Professor Ferdinand Porsche celebrates his 85th birthday

Here below you can find the content of the folder distributed in occasion of the 85th birthday of Ferry Porsche.

This is the official hagiography, therefore includes some elements which are either redacted, incomplete when not utterly misleading or incorrect (e.g. on the role of the family during the Nazi regime). Please use your best judgement.

Cover letter, September 1994

Ladies, Gentlemen and colleagues,

On 19 September 1994 Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche will be celebrating his 85th birthday with his family. There can hardly be anyone who has rendered greater service to the car than Professor Ferdinand Porsche.

In this Press Folder you will find everything worth knowng about Professor Porsche's life. It contains information on his private vehicles and the honors awarded to him.

All of the photographs in this folder are also available as slides.

With best wishes,
Dr. Ing. hc. F. Porsche AG
Anton Hunger
Head of Public Affairs


Professor Ferdinand celebrates his 85th birthday
His life and works

For this family, steel, aluminium, glass and rubber in the form of a car were always much more than merely inanimate materials that can be used to make money. When Aloisia Porsche bore her son Ferdinand ("Ferry") on Sunday 19 September 1909 in Wiener Neustadt, the baby's father Ferdinand was steering his Austro-Daimler to victory in its class in the Semmering mountain race. As Ferry, or to give him his full names Ferdinand Anton Ernst, grew up it was not the garden at home which was his favourite playground; the son of the Technical Director preferred to play in the Austro-Daimler factory yard not far away.

There was no silver spoon as far as education was concerned, Porsche Junior did not go to Public School but attended the "Volksschule" (Elemenatry School) for four years, followed by two years at the "Realschule" (Secondary School). The family then moved to Stuttgart, where Ferry's father took up the position of Technical Director at the Gottlieb-Daimler Motorengesellschaft. His son attended the Gottlieb-Daimler Gymnasium (Grammar School) in Bad Cannstatt.

On the occasion of Ferry's 75th birthday, his former school friend Albert Prinzing, who later became a professor and works manager in Zuffenhausen, recalled his fellow pupil as follows: "This small Austrian boy with long hair arrived in a class where everyone was wearing a Hindenburg' crewcut; he was wearing trousers we had never seen before and which he said were called knickerbockers. Even then he was already what we now call a trendsetter, because it wasn't long before we started wearing our hair longer and knickerbockers became the fashion in the class."

After four years, at the end of year ten, the young Porsche left the Gymnasium armed with his Zeugnis der mittleren Reife (roughly equivalent to GCSE's). He was driven by the impatience of youth and couldn't wait for the time when he could follow in the footsteps of his father, who had just created a technical marvel: the legendary Mercedes supercharged cars of the "S series", which reached their ultimate peak in the SSKL, the virtually unbeatable racing car of that time.

In a CV, Ferry Porsche later describes his subsequent progress along the engineering road as follows: "My engineering training started in 1927 with a one-year work experience placement with Robert Bosch and continued with a further year of very intensive private instruction from a Diplom-Ingenieur (engineering graduate) in Steyr." By now the recession had hit and the Porsche family had moved back to Austria where Professor Porsche had accepted a job offer from Steyr.

However, this period in Austria proved to be of short duration. Ferdinand Porsche found the options open to him as a leading engineer to be unsatisfactory. The economic crisis prevented his Steyr "Austria" with a 5.3 litre eight-cylinder engine from going into production. By the end of 1930 there were already reports in the Stuttgart dailies that Dr. Ferdinand Porsche intended to return to the Swabian metropolis and build up a company of his own.

In April 1931 the elder Porsche duly registered his design consultancy in the commercial register in Stuttgart. Right from the start, his son Ferdinand, who by then was 21 years old, worked for the company, as one of twelve designers. At first, times were not easy and the company had to look after the pennies. For instance, when father and son went to the Nürburgring for the prestigious race for the Preis von Deutschland (German Trophy) they did not spend the night in the luxury "Wilden Schwein" in Adenau but in a tent by the road. Rudolf Carraciola won the race in a Mercedes SSKL, the car which Porsche Senior can be said to have left to Daimler as his memorial.

There were soon signs of better times to come and Ferry began his rise to the company management. From 1932 he was his father's right-hand man and responsible for coordination of the work of the designers, supervision of testing and liaison with clients. Under Ferry's lead, demanding projects got off the ground, such as a prototype car for the motorcycle company Zündapp (construction number 12), the car which gave the first suggestions of the engineering concept and the Beetle shape of the later Volkswagen. For Auto Union, the Wanderer with a modern six-cylinder, light alloy engine was developed.

