Ferdinand Porsche played an important role in the development
of airplanes and racing cars, and the construction of tanks for
the Wehrmacht. He is an automobile engineer with more than
a thousand patents to his name. He was appointed chief engineer
at Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart in the 1920s. Later on, he set
up his own engineering workshop and designed among others
the Volkswagen. At the plant where Volkswagen was made,
Wolfsburg, he was chief of operations and at the end of the war
he was interned by the Allies.
He was released a few years later and started building his first car
with his son, Ferry Porsche. The car was named the Porsche 356
and it was a sports car and a reminiscent of the Volkswagen.
It had the same four-cylinder boxer engine that was rear-mounted,
just like the VW. It was far from being a powerful sports car,
developing only 40 bhp and a maximum speed of 87 mph (140 km/h).
First produced as a convertible and later as a hard top it distinguished
by the very elegant and innovative body. It was developed in the
workshop of Erwin Komenda, a master of restrained streamlining
who had been in charge of sheet metal and design techniques at
Porsche since the VW Beetle. The new style of closed coupe was
designed by Komenda and it soon became the embodiment of the
sports car, thanks to its fastback.
This tradition was continued by Komenda and Ferdinand “Butzi”
Porsche, the founder’s grandson, with the 911.
The 911 became easily recognizable: it had attractive sloping
bonnet and what later became characteristic “frog eye” headlights,
curves running from the top edge of the windscreen to the rear bumper
and a straight waistline. From a functional and technical point of
view it was more like BMW 1500, although it retained the stylistic
features of the original Porsche. The new 911 will become the
foundation stone of Porsche’s identity, even though the design
was not always appreciated. During the 1970`s and 1980`s, the
designers attempts to distance Porsche from its legendary design brought
the company to the edge of disaster. The more modern 924 model,
“a people’s Porsche”, developed with Volkswagen, as well as the
928 were far from fulfilling the expectations.
In the 1990`s, the company realized that what for over twenty years
was perceived as a straitjacket, it was in fact a market
advantage. During the 1990`s, Porsche became highly
profitable since they now knew that the typical Porsche features
were timeless. Nearly forty people now worked in the design
department on further developments of the long-running 911.
These developments included the 911 GTI, a powerful combination
of sports and racing car, put forward by the in-house designer
Anthony R. Hatter. In 1999, chief designer proudly presented the
new Boxster which enabled Porshe to establish a second
independent range of models.