track and a courtyard where customers take delivery of new vehicles.
Down on this patio level is also the entrance to the on-site workshop. It acts as an arm of Porsche’s service and restoration facilities in Germany. “Send it here, and you are bringing it back to the factory,” explains Ray Shaffer who’s in charge of the classic collection and delivery center in Atlanta. But they keep their schedule open for more than just high-dollar restorations. “You could even just get an oil change if you want to.”
Next to the workshop is a two-level gallery that’s small but important. It features a rotating display of significant cars placed among artifacts and timelines specific to America. We are an important part of Porsche’s story. One example is Max Hoffman who was more than just their first New York importer. He helped craft the worldwide icon as a leading influence behind benchmarks like the 356 Speedster and the Porsche family crest. So this and other significant milestones that don’t always get featured Stuttgart’s museum find a proper home in Atlanta.
RELATED: See Photos of the 2016 Porsche 911 GT3 RS
But the main reason most tourists visit this headquarters is to drive the product.
Porsche’s test track is just like the time you got to go over to the rich kid’s house and play with all of his best toys. Everything is available to rent from the Macan crossover to the street-legal track car known as the 911 GT3 RS – of course, the faster you want to go, the more it costs. Participants take these out on a high-speed gauntlet, slick skid pad, and a mini road course.
It's a real life version of the hot wheels track, but instead of that problematic loop, Porsche’s signature piece is its “kick plate.” Right before participants enter an inch of water, they drive over a shifting table that allows their instructors to randomly shudder one particular part of the suspension. This results in some spectacular spinouts directly over the center of the track where all visitors can see.
RELATED: A Never-Raced, 1-0f-17 Porsche GTR Comes to Life
While it may sound like Porsche only built the handling circuit for some automotive tourists to have fun, Shaffer tells tales of the secretive engineering department getting to play out there under the cover of night.
Porsche doesn't have to worry about too many unauthorized prying eyes during this time. No one gets on the property without prior approval. It might feel like an elitist measure, but Porsche didn’t make the decision. The property sits on the edge of ATL – one of the busiest airports in the world. So Homeland Security requires that all visitors are pre-registered.
That doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to rent a Boxster for an hour. A reservation at the restaurant also gains access to the property. So you might overpay for some soup, but the view is worth every penny.
RELATED: The Rear-Engine Studebaker With the Heart of a Porsche
Words/Photo Credit: Myles Kornblatt for BoldRide