There is no reason to doubt the fact that Porsche has been one of the most prominent staples in the automotive world. It was almost an instant classic when the Porsche 356 and 911 were first introduced. From the 911 to the VW Beetle, Ferdinand “Ferry” Anton Ernst Porsche would set out to launch one of the most successful car design firms ever.
Ferdinand “Ferry” Anton Ernst Porsche, an Austrian entrepreneur, was born on September 19, 1909. The day of his birth, his father, Ferdinand Porsche Sr, finished first in a race using a car he designed while working for Austro-Daimler. From this, Ferry Porsche said, “I was always convinced that I had been born in a car, so it was wonderful listening to my father for hours, with him talking about cars and motor racing and telling us exciting stories.”
Ferry and his family moved to Stuttgart opening the offices known as Dr. Ing. H.c.F. Porsche AG and by 1938 opening a full-fledged manufacturing facility that was later heavily influenced by the armament of Germany lead by Hitler. They were forced into providing military vehicles for the Third Reich. After the war, Ferdinand and Ferry were arrested as war criminals and later released. Ferry designed the Porsche type 360 for Cisitalia and the infamous Porsche Type 356. “Back then Cisitalia was building a small sports car with a Fiat engine. So I said to myself: why shouldn’t we do the same thing with VW parts? After all, that is already what we did before the war with the Berlin-Rome car,” said Ferry Porsche.
Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, Ferry’s son, headed up Porsche and is currently the company’s honorary chairman. He was the one to create the first designs of the 911, the successor to the Porsche Type 356. Volkswagen later became one of the largest volume manufacturers of cars and headed up by the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche Sr, Ferdinand Piech.
The rest is history as we know Porsche to be one of the most recognized automobiles today.
Ferry Porsche died on March 27, 1998.
100th Anniversary of the birth of Ferry Porsche: September 19 1909 – March 27 1998
For the Love of the Sports Car
The successful story of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, Stuttgart, as the Company stands today, would be inconceivable without the lifetime achievement of Ferry Porsche. For it was under his guidance that the engineering office established by his father Ferdinand Porsche became an independent car manufacturer presenting the first sports car to bear the name Porsche in 1948 – Porsche Type 356.
“At the beginning I looked around, but I could not find the car I was dreaming of. So I decided to build it myself.” Building the Porsche 356 and, later, the Porsche 911, Ferry Porsche consistently lived out his dream of “driving in its most beautiful form”. With a precise feeling for each and every detail, he set the foundation for the Porsche brand values applicable to this very day. As the Managing Director and Chairman of the Supervisory Board he shaped the destiny of the Porsche Company for five long decades. In particular, it was his achievement as a visionary and an outstanding entrepreneur to make Porsche the world’s leading manufacturer of sports cars.
When Professor Dr. Ing. h.c. Ferdinand Anton Ernst “Ferry” Porsche passed away on 27 March 1998, he left the world as one of the last great automobile men. His lifetime achievement for the automobile gave him a position in the European Automotive Hall of Fame, his name is mentioned together with the likes of Gottlieb Daimler, Carl Benz, Henry Ford or Enzo Ferrari. On 19 September 2009 Ferry Porsche would be celebrating his 100th birthday.
A Childhood Among Cars
The son of automotive engineer and constructor Ferdinand Porsche and his wife Aloisia, Ferry Porsche was born in Wiener Neustadt, Austria, on 19 September 1909. The fact that the automobile was to shape his life and destiny became apparent on the very first day of his life: On the day of his birth, Ferry Porsche’s father Ferdinand was at the wheel of the Austro-Daimler racing car he had built himself, scoring a class victory in the Semmering Hillclimb Race.
While the heir to the Porsche family was named Ferdinand Anton Ernst, he received his “real” name, which accompanied him for life, from his nurse, who was the first to call him “Ferry”. Together with his sister Louise five years his senior, Ferry Porsche grew up in a well-to-do home, where again everything revolved around the automobile. As the Chief Engineer of the Austrian Austro-Daimler-Werke, Ferry’s father Ferdinand Porsche consistently worked on new ideas and constructions in automotive engineering. As Ferry Porsche later stated himself, “I was always convinced that I had been born in a car, so it was wonderful listening to my father for hours, with him talking about cars and motor racing and telling us exciting stories”. Thrilled by the world of machines, young Ferry obviously loved spending his time at the nearby Austro-Daimler Plant.
When he was allowed at the young age of ten to try out his skills for the first time sitting on the lap of his father, Ferry Porsche soon had the wish to one day build and drive his own car. And what remains a dream for nearly all young boys of this age, quite soon became reality for the son of the already famous automotive engineer on Christmas Day 1919. His father had a small two-seater built in the Plant’s Apprentice Department, powered by an air-cooled six-bhp two-cylinder and able to reach an impressive 60 km/h. Driving the “Ziegenbockwagen”, as the family called this very special vehicle (which almost translates into English as the “goatmobile”), Ferry Porsche enjoyed a number of lengthy trips on public roads as his first real experience at the wheel.
