Ferry Porsche

Birthday : 1909-09-19
Deceased : 1998-03-27

Biography Ferry Porsche

Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche, commonly known Ferry Porsche, was an Austrian technical automobile designer and industrial. He operated Porsche AG in Stuttgart, Germany. His father, Ferdinand Porsche, Sr. was also a renowned automobile engineer and founder of Volkswagen and Porsche. His nephew, Dr. Ferdinand Piëch, is the longtime chairman of Volkswagen Group. Ferry Porsche can be seen as the father of the Porsche 356. His son, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, better known as Butzi Porsche, was involved in the design of the Porsche 911 and the legendary Porsche 904.

Ferry Porsche in chis childhood
Ferry Porsche in chis childhood

Ferry Porsche’s life was intimately connected with that of his father, Ferdinand Porsche, Sr., who began sharing his knowledge of mechanical engineering already in his childhood. With his father, he opened a bureau of automobile design, in Stuttgart in 1931.

They worked together to fulfill their country’s National Socialist regime’s needs and they met Adolf Hitler at many business events. The Volkswagen Beetle was designed by Ferdinand Porsche, Sr. and a team of engineers, including Ferry Porsche.


The Cisitalia

After World War II, while his father was imprisoned in France, accused of war crimes, Ferry took over the management of the business. Ferry Porsche was actually released from prison in order to collect ransom to buy out his father. Luckily Italian Piero Dusio of Cisitalia racing car company ordered a racing car from Ferry, the famous Cisitalia car. That car never made it to the track because of the financial problems of Piero Dusio, but the funds raised by the design of the car meant a whole lot for the financial wellbeing of the company.

Porsche Typ 360 "Cisitalia"; 1947
Porsche Typ 360 “Cisitalia”; 1947 (c) Porsche AG

Porsche 356

In 1947 Ferry Porsche started the design of the Porsche 356, with the help of Karl Rabe. The car’s shape was the work of car-body constructor Erwin Komenda, who had also created the shape of the Volkswagen (Porsche type 60).  June 8 1948, the Porsche 356 prototype, now known as Porsche number 1, is road registered. Shortly after, the car scores its first class victory at the Innsbruck Stadtrennen, with Herbert Kaes at the wheel. The later evolution of the car, the 356/2 are also known as the Gmünd Porsches. The very first 52 production “Porsches” based on the 356/2 were built in the sleepy pastoral Austrian village of Gmünd, as from August of 1948.

Ferry Porsche with the Porsche 356 Nr 1
Ferry Porsche with the Porsche 356 Nr 1

The contract Ferry Porsche concluded with the Managing Director of Volkswagenwerk on 17 September 1948 on the supply of VW parts and the use of VW’s distribution network clearly shows that Ferry Porsche was not only an outstanding engineer but also a far-sighted businessman and entrepreneur: Ferry Porsche and Nordhoff agreed that VW was to pay a license fee to Porsche for every Beetle built, since, after all, the car had been developed by Porsche before the war.

Return to Stuttgart

In 1950 Porsche returned to Stuttgart, to start a success story barely ever seen in the history of the automotive industry.  Ferry Porsche was always very successful in understanding the signs of the times and sensing any change in the market. So in the late 1950s, he realized that the Porsche 356, despite all the efforts made to enhance the car’s “fitness”, still remained a close relative to the VW Beetle and therefore did not offer great prospects for the future.

By the early ‘60s three of Ferry Porsche’s four sons, who in the meantime was already holding his first grandson in his arms, had followed the example of their father and worked actively in the automotive industry – particularly Ferdinand Alexander who worked in the Company’s Model Department as an engineer. Together with Ferdinand Alexander, Ferry Porsche started developing the looks and design of the successor to the 356, which to begin with was to bear the model designation 901.

Ferry Porsche at the Porsche plant in Zuffenhausen 1968
Ferry Porsche at the Porsche plant in Zuffenhausen 1968

Ferry Porsche was also open at all times to unusual and even risky ideas. Building the VW- Porsche 914, for example, the company launched a joint venture with Volkswagen in 1969 in an attempt to win over new market shares beneath the Porsche 911 through an inexpensive sports car for a broader segment.

The tradition to present Ferry Porsche a unique car for his birthday.

Ferry Porsche himself also drove a 914 which he received as a gift from his employees on the occasion of his 60th birthday – although in this case, the sports car hardly modified outside came with the three-liter eight-cylinder power unit otherwise featured in the Type 908 racing car, albeit slightly de-tuned for everyday use.  And this very special 914/8 was by no means a gift just for Porsche’s garage, with Ferry Porsche covering more than 10,000 kilometers in the car.

A new tradition was born: the man at the top of Porsche would receive a special car on very special birthdays. So when asked by a journalist whether he would buy a Porsche himself, Ferry Porsche had a very easy answer: “No, I just have to wait until my next birthday.”

"Birthday cars" Ferry Porsche received from his employees
“Birthday cars” Ferry Porsche received from his employees

In the early 1970s, Ferry Porsche once again set the long-term stage for the company he had now been running for two decades. Following lengthy discussions regarding his successor in Porsche’s top management, the Porsche and Piëch families decided in 1971 to no longer fill any top operating positions in the Company with members of the two families.

Early in  1972, the principal partners of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche KG decided to turn the limited partnership into a joint-stock corporation as of 1 August 1972. Ferry Porsche readily accepted this unanimous decision by the families and retired from active management.

Another issue always of great interest to Ferry Porsche was the future of the automobile, with the opinion he voiced in 1979 now more important than ever before: “Fuel consumption will be a particularly significant factor in the future. The amount of fuel consumed by a motor vehicle will also depend on its weight and air resistance. And the sports car is at an advantage on both of these points.” So he always believed that “we must do things in our cars that help to reduce fuel consumption.

The last years of Ferry Porsche

In the last years of his life, Ferry Porsche had to experience how his company entered a severe crisis threatening its very existence. But even when the Porsche company was seen as the candidate for a possible takeover, Ferry Porsche still emphasized his unflinching will to remain independent. And experiencing the economic turnaround led by Dr. Wendelin Wiedeking, he was able to see his lifetime achievement returning to the road of ongoing success.

Ferry Porsche at his 70th birthday with a Porsche 928
Ferry Porsche at his 70th birthday with a Porsche 928

The introduction of the Porsche Boxster in 1996 marked the continuation of his vision of a mid-engined roadster, and he never doubted the future of his sports car philosophy: “The last car ever built will be a sports car.”

The death of Ferry Porsche on 27 March 1998 also marked the end of another era, with the last air-cooled 911 coming off the production line in the same year. At this very moment, one of his sons, Wolfgang Porsche is the head of the supervisory board of Porsche AG.