Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, the designer of the iconic Porsche 911 and architect of the Porsche design culture, passed away April 5 in Salzburg, aged 76.
Ferdinand Alexander Porsche was born in Stuttgart on December 11, 1935, the oldest son of Dorothea and Ferry Porsche, son of Porsche founder, Ferdinand.
During his childhood, he spent much of his time in the engineering offices and development workshops of his grandfather Ferdinand.
In 1943 the family accompanied the Porsche company’s move to Austria, where he went to school in Zell am See. After returning to Stuttgart in 1950, he attended the private Waldorf school. After leaving school, he enrolled at the prestigious Ulm School of Design.
In 1958, F.A. Porsche, as he was known by his colleagues, joined the engineering office of what was then Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche KG.
He soon proved his great talent for design by sculpting the first model of a successor to the 356 model line out of plasticine.
In 1962 he took over as head of the Porsche design studio, drawing worldwide attention to the Porsche name in 1963 with first showing of the Porsche 911.
It is fitting that on the day of his death, with no knowledge of the death, the recently released Porsche 911 was honored with the “2012 World Performance Car” at the New York International Auto Show.
The 911 won the award against strong competition. The choice was between 19 vehicles in all. A high-powered jury made up of 64 automotive journalists from 25 countries gave first place to the 911.
The seventh generation of the sports car classic from Zuffenhausen celebrated its world premiere back in September 2011 at the IAA International Motor Show in Frankfurt.
While the 911 ensured F.A. Porsche's place in automotive history, Ferdinand designed many significant race cars of the 1960s.
In Formula One, he designed the Type 804 Formula One racing car. The 804 had a flat-8 air-cooled 1500cc engine developing 180 hp at 9,200 rpm and was responsible for Porsche's only F1 win as a constructor, at the 1962 French Grand Prix, in the hands of American Dan Gurney.
Another of F.A. Porsche's designs was the Porsche 904 Carrera GTS, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful racing cars ever. The 904 was powered by "probably the most complex four-cylinder ever", a flat four quad cam 1966cc engine producing 198 hp (148 kW). The car was incredibly reliable and had a spectacular first season in 1963, winning the Targa Florio outright and finishing 1-2-3-4-5 in its class in the Le Mans 24 Hour, with a seventh place outright against much larger cars.
In the course of the conversion of Porsche KG into a joint-stock corporation in 1971/72, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, along with all the other family members, stood down from the company’s front-line business operations. In 1972 he founded the “Porsche Design Studio” in Stuttgart, the head office of which was relocated to Zell am See in Austria in 1974.
In the decades that followed, he designed numerous classic gentlemen’s accessories such as watches, spectacles and writing implements that achieved global recognition under the “Porsche Design” brand.
In parallel, with his team, he designed a plethora of industrial products, household appliances and consumer durables for internationally renowned clients under the brand “Design by F.A. Porsche”.
Ferdinand Alexander Porsche received numerous honours and awards both for his work as a designer as well as for individual designs. For example, in 1968 the “Comité Internationale de Promotion et de Prestige” honoured him for the outstanding aesthetic design of the Porsche 911 while the Industrial Forum Design Hannover (iF) voted him “Prizewinner of the Year” in 1992. In 1999, the President of Austria bestowed on him the title of Professor.
Ferdinand Alexander Porsche retained a close lifelong association with Porsche AG as a partner and member of the Supervisory Board. For example, even after stepping down from front-line business operations, he contributed to the design of Porsche’s sports cars over many decades and repeatedly steered the company in the right direction.
This was especially the case for the difficult period Porsche experienced at the beginning of the 1990s. From 1990 to 1993, F.A. Porsche served as President of the company’s Supervisory Board, thus playing a major role in Porsche A.G’s eco-nomic turnaround. In 2005, he stood down from his Supervisory Board role in favour of his son Oliver and assumed the mantle of Honorary President of the Supervisory Board.
Ferdinand Alexander Porsche will be buried in the family grave at Schüttgut in Zell am See, attended by his immediate family. An official funeral service will be held in Stuttgart at a later date.
Porsche AG President Matthias Müller paid tribute to Ferdinand Alexander Porsche’s services to the sports car manufacturer: “We mourn the death of our partner, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche. As the creator of the Porsche 911, he established a design culture in our company that has shaped our sports cars to this very day."