Although the little car did not even have numberplates and the driver naturally had no driver’s licence, “the police in Wiener Neustadt tended to look the other way whenever I came down the road thanks to the position of my father”, said Ferry Porsche later.
A particular highlight in these early years of his life was the opportunity to drive the “Sascha” racing car built by Austro-Daimler on the Plant’s running-in track in Wiener Neustadt in 1922. Indeed, young Ferry, now twelve years old, was so thrilled by this 45-bhp Targa Florio winner capable of a top speed of 144 km/h or almost 90 mph that he decided to soon build his own racing machine. This, however, was not to be, since in March 1923 Ferdinand Porsche left Austro-Daimler and joined Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim as their Technical Director and Board Member.
Spending his Youth in Stuttgart
Moving to Stuttgart, Ferdinand Porsche jr. entered a new phase in his life. Attending the Gottlieb-Daimler Secondary School in Cannstatt, he had to find new friends – some of whom remained his friends for life. One of his closest acquaintances at the time was Albert Prinzing, later to become a Professor and Managing Director at Porsche, who described his first meeting with Ferry Porsche on the occasion of the latter’s 75th birthday as follows: “Along came a young Austrian with long hair entering our class at school. His haircut was a bit like Hindenburg, he was wearing trousers we had never seen before he called `knickerbockers`, and even back then he was what today you would call a trendsetter, since we, too, soon started growing our hair longer and knickerbockers became really popular in our class.”
Throughout his whole life, Ferry Porsche was known and admired as much for his fine and exquisite taste as he was for his consistency and perseverance in maintaining and enhancing human relations. He was friends for life with Manfred Behr, the son of the Behr radiator dynasty, their close friendship going all the way back to the days of their practical training together. Another new highlight in the life of Ferry Porsche leaving the same stamp on the young man as his school was the family’s new residence they moved into in December 1923. Built by the famous architect Paul Bonatz in the north of Stuttgart, the Porsche Mansion became the family’s main residence and, together with the Schüttgut Estate in the Austrian town of Zell am See, a focal point in the life of Ferry Porsche where automobile history was to be written.
Like in the “old days” in Wiener Neustadt, Ferdinand Porsche was eager to involve his son in his work in Stuttgart. Receiving a special permit, Ferry Porsche was licensed to drive a motorised vehicle as of the age of only 16, and was therefore able from now on to drive all the prototypes his father brought home from the Daimler Plant in Untertürkheim. He also accompanied his father on long test drives through the Black Forest, impressing passers-by at the wheel of those mighty Mercedes supercharged ‘kompressor’ models.
At the age of 18 Ferry Porsche received a “regular” driver’s licence and was now able to ride his own motorcycle, a 500-cc BMW. The luring temptation of his two-wheeler soon gave way, however, to another experience destined to last for the rest of his life: In September 1927 he fell in love with Dorothea Reitz, a young lady from Stuttgart he married in 1935 and lived with happily ever after until her death in 1985. In the course of time they became the proud parents of four sons – Ferdinand Alexander (born 1935), Gerhard (born 1938), Hans-Peter (born 1940) and Wolfgang (born 1943), who, as principal partners of today’s Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, continue the lifetime achievement of Ferry Porsche up to the present day.
After taking his “Mittlere Reife”, the equivalent of GCSE exams, Ferry Porsche knew that one day he would follow in his father’s footsteps as an automotive constructor and engineer: “The more I learnt about life, the more I admired the brilliant example my father gave me time and again.” After one year of practical training with Robert Bosch AG he followed his father to Austria, after the latter had left Daimler-Benz AG and had become the Chief Engineer of Steyr-Werke AG in early 1929. In preparation of his technical studies, Ferry Porsche attended a private school in Vienna, although soon he spent more time in his father’s engineering office and workshops than he did at school for his theoretical training.
When Ferdinand Porsche left Steyr-Werke again in 1930 to work independently in his own business as a self-supporting constructor, his son decided to join his father for practical training instead of studying at some kind of college or university.
1931: the Porsche Engineering Office
“Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche GmbH – Konstruktion und Beratung für Motoren- und Fahrzeugbau” (Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche GmbH – Construction and Consultancy for Engines and Vehicles) was entered in the Stuttgart Trade Register on 25 April 1931. The team of initially twelve specialists led by Ferdinand Porsche focused on the full range of automotive technology, Porsche developing a new mid-range saloon for Wanderer, the German car maker based in Chemnitz, right from the start in their very first year. The next projects were a pendulum axle developed for Horch-Werke in Zwickau and an air-cooled five-cylinder radial engine developed on behalf of Phänomen-Werke in Zittau for use in trucks. An important milestone in the story of the young company was the torsion-bar suspension registered for a patent on 10 August 1931 and to be featured as state-of-the-art technology in international automotive construction for many decades.
