Wednesday, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche passed away in Austria. That’s a long way from Kansas City, Missouri, but the auto detailing community are mourning him worldwide. No, he wasn’t Porsche’s founder. That detail was his grandfather’s. And no, he didn’t popularize Porsche as a sports car brand. His father, Ferry, did that.
He did something greater. He designed two cars for Porsche. Only two. Both of them were sleek and fast, one came to symbolize the brand for decades, and it remains their most recognizable car. It’s famous from Germany to Kansas City.
F.A. Porsche was not an engineer like his forebears, but a designer. In the ’50s, during his first year there, he was kicked out of industrial design school for lack of talent. He could have slunk away and entered the auto detailing industry, but instead, he went back to the family business and studied in-house.
When Ferry challenged him to sculpt the successor to his own masterpiece, the 356, F.A. came up with something brilliant: the 911.
It was first called the 901, but that center digit was indeed a zero, and this detail was a problem. Peugeot had the right to all such names. So it was renamed the 911 and released for 1964.
The 2 liter flat six only produced 128 hp at first, but it was the car’s functional, aerodynamic beauty, and more so its simple, 1:1 handling that made it such a legend.
And it was beautiful. Drop that sleek hunchbacked bright eyes on a set of Fuchs and you have the very picture of sport tourer. It’s a detailer’s dream to keep such a work of art looking gorgeous.
Almost 50 years have passed, and though it has grown and evolved, detail by tiny improvement, the 911′s basic shape and layout have remained, and people from Kansas City to Paris can see and recognize it as a Porsche – the Porsche.
A good detailer will see his share of 911s throughout his career. Of the Porsche 904, F.A.’s other car, only 106 examples were built, and only to meet homologation standards. Clearly, it’s something for the auto detailing crowd to care for, if we ever get the chance.
The 904 was a mid-engine supercar, capable of brilliant acceleration and stellar handling. It only packed 198 hp, but as with the 911, power didn’t matter so much, and the 904 took victories at Le Mans, the Targa Floria, and the Nurburgring, among many others.
F.A. called the 904 his favorite project because it had to be completed so quickly. There was no time for anyone else to step in and muddy the waters. By the time the feedback came in, the 904 was practically heading to the detailer for race prep.
F.A. eventually started his own design firm, penning countless clever products and and focusing on watches and eyewear. The cars are only a small part of his legacy. We in the auto detailing business would like to salute F.A. He will be missed.