Sports car designer Ferdinand Alexander Porsche dies
He designed Porsche’s classic 911 sports car, the sleek model that evokes power, wealth and envy among aficionados, cementing his grandfather’s name into the modern psyche. Ferdinand Alexander Porsche died on Thursday in Salzburg, Austria at age 76, Porsche AG said. No cause was provided.
Porsche, known as FA to his colleagues, was head of the Porsche design studio in the early 1960s when the company developed the 911 model that remains its brand-defining product. The car, now in its seventh version, remains recognizably the same vehicle, with its sloping roofline, long, low hood and prominent headlights.
“The creator of the Porsche 911 has founded a culture of design in our company that distinguishes our sports cars even today,” Porsche CEO Matthias Mueller said.
Porsche was the son of former Porsche Chairman Ferry Porsche, who died in 1998, and the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, who started the company as a design and engineering firm in the 1930s.
Born in Stuttgart on December 11, 1935, FA Porsche was initiated into the family business while still a boy, spending time in his grandfather’s workshops and design facilities. He studied at the Hochschule fuer Gestaltung in Ulm and joined the company in 1958, taking over the design studio in 1962.
In the 911, he created a larger, less cramped replacement for the company’s first model, the four-cylinder Porsche 356. The new car, with a rear-mounted, six-cylinder engine, was originally designated the 901, but the number was changed because French competitor Peugeot claimed a patent on car names formed with a zero in the middle.
Porsche left the operational part of the company with other family members in the early 1970s and in 1972 founded a design business, Porsche Design Studio, where he created eyeglasses, watches and pens.
As a designer, he had a reputation as a functionalist. “A formally harmonious product needs no decoration, it should be elevated through pure form,” he once said – a motto reflected in the lean lines of the 911.
He served as chairman of Porsche AG from 1990 to 1993 and helped steer the family firm through a crisis as sales plunged in the late 1980s under pressure from global competition and a strong German mark that hindered exports.
Under his chairmanship, the company brought in a new CEO, Wendelin Wiedeking, who is credited with turning the company around.
Porsche was to be buried in a private ceremony in the chapel at Schuettgut, the Porsche family’s estate in Zell am See, Austria.