As the youngest member of the Engineering Office, Ferry Porsche first trained in the Construction and Testing Departments. His teacher was Diplom-Ingenieur Walter Boxan who successfully made him acquainted with the theoretical and mathematical principles of automotive engineering. Soon 21-year-old Ferry was working independently on his own projects, such as improving the steering on the two-litre Wanderer. And this experience indeed proved to be surprisingly successful, his steering design being further developed and later used in both the Auto-Union racing cars and for the Volkswagen. From the beginning Ferry Porsche was involved in all projects and developments conducted by his father’s Engineering Office, taking over increasing responsibility in the process and, as of 1932, coordinating the engineers’ work, supervising the testing processes and, together with his father, maintaining relationships with the Company’s customers.
In spring 1933 the Porsche Engineering Office was requested by Auto Union in Saxony to develop a 16-cylinder racing car in accordance with the rules of the new 750-kg racing formula. Immediately after concluding the contract, the Porsche team under the guidance of Senior Engineer Karl Rabe started work on the mid-engined Auto Union P racing car (P for Porsche). The first engine was tested on the dynamometer in late 1933, initially presenting various problems. One of these challenges was the crankshaft, which permanently turned blue at the front. Ferry Porsche attributed this phenomenon to the different thermal elongation of the steel crankshaft and the electron metal engine block, with the assumption that longitudinal clearance in the engine was insufficient. “The engineers listened to me politely, but they were not convinced I was right”, said Ferry Porsche, rather irritated at the time. “So without any further ado, I carried out a test myself, took the crankshaft and the crankcase and went to the case-hardening shop where we had furnaces for heating up the two components.” With the subsequent measurements confirming his theory, longitudinal tolerance was increased accordingly.
The first driving tests with the Grand Prix car were carried out in early 1934, enabling Ferry Porsche to prove his outstanding talent as a racing driver so impressively that his father Ferdinand feared his son might decide to go into motor racing. So emphasising Ferry’s most promising future as an automotive constructor and engineer, he instructed his son in very clear and strict terms not to drive a racing car again: “I have lots of racing drivers, but only one son!” Acknowledging his father’s request, Ferry Porsche no longer took the wheel of a racing car but instead lived out his sporting ambitions in rallies with a Wanderer touring car, competing in the 2,000-Kilometre Rally through Germany directly against top drivers of the day such as Bernd Rosemeyer, Hans Stuck and Prinz zu Leinigen.
“In the first leg of the Rally leading through the Black Forest I was even faster than Rosemeyer”, said Ferry Porsche triumphantly many years later.
1934: the Volkswagen Project
The legendary 16-cylinder racing car was only the beginning leading on to a further outstanding achievement by Porsche in 1934: the Volkswagen. On 17 January Ferdinand Porsche presented his “Study for the Construction of a German People’s Car” as his concept of a robust and low-cost compact car for the “regular” driver. Receiving the final go-ahead for this project was however a difficult and laborious challenge, with the small Porsche Engineering Office applying for an assignment feared and rejected by the large and well-established German car makers as a possible source of competition. Subject to political pressure, the Reichsverband der Automobilindustrie (RDA), the Association of the Automotive Industry of the German Reich, nevertheless concluded a contract with Porsche on 22 July 1934 for the construction of a Volkswagen prototype.
Two requirements made this challenge particularly demanding: The projected purchase price of less than 1,000 reichsmarks and the deadline for completing the prototype in just ten months. No surprise, therefore, that Ferry Porsche later described the development of the Auto Union racing car compared with the Volkswagen as “child’s play”, since the engineers working on the Volkswagen were required from the start to act not only as constructors, but also as very shrewd businessmen. The objective was to maintain a sales price of 999 reichsmarks for the Volkswagen in the market.
One of the consequences of this price limit was to build the car without a hydraulic brake, which would have required the payment of licence fees to Lockheed as the holder of the appropriate patent. “The crucial point was to leave out everything we did not really need. So we took a very systematic approach, the car’s wheelbase following from the space required by four adults to enjoy acceptable roominess. And the track of the car was kept as small as possible, allowing the Volkswagen to drive along field paths and down narrow village roads.”
Time was short and the project did not exactly benefit from the lack of funds, with advance payments of 20,000 reichsmarks a month soon turning out to be much too low. The engineers were even forced to start building and assembling the first test cars in the garage of the Porsche Mansion in Stuttgart. Another restrictive factor was the lack of space, especially since the machines used took up additional room in Ferry Porsche’s private workshop required to accommodate a drilling and milling machine as well as two lathes and of course the twelve-man development team. “Don’t ask me how we did it”, he said later, “but the first three prototypes called the VW Series 3 were all built there.”
Development of the Volkswagen took longer than planned, the first Volkswagen code-named V1 (V = Versuchswagen or Test Car) being completed almost exactly a year after the official start of development. On 3 July 1935 Ferdinand Porsche presented his new saloon to an RDA committee, the second test car, a convertible code-named V2, setting out on its maiden trip on 22 December. And again two months later, on 24 February 1936, the two first models of the Volkswagen made their official world debut in Berlin.