The company worked on its own initiative on a Grand Prix racing car with a 16-cylinder mid- engine. The advanced stage of development was a factor which proved beneficial later on (in 1933) in securing an order from Auto Union. A further order in the same year brought the subsequent W concept one stage further. When the Neckarsulm-based motorcycle manufacturer NSU ordered a car from Porsche, this construction, which bore the number 32, already had an air-cooled four-cylinder horizontally opposed engine and a distinct, pronounced Beetle shape. Unfortunately, the economic situation deteriorated again and the NSU project never came to fruition.

The dictator Adolf Hitler then demanded a "people's car" with specific characteristics: a top speed of 100 km/h, a fuel consumption of 7 litres/100 km, an air-cooled engine, 4-5 seats and a maximum price of 1000 Marks. On 17 January 1934 the Porsche design consultancy in the Kronenstraße put the final touches to their proposal for the model 60, which the government of the Reich was ultimately to approve. The Reichsverband der Automobilindustrie (RdA; Federal Association of the Automotive Industry), which like everything else in Germany at that time was under government control, concluded a contract with Porsche on 22 July 1934 for the development of a "people's car" (Volkswagen).

In the year the VW was born, the son emerged from the shadow of his famous father for good. Ferry was by now 25 years old and increasingly taking on the burden of translating his father's plans and visions into reality. The talents of the son thus complemented those of the father as a brilliant strategist in automotive development and proved to be advantageous for the continued further growth of the company.

The Volkswagen rapidly took shape on the drawing board when Ferry Porsche turned his energies to this project together with the designers Karl Rabe, Erwin Kommenda and Franz Xaver Reimspieß. However, construction of the prototypes took longer than planned. In the absence of finished Volkswagens, Ferry, who by now had also been appointed Road Test Director, also turned his attention to other cars. The first time the Auto Union racing car rolled out onto the open road, he settled himself behind the steering wheel and let the 16 cylinders rip. When his horrified parents heard about this, they promptly banned him from getting in the 450 horsepower car again. Even so, this short encounter with such sheer power was enough later on to give this intuitive engineer the idea of fitting the racing car with a locking differential; this was the feature which gave Auto Union superiority in the 1936 season.

The Volkswagen was taking time to get on the road. 1935 went by and Ferry Porsche married Dorothea Reitz, but the Road Test Director was still waiting for the cars. It was 12 October 1936 before the first prototype left the family premises on the Feuerbacher Weg. Two further prototypes followed in quick succession. Then came a time of enormous effort; the requisite mammoth 50,000 kilometre test was completed within only ten weeks. The report of the particularly critical RdA inspectors ran to 100 pages. Their verdict: "The vehicle has shown characteristics which appear to indicate that further development would be worthy of recommendation."

In 1937 Ferdinand and Ferry Porsche visited the USA in the search for streamlined production processes for the planned Volkswagen works. They studied manufacturing processes, recruited skilled staff in Detroit and met Henry Ford, who had already got his countrymen on to four wheels with his reasonably priced Model T. However, what they heard during this conversation was not the secret of inexpensive production but Ford's dire prediction: "There will soon be war." When Ford was proved right, the demand was for vehicles for troops, not for the general public. So the "people's car" became a jeep and armoured cars replaced racing cars on the drawing boards in the design office.

In the post-war years the entire responsibility for the family company soon fell on Ferry Porsche's shoulders. His father was held in France - not because of his work on German armaments but as technical adviser to the nationalised company Renault. The design consultancy had moved to Gmünd in Austria during the war and was still in this location when it was awarded the contract for the development work for the Cisitalia racing car. The release of his father Ferdinand Porsche in August 1947 gave Ferry fresh courage finally to build a sports car which would bear the Porsche name.

So it was that three prototypes were built and a small production plant was opened in Gmünd. These small beginnings eventually led to the very much larger plant in Stuttgart, thanks to Ferry Porsche's skills as a negotiator. On 17 September 1948 he signed an agreement with Heinz Nordhoff, the Director of VW, which not only secured the supply of parts for the Porsche 356 but also the services of the entire German VW organisation as sales and service partners. Under the terms of the agreement Porsche was also appointed as general agent for Volkswagen in Austria, providing additional financial security for the family future. He negotiated successfully with the American forces of occupation for the return of Works 1 in Zuffenhausen and he concluded a contract with Reutter for the supply of bodies and the lease of a factory shed for final assembly at the symbolic price of 1 Mark per square metre.

