b Wiener Neustadt (Austria), September 19, 1909 – d Zell am See (Austria), March 27, 1998
As the son or daughter of a famous pop star, a World Champion racing driver or another immensely popular person, it’s always difficult to deserve people's respect. Sometimes it makes things easier to establish, and it will open doors that are closed to others. But when you show your skills at a high level, everybody will distinguish your talent, potential and success. Ferry Porsche was one of those juniors, mostly because he was mistaken for his father all his life.
Prof.Dr. Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche, better known by his nickname Ferry, was an automotive designer and engineer, and the founder of sports car manufacturer Porsche AG. Ferry Porsche is often mistaken for his father, Professor Ferdinand Porsche Sr, the most famous designer, constructor and engineer of his time and best remembered for the creation of the Volkswagen Beetle and his larger-than-life ego.
Together with their team they worked on projects like the Wanderer, the famous Auto Union Grand Prix car, several German tanks and of course the Volkswagen Beetle. After the war the involvement with the Nazis had several consequences. Ferdinand, Ferry and Anton Piëch (who married Ferry’s sister) were arrested. Ferry was released in 1946, but his father and brother-in-law were kept in prison for almost two years.
With father Ferdinand.
Meanwhile Ferry went back to Gmünd, the mountain village where the Porsche design studio was installed in 1944 during heavy bombardments. As soon as he started he got in contact with Italian industrial Piero Dusio who wanted a Grand Prix car. This became the famous Cisitalia 12-cylinder 1500cc Grand Prix car, the car that didn’t race because Dusio lost his financial strength.
But with the money Ferry earned he did two things. First he bailed his father out of prison and secondly he started to build a sports car, based on the Volkswagen Beatle. This idea wasn’t new, he had built three predecessors of the Porsche 356 in 1939 for the road race of Berlin-Rome. The set-up of these three cars was the same as the first 356 (the number was based on the schedule Porsche Sr used in all his designs). The 1939 cars and the 356-001 were mid-engined, which gave instant success.
The 356-001 took class victory in the first race it joined in Innsbrück. By re-placing the engine behind the rear axle, Porsche created more space for driver and passenger, an idea that turned the first road-going Porsches into a success – a small, fast and well handling sports car with enough storage space to travel around Europe. The new engine set-up, however, would become a widow maker and not everybody was able handle the car in high-speed situations, but it will last ‘forever’ in the Porsche 911 all the same.
Professor Dr. Ferry Porsche was happy and grateful that his father, shortly before his death, witnessed with approval the start of Porsche as a specialist sports car manufacturer. Since the official start in 1948, decades of hard, dedicated work were put in by Ferry to further enhance the fine Porsche product, by expanding customer service and marketing, not to mention accelerating product development through motor racing.
During Ferry's reign, Porsche's commercial success was only helped by its numerous racing triumphs in events such as Le Mans and Formula One. Ferry stepped down from the company board in 1972 but remained active on the company's advisory board, serving as chairman until 1990. He was the advisory board's honorary chairman until his death on March 27, 1998, in Zell am See, Austria.
Professor Dr. Ferry Porsche demanded a great deal from his co-workers, engineers, mechanics and drivers. He saw people like Carel Godin de Beaufort as their clients, but Ferry also used their input for developing and improving Porsches road and track cars. At Spa in 1962 Carel finished 7th, while the Porsche works team didn’t show up. Porsche had decided to quit F1 racing for a while.
The company didn’t get any backup or support from its country. In those days Great Britain and Italy supported their car and racing companies, but Germany didn’t support their car manufacturers, especially such a small company as Porsche. Formula 1 became too expensive for Porsche, as it was going to buy the Reutter company while Ferrari was dominating the most important championships.
Several days later, Ferry wrote Carel a letter. Ferry congratulated Carel with his result and promised him that Porsche would rejoin at the next Grand Prix – they won... Porsche finished 7th in the constructors championship that year, and Carel deserved all the respect and support of the company he needed.
One year later Carel had contact with Ferry before the race. The night before the Grand Prix at Spa in 1963 Carel went to the factory for a new engine. As a privateer he always managed to get some works support. So Carel called Ferry out of his bed and the Prof.Dr. wasn’t at all amused about that, but Carel got his new engine. The next day, back at Spa, Carel finished 6th with his fresh engine installed.
Carel was never a factory driver in Grand Prix racing, but as a common and friendly customer he managed to gather some of the best Porsche mechanics around him. Sometimes they even worked harder for privateer Carel than for the works drivers. As a bonus for all their hard work, he treated them with crates of beer. Ferry never complained about the extra service Carel got from his mechanics.
Ferry made courageous investments in new developments and thereby founded the worldwide reputation of his firm Porsche AG. People started to see him as a privately controlled, independent producer of technologically advanced sports and racing cars for worldwide use. The company never lost its original roots as an engineering company – nowadays it still works for other manufacturers, governments and organisations as NATO.
Although Ferry Porsche was often mistaken for his father, it is obvious that everybody will acknowledge the fact that Ferry Porsche was as talented as his father when it comes to design, engineering and construction. And perhaps his commercial and management skills were even larger.
With Louise Piëch.