Working closely with Porsche’s top-notch engineers, Ferry Porsche had learned a lot, developing from a simple intern into the Junior Manager broadly acknowledged for his skills. Ferdinand Porsche consistently pushed and promoted his son, constantly raising him to a higher standard, until in 1935 Ferry was made responsible for the driving tests of the new Volkswagen. The first prototypes of the V3 test model were built by autumn 1936 and then used for systematic driving tests. Acting as the Test Manager, Ferry Porsche took on the task to cover 50,000 test kilometres or over 30,000 miles by the end of the year – and driving all-out also on Sundays, the team succeeded in covering the distance required in all three cars by 22 December 1936. This first test was not only a technical, but also a political challenge for Ferry Porsche, since, while he was Porsche’s Test Manager, the Association of the Automotive Industry of the German Reich had delegated their own staff members to keep a “critical eye” on the tests being conducted. And while different opinions on the test results soon arose, the 100-page report ultimately sent to the RDA arrived at a positive conclusion: “The car shows qualities that justify its ongoing development.”
Contrary to the first plan to have the Volkswagen built jointly by German car makers at their existing plants, the decision was taken on 4 July 1936 to build the new Volkswagenwerk, a special plant specifically for the new model. This led to the establishment on 28 May 1937 of the “Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH” or “Gezuvor” (Company for the Preparation of the German Volkswagen Limited). As one of the three Managing Directors of the new company, Ferdinand Porsche received the official assignment to take care of the technical requirements and planning of the future production plant. So to learn more about state-of-the-art mass production, Ferdinand and Ferry Porsche went to the USA in June 1937, studying the most advanced production processes in Detroit and receiving expert advice from production specialists in the US automotive industry.
1938: Porsche in Zuffenhausen
To put an end to the provisional status of production processes in the garage of the Porsche Mansion and to bring together the Testing and Construction Departments, Ferdinand Porsche had a new plant built in the Zuffenhausen district of Stuttgart in 1938. Ferry Porsche had already purchased the real estate for the new plant in May 1937 in Spitalwaldstrasse 2, unknowingly choosing the location where the Porsche Main Plant remains to this very day.
The so-called zero production series of what was later to become the VW Beetle was built in Zuffenhausen in June 1938, with Ferry Porsche taking on increasing responsibility for the car’s development. “What I liked most was driving the VW on its bare chassis, with the seat bolted in position but with no body on the car – so that you saw the wheels turning and felt the wind rushing by. That was when I developed my preference for clearly defined corners and wings on the car, which is why Type 60 had four real wings on each corner.”
Developing the Volkswagen, Ferdinand and Ferry Porsche had by no means given up their favourite projects, the construction and development of racing and sports cars. On the contrary – in the late ‘30s they had the idea for the first time to start production of their own car, Ferry Porsche already considering the option to build a small sports car based on the Volkswagen back in 1938. To test his new idea he fitted his VW39 Convertible with a compressor engine. But the political leaders soon imposed a ban on using test engines from Volkswagen, since each and every engine was required for armament purposes. So instead father and son Porsche developed their own 1.5-litre sports car based on the underlying concept of the Auto Union racing car. Code-named Type 114, this new sports car was to have a mid-engine with two overhead camshafts and hemispherical combustion chambers. The gearbox was positioned behind the rear axle and three passengers were to sit at the front next to each other, the driver with the steering wheel either in the middle or to the left. “I was more committed to this project than my father and our top managers, since I was convinced there would be a large market for such a car after the war”, said Ferry Porsche later.
A racing car based on the Type 60 Volkswagen was developed alongside the main project on behalf of the Volkswagen Plant, intended to promote the “Kraft durch Freude Car” in a long-distance race from Berlin to Rome. So under the internal code name Type 64 or, respectively, Type 60K10, the engineering team developed and built three racing coupés in spring 1939 for the “Non-Stop Speed Trial”, as it was called, planned for September of the same year. Since a long stretch of this 1,500-kilometre race was to be on the new German autobahn, Porsche and his engineers gave particular attention to the car’s streamlining. With its aerodynamic aluminium body, fully covered wheel arches and a modified flat-four VW engine initially developing 33 bhp, the Berlin-Rome Car reached a top speed of 145 km/h or 90 mph. When the war prevented the race from actually taking place, Porsche and his engineers used the Type 64 already completed for the road as a fast grand touring sports car averaging a speed of 130 km/h or 80 mph on their journeys from Stuttgart to Berlin. Today Type 64 with its beautiful styling is acknowledged as the ancestor of all Porsche sports cars built since 1948.
Each of these projects raised Ferry Porsche up a bit further, out of the shadow of his father Ferdinand. And although he was full of admiration of his father’s skills, “we Porsches by no means always agreed on technical matters”, he stated later. “When I expressed a different opinion from him in the presence of others, he was really angry. I think he was afraid of losing his face. But whenever we had such a disagreement while we were alone, just the two of us, maybe on a long trip in the car, he was far more open to my opinion and listened patiently to what I had to say. Dad was a very authoritarian man.”