The 200,000 Mark start-up capital for the series of the first 500 Porsches priced at 9950 Mark was amassed from down payments made by the dealers. But the foundations that Ferry Porsche had put in place for his car manufacturing company proved to be firm and strong. Between 1950 and 1964 Porsche built 78,000 Model 356 cars.

The next step also led to a prosperous future. Against internal resistance from the mechanical engineers, Ferry Porsche pushed through the design of the 911, the brainchild of his son Ferdinand Alexander Porsche.

In March 1972 Ferdinand Porsche retired from the firm and decided to turn the company into a company limited by shares in order to secure its future. The engineer Professor Graf Fuhrmann took over as Chairman. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche moved to the Supervisory Board and continued to have an active interest in company policy. His advice is valued highly by the management to the present day.

GO / September 1994

The long version of this abstract is available


Professor Ferdinand celebrates his 85th birthday
The Governor's cars

Like father like son: the young Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche was just ten years old when he asked for his first car. His father, Ferdinand Porsche Senior, was at that time the technical director of Austro-Daimler in Vienna and was indeed in a position to grant such a wish. However, as parents do, his father and mother Aloisia told little Ferry that the best he could hope for would be a wooden cart, possibly with a goat to pull it.

The apprentices in the vehicle construction department were put to work on a miniature car and by Christmas Eve 1919 had built a small roadster for the Governor's son. When the time came for the present to be placed under the tree in the family villa, the wheels had to be taken off; that was the only way the mini-two-seater would go through the door. The clatter of a tool falling to the ground was heard by Ferry in his room upstairs and he knew that his wish was going to be granted: "After all you don't need screwdrivers for a billy goat!"

When his father later wanted to explain to him in the park how the accelerator, clutch and brake worked, Ferry didn't stop to listen but shot off at high speed. That was when it dawned on his father that the boy had long been able to drive. Unbeknown to him, young Ferry had already taken the company cars for several unauthorised trips around the works yard...

For a ten-year-old boy, young Master Porsche was already equipped with a serious set of wheels. The mini-roadster had an air-cooled two-cylinder engine which - a portent of things to come a long way down the road – was mounted in the rear and drove the rear axle via a two-speed gearbox. With six hörsepower under the bonnet, Ferry's nippy little car could do 60 km/h, quite some speed for the early 1920's.

From that time on, Ferry Porsche roared around the countryside in his little car without a care in the world. Whether he was within the law is another question. As he confessed during an interview some 50 years later: "I drove without a Driving Licence or a number plate on my car. Because of my father's position, however, the police in Wiener Neustadt looked the other way whenever I appeared."

It was not until Ferdinand Porsche was 18 years old and acquired a Driving Licence with special authorisation that his youthful illegal driving came to an end. In the meantime, Ferdinand Porsche Senior had moved with his family to Swabia, where he held the post of Technical Director with the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft in Untertürkheim from 1923.

In December 1930, Ferry started work in the design consultancy which his father Ferdinand Porsche had just set up in the Kronenstraße in Stuttgart. The clients included Auto Union, for which the consultancy carried out work on Wanderer cars; it goes without saying that the staff drove these. As a particularly committed driver, Ferry seized his opportunity with both hands on the steering wheel and became a works driver for Wanderer. In both 1933 and 1943 he took part in the 2000 kilometre rally as a member of the Auto Union team, to which Bernd Rosemeyer also belonged.

However, it was not long before the design work in the consultancy took up the lion's share of his time again. By the time he was 24 years old, Ferry was already working on the details of the Auto Union Grand Prix car, which revolutionised racing car technology with its 16 cylinders and mid-engine.

1934 saw the order from the government of the German Reich for the Volkswagen - the "people's car". Ferry Porsche was involved in the design of the Beetle and grew in his role as Engineering Director by taking control of all testing on this car, although it was quite some time before the German people were actually able to drive it. When priorities changed and the need was for a jeep and an amphibious vehicle for the Army, both to be developed on the basis of the Volkswagen, the task of leading the project again fell to Ferry Porsche.

Long before Ferry Porsche's cars, there were three sports versions of the Volkswagen, which were developed before the War and already carried all of the genes which later would become typical of sports cars made in Zuffenhausen. The racing versions developed for the Berlin-Rome rally were rear-engined Beetles with improved aerodynamics and technically were the direct precursors of the first Porsche 356.

After the War, while the Porsche design consultancy was still in exile in Gmünd in Austria, Ferry devoted his efforts to revolutionising racing car engineering. The opportunity for this came with an order from the Italian industrialist Piero Dusio. The Grand Prix car for Tazio Nuvolari was dubbed the "Cisitalia" and advanced Formula 1 engineering by decades with a twelve-cylinder engine and four-wheel drive.

