Designer Ferdinand Porsche dies at age 76

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Porsche 911 Targa

The Porsche 911 Targa is a recognizable successor to the first 911 that F.A. Porsche built in 1963. Image: Thorston Haustein/Flickr/CC BY-ND

Ferdinand Alexander Porsche has died in Salzburg, Austria, at the age of 76. Porsche was the famed designer of the original, iconic Porsche 911 sports car.

A design legacy

Porsche rose to international prominence in 1963 when he introduced the original Porsche 911 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. He was only 27 at the time. Matthias Mueller, who heads Porsche AG, announced the death Thursday, saying Ferdinand A. Porsche created a design that became synonymous with the automaker.

Mueller said:

“The creator of the Porsche 911 has founded a culture of design in our company that distinguishes our sports cars even today.”

No cause of death has yet been announced.

The iconic Porsche 911 sports car

The 911 was a more accessible, roomier version of the company’s first offering, the four-cylinder Porsche 356. The 911 utilized a rear-mounted six-cylinder engine. The Porsche 911 is now being produced in its seventh incarnation. The car is still recognizably Porsche, with its sloping roof, low hood and large headlights.

Porsche said his focus in designing the vehicle from the start was to create a car with a defining, iconic shape:

“Right from the start, the specification was that the car had to be instantly recognizable as a Porsche from its silhouette.”

Originally designed as the Porsche 901, the name of the two-door sports car was changed over an intellectual property dispute with the rival automaker, Peugeot. The French automaker insisted that it owned a patent on all car names that use a “zero” in the middle.

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Biographical details

Named for his grandfather, Ferdinand Porsche was born in Stuttgart, Germany on Dec. 11, 1935. As a youngster, he spent a great deal of time in his namesake grandfather’s design offices. The elder Porsche founded the Porsche company as a design and engineering firm in the 1930s. He was also the designer of the original Volkswagen Beetle.

F.A., as the younger Porsche was called to distinguish him from his grandfather, joined the company at age 22. He became head of the design studio in 1962, and in a year’s time had unfurled the iconic 911. Later, he became president of the company.

The family sold its interest in the company’s operation in the 1970s. In 1972, F.A. Porsche opened a design company that created pens, watches and eyeglasses.

In addition to the 911, F.A. Porsche was also credited with designing a Formula One racing car, the Porsche 904 Carrera GTS.

Services pending

A private ceremony will be held at Porsche’s burial in Zell am See, Germany. He will be honored in a public service to be held at a future date in Stuttgart.


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