1944: Porsche in Gmünd
After the outbreak of World War II the Porsche engineers spent most of their time developing military vehicles. Apart from the Type 81 VW “Kastenwagen”, a kind of rudimentary jeep, the Company established as Porsche KG in late 1937 also developed the Type 62 “KdF-Gelände-Fahrzeug”, an off-road vehicle for military use, the Type 82 “VW Kübelwagen”, again a jeep primarily for military purposes, as well as the Type 87 all-wheel-drive model and the Type 166 “VW-Schwimmwagen”, a dual-purpose amphibian vehicle. In late 1939 the Porsche Engineering Office was given the order by the German Armament Bureau to develop a medium-weight fighting tank, the construction of which was nevertheless stopped ahead of time since there was a greater need for heavy tanks.
As of 1943, life became increasingly difficult for the employees at Porsche on account of air raids in Stuttgart. Urged by the Supreme Armament Command of the German Wehrmacht, Porsche KG ultimately had to move its engineering office from Stuttgart to the town of Gmünd in the Austrian province of Carinthia in autumn 1944. Makeshift workshops were constructed on the premises of W. Meineke Holzgroßindustrie Berlin-Gmünd, while the materials depot was housed on the premises of a flying school in nearby Zell am See. Split up into a large number of workshops and offices, the new Porsche Plant was soon ironically nicknamed “Vereinigte Hüttenwerke” or “Associated Steel Works” by the employees.
After the war the plant facilities of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche KG in Zuffenhausen were first used by the French military. In August 1945 an American unit took over the plant now serving as a repair workshop for trucks. In the meantime the Porsche Plant in Gmünd had received a provisional licence to start work again, the Porsche workforce of some 140 employees being allowed to “design and construct motorised tractors, gas generators and other civilian equipment” and to repair “motor vehicles and agricultural machinery”.
In this difficult situation Ferdinand Porsche accepted the invitation by a French commission to go to Baden-Baden in mid-November 1945 in order to discuss the possible continuation of the Volkswagen Project in France. But before the contract was signed at another meeting a month later, he was arrested together with his son Ferry and his son-in-law Anton Piëch by the French Secret Service in Baden-Baden. And while Ferry Porsche was released from prison in March 1946, Ferdinand Porsche had to remain in custody despite a severe illness and was subsequently taken to Paris and Dijon.
“Things became tough for me after the war, since now I had to take the initiative all by myself”, said Ferry Porsche. So he started on new projects catering for the new demands and requirements he was now facing: The machines in Gmünd were used to build accessories for tractors, wheelbarrows or cable winches. But the objective, of course, was to build cars once again. So with his business friends Karl Abarth and Rudolf Hruska acting as the intermediaries, Ferry Porsche signed a contract with Piero Dusio, an industrialist from Torino, on 15 December 1946 for a wide range of development assignments on behalf of Dusio’s company Cisitalia. Apart from a small tractor and a water turbine, Porsche KG in Gmünd was also entrusted with the construction of the Type 360 Grand Prix Racing Car as well as the Type 370 two-seater mid-engined sports car.
“I would have done everything the same way, down to the last bolt”
The engineers at Porsche KG in Gmünd were soon working all-out on the Type 360 Grand Prix Racing Car – and indeed, this first car developed completely under the guidance and leadership of Ferry Porsche was far ahead of its time. The Porsche engineers opted for a 1.5-litre supercharged twelve-cylinder power unit, with engine power transmitted to the wheels through on-demand four-wheel drive. And although the assignment was not continued beyond the test stage due to a lack of funds on the part of the Italian principal, the project was nevertheless of fundamental significance to Porsche. Receiving an appropriate fee for the work done, Ferry Porsche was able to bail his father out of prison by paying a million French francs to the authorities, Ferdinand Porsche being released on 1 August 1947. The investigations that had started in France against Professor Porsche on account of alleged war offences never resulted in any formal charges and were soon dropped once and for all. And when, a bit later, Ferdinand Porsche saw the drawings of Type 360, he gave his son the highest grade possible: “I would have done everything the same way, down to the last bolt.”
1948: the first Porsche Sports Car
“I can readily admit that the initiative came through Cisitalia”, said Ferry Porsche on the occasion of his 75th birthday when describing the early days of the Porsche 356. “Back then Cisitalia was building a small sports car with a Fiat engine. So I said to myself: why shouldn’t we do the same thing with VW parts? After all, that is already what we did before the war with the Berlin-Rome car.”
Looking back today, the business risk involved in an enterprise of this kind was almost mind-boggling: The whole of Europe was struggling after a terrible war and demand in the market was primarily for practical and inexpensive cars. And precisely in this situation Ferry Porsche decided to fulfil his dream of building his own sports car – only to find that other aficionados of the automobile shared precisely the same dream.