From the time Ferry Porsche first put pen to paper for the design of the legendary Porsche 356 models on 17 July 1947 he began his metamorphosis from committed constructor to determined entrepreneur in a new period of rapid industrial expansion. The Porsche works in Zuffenhausen became his new life's work; from now on others would build his cars the way he wanted them to be.

The history of the first twenty years of the sports car works reveals that Ferry Porsche drove the 356 with increasing pleasure as the model matured, relished driving the Carrera versions and from the start was a committed fan of the Porsche 911, which is still continuing on its successful way today.

On the occasion of his 60th birthday, the "Governor" was given a car which unostentatiously set him apart from the crowd. The car was to all appearances an unchanged Porsche 914, but was fitted with the three-litre eight-cylinder horizontally opposed engine used in the successful model 908 racing car. The one-off certificate for the special edition with registrationt number S-R 3000 testifies to an imposing 260 horsepower. Ferry Porsche drove many miles in the 914/8 and at the end of the day was very pleased that he had chosen the somewhat tamer version and not the raucous 300 horsepower variant which his nephew and Chief Engineer Ferdinand Piech used for his business trips.

More special birthday cars came the way of the Porsche chief, who by this time was a member of the Supervisory Board: in 1979 he received a particularly fine and powerful Porsche 928 S to celebrate his 70th birthday. When he was 75 this was followed by a very special one-off car, a combination of a coupé and an estate, with a long wheelbase and ample room for four people. His 80th birthday saw the presentation of a study in four-wheel drive roadster styling given the name "Panamericana".

Ferry Porsche looks back with pleasure on the many cars in his life, but when he is asked which is his favourite amongst them all he gives an answer which is refreshingly youthful for someone 85 years old: "The next one of course!"

GO / September 1994

The long version of this abstract is available


Interview with Professor Ferdinand Porsche on the occasion of his 85th birthday
"I always look towards the future"

Professor Porsche, many prominent men have written automobile history. But we can justifiably describe your life's work as unique in every sense. You cooperated in development of the Volkswagen. After the war, you and your engineers contributed to the further development of an automobile which is now the most-built car in the world and, above all, you have shepherded the Porsche company and its unique sports cars to magnificent fame around the world. Are you satisfied with your life's work?

Professor Porsche : "One should never be entirely satisfied. I always look towards the future and am pleased by many successes, technical, sporting and naturally economical too, which I have achieved up to now, along with my associates, and also those which they produce today - even without my direct contribution."

In the last two or three years the Porsche company has experienced a difficult phase. Did this worry you?

Professor Porsche : "You can never view a negative business trend without some worry, of course. The important thing is to avoid panic and never forget that there have always been economic peaks and troughs, for companies and branches as well as countries and continents. You must never give up, but confront a crisis with the proper answers."

Dynamo of the new Porsche upswing - once again - is the 911. Did you ever dream of that when you presented the "new model" at the 1963 IAA in Frankfurt?

Professor Porsche : "Certainly not. But you know as well as I do that almost no model in the history of the automobile has experienced such a strong aura and enthusiastic circle of fans. On the other hand, no other automobile has been so consequently further-developed, with virtually the same external appearance. Apart from that, actually only the basic concept of a 2+2 sports car with air-cooled rear engine has remained the same. Beyond that, there is hardly a single component left which is the same as its parallel piece from the first series. You don't even have to follow this evolutionary path back through all those decades. When we presented the Carrera 4 in 1988 it was an eighty-percent new car compared to its predecessor. And that is true again of the new Carrera today."

How much longer will the 911 live?

Professor Porsche : "I honestly do no longer dare give any prognostications for the 911."

You once said, "the last car will be a sports car." What did you mean by that?

Professor Porsche : "There is no perfect solution for the automobile, you have to accept compromises. Statistics indicate that ninety percent of all passenger cars carry a maximum of two people. Thus the two-seat sports car is the best-utilized vehicle. Actually, we at Porsche were always following the proper path."

Are you also thinking about the environmental compatibility of Porsche cars?

Professor Porsche : "Yes, environmental awareness will continue to grow and the automobile will be a subject of controversy to an ever greater degree. Raw materials and energy reserves are finite and we engineers must consider what steps we can take. For instance, we at Porsche have already made our cars longer lasting by using galvanized sheet metal, light alloys and plastics at an early stage. Through improved design and new materials, we can build even lighter auto- mobiles, thus achieving a reduction in fuel consumption. But that brings new conflicts as well - with plastics, for instance, recycling is not yet available to the necessary degree. I take the standpoint that waste disposal must be ensured for every new technology. Otherwise we create more, rather than fewer, problems."

