100th birthday: Ferry Porsche and the dream of the sports car

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Ferry Porsche and the dream of the sports car

100th birthday: Ferry Porsche and the dream of the sports car-Vienna

Ferry Porsche on his 85th birthday (1994) in the Porsche Type 356 "number 1".

Source: Porsche

Ferry Porsche would have been 100 years old today, on September 19th. The son of the VW Beetle creator Ferdinand Porsche turned the company into a sports car manufacturer and initiated the first Porsche 356. His son Wolfgang remembers the man who took on a great legacy – and left a much greater one.

Uur story begins in Vienna. Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche was born here on September 19, 1909, first name Ferry. It creates a myth – but what was the person behind this myth like? What moved the man who moved so many of us?

The fact that Ferry’s life was to be shaped by the automobile was already apparent on the day of his birth. When Ferry sees the light of day, his father Ferdinand was sitting at the wheel of a racing car he had designed himself. He grows up in a sheltered home. It becomes apparent early on that father and son are very different. "I think that he sometimes suffered from his father’s gruff manner," says Ferry’s son Wolfgang Porsche, who is now Chairman of the Porsche Supervisory Board.

Here the ingenious designer Ferdinand, there the calm, introverted Ferry. “But make sure there is no misunderstanding: my father was more docile, but he definitely pursued his goal,” says Porsche. In 1923 the family moved to Stuttgart, father Ferdinand became technical director and member of the board of management of the Daimler works.

In the new school, one of Ferry Porsche’s essential traits is already evident: persistence in human relationships. Here he met Albert Prinzing, among others, who later became the Porsche managing director. Lifelong friendships are created. After graduating from secondary school, Ferry decided that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. “The more I learned about life, the more I admired the shining example my father gave me,” said Ferry Porsche. He attends a private school to prepare for a technical degree. However, since Ferry spends more time in his father’s design office than at school, it is clear that he does not want to study.

In 1931 Dr. Ing. H. c. F. Porsche GmbH founded in Stuttgart – the nucleus of today’s success. Porsche had twelve employees at the time. Ferry is quickly used by his father to coordinate the design engineers. “What my grandfather was as a brilliant designer, that was my father’s sense of entrepreneurship,” says Wolfgang Porsche. The Second World War begins shortly afterwards.

Father Ferdinand became a sought-after man in the “Third Reich”. Adolf Hitler gave him the dubious honor of being the Fuhrer’s first designer: he’s supposed to design a Volkswagen. Nevertheless, the Porsches did not see themselves as Nazis. Ferry Porsche always made it a point to never have been a party member. His four sons were born during the Nazi era: Ferdinand Alexander (1935), Gerhard (1938), Hans-Peter (1940) and Wolfgang (1943). At the end of the war, the Porsche family withdrew to their estate in Zell am See, Austria.

In July 1945, the father and eldest son were arrested by the Americans, and later they were arrested by the French secret police. Ferry was released again in 1946 and his father was taken to Paris. "After the war it got serious for me, because now it was all down to my initiative," said Ferry Porsche later.

The first Porsche was mostly a VW

He takes on new projects, one of which should have a special meaning. Porsche receives the order to develop two vehicles for the Italian company Cisitalia. So Ferry can use the fee for this development work to release his father in France – and he gets the idea for the first Porsche. “Back then, Cisitalia built a small sports car with a Fiat engine. Why shouldn’t we do the same with VW parts? ”Said Ferry Porsche.

The economic risk of this decision is enormous, after all, after the war, all of Europe is hungry for small, economical cars and not for sports cars. Nevertheless, Porsche is sticking to its dream of its own car and building a prototype – initially known as the VW Sport. “Having built your own sports car during this time is probably my father’s greatest achievement in life,” says Wolfgang Porsche.

The car now called 356/1 is not only the first Porsche, but also Ferry’s emancipation from his father. Until then, Porsche senior had clearly dominated the relationship between the two.

No studies, no diploma, no academic title – none of this prevents Ferry Porsche from running the company and asserting himself against the big names in the industry. In September 1948, in tough talks with VW boss Heinrich Nordhoff, he negotiated an important agreement for the young company. Its content: Porsche receives license fees from VW for the construction of the Beetle, plus the sole rights to sell Volkswagen in Austria. Specifically, Porsche gets 0.1 percent of the gross list price of every Beetle sold – in 1950 that corresponds to around five marks per car. It was only with this money that the establishment of the sports car smithy in Zuffenhausen was possible in the first place.

1972 Porsche becomes a stock corporation

In the 1970s the company grew so big that the family decided to hand over the management to someone else. No member of the family will be allowed to take on operational management positions in the future. On August 1, 1972, Porsche becomes a stock corporation, Ferry Porsche relinquishes management and becomes chairman of the supervisory board. Now he has to watch the models 924, 944 and 928 leave the fairway – not always with success.

"You must have gotten lost", says Wolfgang Porsche about the model policy after his father left. “Certainly on the board of directors, too,” he adds, adding that this remark does not specifically refer to Wendelin Wiedeking, who took over the helm at Porsche in 1992. Wiedeking leads the sports car manufacturer to unimagined size.

“My father would have been proud if he had seen the merger with Volkswagen. After all, what belongs together comes together here, ”says Wolfgang Porsche. The unification has always been the goal – albeit with different accents, as he admits. Ferry Porsche dies on March 27, 1998 in Zell am See, but his work lives on on the streets.

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