In spring 1947 Ferry Porsche first expressed his idea to build a sports car using Volkswagen components which, initially code-named the “VW-Sports”, received the construction number 356. The vision of the Porsche Junior Director was to “build the kind of sports car I liked myself”. Ferry Porsche’s engineers, at any rate, were fascinated by the idea of building such a sports car, completing a road-going chassis in February 1948 destined to take up a roadster body made of aluminium. The flat-four power unit, together with the gearbox, suspension, springs and steering, all came from Volkswagen. Weighing just 585 kg or 1,290 lb, this 35-bhp mid-engined roadster had a top speed of 135 km/h or 84 mph. On 8 June 1948 this very first Porsche mid-engine sports car proudly bearing the chassis number 356-001 received official homologation from the authorities through an individual permit granted by the State Government of Carinthia.
Production of the first “regular” Type 356/2 coupés and cabriolets started in Gmünd in the second half of 1948 – and like Porsche 356 No 1, Type 356/2 also featured an aluminium body designed and constructed by Erwin Komenda, the Director of Body Development at Porsche. But unlike the No 1 mid-engine prototype, the horizontally-opposed power unit in Type 356/2 was fitted at the back in order to provide luggage space behind the front seats. When an investor in Zurich, Rupprecht von Senger, advanced money for a small production series and received a contract as the importer for Switzerland in return, Porsche once again had access to the VW parts and body panels the company needed so urgently.
The contract Ferry Porsche concluded with the Managing Director of Volkswagenwerk on 17 September 1948 on the supply of VW parts and the use of VW’s distribution network clearly shows that Ferry Porsche was not only an outstanding engineer, but also a far-sighted businessman and entrepreneur: Ferry Porsche and Nordhoff agreed that VW was to pay a licence fee to Porsche for every Beetle built, since, after all, the car had been developed by Porsche before the war. The second important decision was the foundation of Porsche-Salzburg Ges.m.b.H. as a central office for the management of Volkswagen imports, sales and customer service in Austria. These agreements with Volkswagenwerk, already a major manufacturer at the time, gave Porsche the security the young company needed, particularly in financial terms. And it set the foundation for the ongoing development of Porsche KG as a manufacturer of sports cars.
1950: Return to Stuttgart
With the Porsche 356 developing into a genuine success, the provisional plant in Gmünd was soon unable to provide the production capacities required for the ongoing project. A further point was that the technical equipment and facilities available in Austria were simply not sufficient and economic conditions in this Alpine region were still too difficult. At the time it was still unclear whether the future of the Company would really lie in the construction of sports cars. While Type 356/2 was already selling successfully and gave reasons for optimism, Ferdinand Porsche as the Senior Director still focused primarily on the production of diesel tractors and water turbines – and he believed that the Company would generate higher revenues by working on behalf of other principals, as before, rather than with its own car production. Ferry Porsche, on the other hand, believed in the ongoing success of his idea and wanted at least to build a series of several hundred cars. So in 1949 he sought to return to Stuttgart as a major car production city.
Since the former Porsche Plant in Spitalwaldstrasse 2, Zuffenhausen, was still being used by the Americans, Ferry Porsche decided for the time being to establish an office and a small test workshop in the Porsche Stuttgart mansion. Preparations for the move were made by Ferry Porsche’s school friend Albert Prinzing, who in November 1949 was appointed Co-Managing Director of Porsche Konstruktionen GmbH in Stuttgart. At the end of the year Porsche GmbH rented a 600-square metre production hall from Karosseriewerke Reutter & Co. GmbH, a coachbuilder in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, at the same time giving Reutter the assignment to build 500 car bodies. “And since Reutter had no experience in welding light alloy, we had to switch over to a steel-bodied coupé”, said Porsche.
The first Porsche 356 was built in Stuttgart in March 1950. While Ferry Porsche was forced to withdraw increasingly for reasons of time from the actual construction and engineering work, taking on management responsibilities instead, the 356 quickly became a best seller, the free capacities available at Reutter soon being exhausted and several other coachbuilders joining the project. “We would never have dreamt back then that ultimately we would build 78,000 units of the Type 356 sports car”, added Ferry Porsche years later on a very satisfied note.
An important factor crucial to the success of the young company was the early focus on exports, with Ferry Porsche shipping the first cars to America as early as in 1950. Here, in the world’s largest and most important sales market, the Porsche 356 quickly won over the hearts of sports drivers – and not least those of many Hollywood stars. Introducing models such as the 356 Speedster, Ferry Porsche offered American customers exactly what they were looking for, with no less than half of the Company’s annual production going to the United States as early as in 1955.
Apart from exports, Ferry Porsche’s other great passion was motorsport, likewise serving as a catalyst to promote the brand. Instead of advertising or conventional publicity, the idea was to let his sports cars speak for themselves by winning races right in front of the public’s eyes: “The extreme demands we face in racing quickly show any weak points on the cars and encourage our engineers to look for new and better solutions.” Motorsport was also a source of ongoing technical progress in the eyes of Ferry Porsche, with experience gained here going directly into the ongoing development and optimisation of the Company’s production models.