The automobile is facing more and more criticism.

Professor Porsche : "The critics are right when they believe automobile manufacturers throughout the world must not stop in their efforts to further reduce consumption and emissions while further increasing safety. But we must carefully separate criticism from polemics. A great deal of what the public understands as criticism today, unfortunately proves to be pure polemics when you investigate it. The automobile is presented as carbon dioxide and greenhouse-effect source number one, even though not only scientists but meanwhile even so-called critics know that only a minute portion of the global, largely naturally-sourced carbon dioxide production stems from auto exhausts. You can easily consider this example as representative for today's general criticism of the automobile."

We often hear the criticism that sports cars achieve higher speeds than can be used in road traffic. Will this work against sports cars in the future?

Professor Porsche : "Since Cd-values have become more favorable, which must be welcomed in the interest of reduced fuel consumption, sedans also travel at high speeds. In sports cars these are achieved with reduced energy outlays. This speaks more for than against sports cars. You don't always have to use the high speeds which are now possible."

Porsche is again on a solid path in this year of your special birthday. What would you ask those who hold responsibility today to remember?

Professor Porsche : "I continue to be interested, as always, in the economic situation of the company and therefore am pleased with the positive business direction. The new management, which enjoys my complete trust, will do everything to see that Porsche will operate profitably in the long run and thus maintain the independence of the Porsche AG. I am convinced, being large in itself is no guarantee for the survival of a company. We are on the right path.


Way Stations in the life of Professor Ferry Porsche

  • 1909 Birth of Ferdinand Porsche, called "Ferry," in Wiener Neustadt on 19 September. Attended school in Wiener Neustadt and Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt. Technical training at Bosch in Stuttgart.
  • 1931 Began his activities as designer in the development offices of his father, Dr. Ing. h.c. Ferdinand Porsche, in Stuttgart.
  • 1932 Expansion of his assignment and responsibilities to include test oversight and coordination. Contribution to design and development of the Auto Union Grand Prix race cars.
  • 1934 Director of W test-drive program.
  • 1935 Married Dorothea Reitz of Stuttgart (who died in 1985). There were four sons of this marriage.
  • 1938 Director of the experimental department. During this year the design offices moved to new quarters built in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen.
  • 1940 Deputy director of the entire operation.
  • 1945 Director of the company, moved during the war to Gmünd in Carinthia. Development begins on the legendary Porsche 356, based on the Volkswagen and first automobile to 1945 carry the Porsche name.
  • 1945 Following completion of the first 46 cars of the Type 356 in Gmünd, return with his company to Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, together with key coworkers. Rebuilding of the development offices for outside contracts.
  • 1950 Start Porsche 356 series production in Stuttgart.
  • 1959 Award of the Grand Cross for Distinguished Services by the Federal Republic of Germany from President Professor Theodor Heuss.
  • 1965 Honorary degree of Dr. techn. conferred by Vienna Technical Institute.
  • 1972 Chairman of a joint-stock company or AG, restructured from Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche KG.
  • 1975 Award of the Grand Golden Badge of Honor of the Austrian Republic in Vienna.
  • 1978 Presentation of the Wilhelm-Exner Medal to Dr. Ferdinand Porsche.
  • 1979 Presentation of the Star to the Grand Cross for Distinguished Services of the Federal Republic of Germany by the Minister President of Baden Württemberg, Lothar Späth, on the occasion of his 70th birthday.
  • 1981 Award of the Gold Medal of the Société des Ingénieurs de l'Automobile. Became honorary citizen of the City of Zell am See, Austria.
  • 1984 Award of the title "Professor" by Minister President Lothar Späth.
  • 1985 Appointment as Honorary Senator by the University of Stuttgart.
  • 1989 Presentation of the Economics Medal for outstanding services to the economy of Baden Württemberg, by Martin Herzog, Minister for Economic Affairs of Baden- Württemberg, on 19 September.
  • 1989 Citizens Medal of the city of Stuttgart on 12 December on the occasion of his 80th birthday (19 September), in appreciation of his great services to the economic development of the state capital.
  • 1990 Honorary Chairman of the Supervisory Board.
  • 1993 Honorary Chairman of the Supervisory Board without mandate

  • Porsche_1994_85th_Ferry

    "Volevamo scrivere qui in motto intelligente ma al momento non ci viene in mente nulla"