Ferdinand Alexander Porsche 1936-2012

Ferdinand Alexander Porsche 1936-2012

Ferdinand Alexander ‘Butzi’ Porsche, stylist of the time-defying Porsche 911, died on 5 April. He was 76.

Born in Stuttgart, Germany on 11 December 1935, ‘FA’, as he was widely known in the design community, was the third generation of the family to leave his mark in motoring lore. Son of Ferry, and grandson of Ferdinand, he became immersed in engineering from a young age, his family moving to Austria in 1943. He would return to Germany in his teens and enrol at the prestigious College of Design during a particularly fertile period for the Ulm-based institution.

Nonetheless, he didn’t complete his schooling, instead he joined the family firm in 1958 where he set about modelling a successor to the 356 series out of Plastacine.

In later years FA claimed that his real skill lay in sculpting rather than in design per se, and the 901 as it was initially dubbed before Peugeot objected (it had the rights to all three digit numbers with a zero in the middle) was the sensation of the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show.

Variations of the same theme continue with the current seventh-generation strain, the Porsche 911 remaining one of the most instantly recognisable sports cars of all time.

Yet Porsche also created one of the most beautiful sports-racing cars in the form of the 904 Carrera GTS. This glassfibre-bodied machine was a class or outright contender in everything from blue chip endurance races to rallying during the early 1960s. The then 20-something also shaped the 804 Grand Prix car, which to this day remains the only Porsche ever to win a round of the Formula One World Championship after Dan Gurney claimed the 1962 French GP at Rouen.

When Porsche KG became a limited company in 1971/72, FA along with other family members, retired from the business operations side of the firm. In 1972 he formed the Porsche Design Studio in Stuttgart, relocating to Zell am See in Austria two years later. Although he would move away from styling cars, his name became equally revered in the world of industrial design with his favoured gimmick-free approach being evident in everything from watches for Orfina to kitchen knives for Chroma. ‘A formally coherent product needs no embellishment; it should be increased by a mere formality… Good design should be honest’, was his philosophy, the 911 being his exemplar.

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