Ferry Porsche, the Entrepreneur
Ferry Porsche was always very successful in understanding the signs of the times and sensing any change in the market. So in the late ‘50s he realised that the Porsche 356, despite all the efforts made to enhance the car’s “fitness”, still remained a close relative to the VW Beetle and therefore did not offer great prospects for the future. Instead of continuing the development of this proven model, Ferry Porsche therefore decided to build an entirely new car following the proven Porsche concept, with an air-cooled horizontally-opposed engine mounted at the back. And this was no easy task, since the 356 had already become an absolute classic within just one and a half decades.
By the early ‘60s three of Ferry Porsche’s four sons, who in the meantime was already holding his first grandson in his arms, had followed the example of their father and worked actively in the automotive industry – particularly Ferdinand Alexander who worked in the Company’s Model Department as an engineer. Together with Ferdinand Alexander, Ferry Porsche started developing the looks and design of the successor to the 356, which to begin with was to bear the model designation 901.
In the words of Ferdinand Alexander Porsche reporting on their joint project: “When I designed the 911 back then, he was right there behind me from the very beginning. Not because I was his son, but rather because he was convinced of the car. He always had an exquisite sense of shape and he never liked extreme colours and flashy shapes.”
Porsche presented the new sports car for the first time at the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show, the 911 standing out from its predecessor in many respects, not only through its fast-revving six-cylinder power unit. And Ferry Porsche was happy to note that “at long last I’m now able to get my golf bag into the car without the slightest problem”.
The decision in favour of the 911 designed by his oldest son was indeed a truly visionary choice, the new car differing from everything else seen so far not only in terms of styling, but also in technical terms. The introduction of the Porsche 911 was also a bold step for Ferry Porsche in entrepreneurial terms, with the company taking over Reutter & Co. GmbH, the former body supplier, in 1964 in preparing production of the new model series. This was obviously a major step for Porsche, with almost 1,000 employees at Reutter being integrated completely into Porsche KG as fully-fledged members of the workforce.
Ferry Porsche’s recognition and acknowledgement of the great potential offered by the innovative concept of the 911 for future success is one of his greatest lifetime achievements. The ongoing success of this model series subsequently resulted from a process of constant evolution making the Porsche 911 the perfect sports car: “Looking back at the 911, I know that the concept of this model was definitely quite questionable. But today the long and really unusual lifecycle of the 911 makes me proud that ultimately I was right in my opinion of the car.”
Ferry Porsche was also open at all times to unusual and even risky ideas. Building the VW-Porsche 914, for example, the company launched a joint venture with Volkswagen in 1969 in an attempt to win over new market shares beneath the Porsche 911 through an inexpensive sports car for a broader segment. While sometimes criticised for its design and image, the 914 most definitely became a success in the market, sales of almost 120,000 units making it the most successful sports car in the early ‘70s.
Ferry Porsche himself also drove a 914 which he received as a gift from his employees on the occasion of his 60th birthday – although in this case the sports car, while hardly modified externally, came with the three-litre eight-cylinder power unit otherwise featured in the Type 908 racing car; albeit slightly de-tuned for everyday use: Maximum output of this unique car bearing the registration number S-R 3000 and licensed by individual homologation was 260 bhp. And this very special 914/8 was by no means a gift just for the private Porsche garage, with Ferry Porsche covering more than 10,000 kilometres in the car. From then on it became a tradition at Porsche to give the man at the top a very special, customised birthday car on the occasion of his most important anniversaries. So when asked by a journalist whether he would buy a Porsche himself, Ferry Porsche had a very easy answer: “No, I just have to wait until my next birthday.”
Ferry Porsche always endeavoured to optimise his company not only in technical terms, but also in social matters. Being an entrepreneur and a human being with a great social commitment at the same time was not a contradiction in terms in his eyes, but rather a logical conclusion, perhaps even the foundation for all his success. He therefore introduced a corporate old-age pension scheme as early as in 1956, the Porsche Foundation also being established to help all employees suffering economic need for reasons beyond their own fault.
In 1960 the Company transformed all blue collar workers from wage-earners employed on an hourly basis to monthly wage-earners, thus raising them to the same status as the salaried personnel. Fringe benefits such as a Christmas bonus or a vacation allowance were also introduced much earlier by Porsche (without any legal or industrial obligation to do so) than in the automotive industry as a whole. So Ferry Porsche was also a pioneer in the introduction and payment of such social benefits.
Setting the Stage for the Future
In the early ‘70s Ferry Porsche once again set the long-term stage for the company he had now been running for two decades. Following lengthy discussions regarding his successor in the top management of the Company, the Porsche and Piëch families decided in 1971 to no longer fill any top operating positions in the Company with members of the two families. And entering the year 1972, the principal partners of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche KG decided to turn the limited partnership into a joint-stock corporation as of 1 August 1972.
