Today it was announced that Ferdinand “Butzi” Porsche has passed away at age 76. For those who know little to nothing about cars for the last 50 years, Butzi Porsche was the man who gave the world the Porsche 911.
Helen of Troy may have launched 1,000 ships but Butzi Porsche launched 100,000 sports cars with his update of the original rear-engined Porsche – the 356. The first 911 was unveiled at the 1963 Frankfurt auto show – defying physics by hanging the engine out over the rear axle. What seemed like a quick lesson in vehicle dynamics would ultimately go on to be a permanent fixture both in Porsche’s model line-up as well as innumerable racing series’ worldwide for the next 49 years. Yes, the setup of the chassis and weight distribution didn’t make much sense but the results speak for themselves from the 7 generations of 911′s produced, countless races wons and fight-to-the-bitter-end diehard following of 911 fanatics.
All of this made possible by Butzi’s singular design, said to be initially sketched out as early as 1959 before the curtain went up on the production model four years later.
While the 911 would become the lifeblood of Porsche for decades to come, Butzi’s purest design came in the form of the 1964 Porsche 904 GTS. A mid-engined coupe powered by a ubiquitous flat four banger before the 904/6 and 906/8 were introduced – precursors to the successful Porche 906 race car. The 904 was thought to be Butzi’s favorite design as there was little time for external forces to influence the overall design. In my own selfish way I like to think of the Cayman being a successor to the highly regarded yet often-forgotten 904 GTS.
After moving from the Porsche car design, F.A. Porsche retooled his design skills by founding the Porsche Design brand with a focus on watches, sunglasses, and other luxury accoutrements. The focal point of the designs being both functionality and aesthetic – a tradition that still carries forth in the Porsche Design brand.
Without realizing it, when Butzi Porsche set out to design the 911 he would inadvertently link his name to an icon that reestablished what a sports car could be. His mark on the automotive industry, while indelable, will more importantly continue to live on in the garages and racetracks of enthusiasts across the globe.
Source: John Glynn Porsche/ Ferdinand: The Cult of Porsche