Ferry Porsche readily accepted this unanimous decision by the families and retired from active management, from now on accompanying the development of the Company in his new position as the Chairman of the Supervisory Board, an office he held until 1990 when his son Ferdinand Alexander took over. Subsequently acting as the Honorary Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Ferry Porsche was then to actively accompany the development of the Company for the rest of his life.
Through his far-sighted vision as an entrepreneur and engineer, Ferry Porsche left a lasting stamp on the company time and again. And he was indeed all too happy to take up the innovative ideas of his engineers on many occasions, the company venturing beyond the beaten track – not always to the pleasure of some of the “die-hard customers” – with models such as the 924, 944, and 928. Still, these models also made a very significant contribution to the success of the company, with every other Porsche built in the ‘80s being such a front-engined sports car.
Another issue always of great interest to Ferry Porsche was the future of the automobile, with the opinion he voiced in 1979 now more important than ever before: “Fuel consumption will be a particularly significant factor in future. The amount of fuel consumed by a motor vehicle will also depend on its weight and air resistance. And the sports car is at an advantage on both of these points.” So he always believed that “we must do things in our cars that help to reduce fuel consumption. And this is where we benefit from the developments we have already made in motorsport, such as the turbocharger. We can use the turbocharger not just to increase engine power, but also to improve the efficiency of the engine, reducing fuel consumption to a minimum in the process.”
In the last years of his life Ferry Porsche had to experience how his company entered a severe crisis threatening its very existence. But even when the Porsche company was seen as the candidate for a possible takeover, Ferry Porsche still emphasised his unflinching will to remain independent. And experiencing the economic turnaround led by Dr. Wendelin Wiedeking, he was able to see his lifetime achievement returning to the road of ongoing success.
The introduction of the Porsche Boxster in 1996 marked the continuation of his vision of a mid-engined roadster, and he never doubted the future of his sports car philosophy: “The last car ever built will be a sports car.”
The death of Ferry Porsche on 27 March 1998 also marked the end of another era, with the last air-cooled 911 coming off the production line in the same year.
Ferdinand (Ferry) Anton Ernst Porsche
1909 Born in Wiener Neustadt (Austria), on 19 September as Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche, commonly called “Ferry”. Went to school in Wiener Neustadt and Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt. Completed his technical training with Bosch in Stuttgart and at Steyr-Werke in Austria.
1931 Started working as a constructor and engineer in the Engineering Office of Dr. Ing. h.c. Ferdinand Porsche GmbH established by his father Ferdinand in Stuttgart.
1932 Assumed additional responsibility for Test Supervision and Coordination, participated in the construction and development of the Auto Union Grand Prix racing car.
1934 Appointed Head of Test Driving in charge of the Volkswagen prototypes.
1935 Married Dorothea Reitz (died in 1985) from Stuttgart. Four sons.
1938 Director of the Porsche Test Department. Construction Office moving to Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen in the same year.
1940 Deputy Director of the overall company.
1945 Director of Porsche GmbH moved on account of the war to Gmünd in the province of Carinthia, Austria.
1946 Ferry Porsche assumes overall responsibility for the company in June.
1948 Completion of Porsche 356 No 1, a 35-bhp mid-engined sports car, in June.
1949 Following production of the first 52 units of Type 356 in Gmünd, returns together with most of the workforce to Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. Re-establishment of the Development Office under the management of Ferry Porsche and preparations for standard production.
1950 Start of standard production of Porsche Type 356 in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen.
1959 Received the Supreme Honour Award of the Federal Republic of Germany from Professor Theodor Heuss, the President of the Federal Republic of Germany.
1965 Awarded the title “Dr. techn. E.h.” by Vienna Technical University.
1972 Appointed Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, the new joint-stock company.
1975 Received the Supreme Golden Award of Honour of the Republic of Austria in Vienna.
1978 Received the Wilhelm Exner Medal.
1979 Received the Star on the Supreme Cross of Honour of the Federal Republic of Germany on the occasion of his 70th birthday from the Prime Minister of the State of Baden-Württemberg, Lothar Späth.
1981 Received the Gold Medal of the Société des Ingeniéurs de l’ Automobile. Appointed Honorary Citizen of the town of Zell am See, Austria.
1984 Received the title “Professor” from Prime Minister Lothar Späth.
1985 Received the title “Senator E.h.”, from Stuttgart University.
1989 Received the Business Medal for Outstanding Achievements in the Economy of Baden-Württemberg on 19 September from the Minister of Economic Affairs of the State of Baden-Württemberg, Martin Herzog.
Received the Citizen’s Medal of the City of Stuttgart on the occasion of his 80th birthday in recognition of his great contribution to the economic development of the State Capital of Stuttgart.
1990 Appointed Honorary Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, Stuttgart.
1993 Appointed Honorary Chairman of the Supervisory Board without a mandate.
1994 Appointed Honorary Citizen of the town of Wiener Neustadt on 21 September in recognition of his particular contributions to the Austrian and Lower Austrian economy, above all for his contributions and services to the town of Wiener Neustadt itself.
1998 Ferry Porsche dies in Zell am See on 27 March.