Born on September 19, 1909, of Austrian descent, Ferry Porsche kept the Porsche flame alive when his father was imprisoned in France. Ferry Porsche was one of the first employees to work in his father’s design engineering office, but it is his mark on the company while his father was away that made a huge difference. His realization of a small sports car based on the Volkswagen in collaboration with the head design engineer Karl Rabe (1895-1968) and the body design engineer Erwin Komenda (1904-1966) constituted a new departure for the company (who had mainly design-focused till then) and lead to the Porsche 356. Ferry Porsche founded the company’s global reputation as a producer of successful sports and racing cars in 1948. In doing so, he used the same design principles that his father applied with the Volkswagen (air-cooled horizontally opposed engine in rear), and, at the same time, upheld the racing tradition that his father started.
Ferdinand (Ferry) Anton Ernst Porsche, the second child of Ferdinand and Aloisia Porsche, was born on 19 September 1909 in Wiener Neustadt. His sister Louise (1904-1999) was already five years of age. At the time of his birth, his father was employed as a Technical Manager at Austro-Daimler in Wiener Neustadt.
Ferry Porsche was one of the first employees to work in his father’s design engineering office, which he founded in Stuttgart in 1931. Beforehand, Ferry Porsche completed a one-year industrial placement at the Bosch company in Stuttgart after finishing school. In a further year at the firm, he received theoretical, intensive, and private instruction in automotive engineering. As early as 1932, Ferry Porsche was assigned certain responsibilities, namely, test control, the coordination of design engineers and the maintenance of good client relationships (e.g. with Auto Union in Zwickau). When Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche GmbH was commissioned by the Imperial Federation of the Automobile Industry (Reichsverband der Automobilindustrie (RDA)) in 1934 to build a Volkswagen (Porsche model 60), Ferry Porsche was placed in charge of the test drives very soon afterwards. Seeing as more and more of his father’s time was being taken up with concerns relating to the establishment of the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, Ferry Porsche was appointed Deputy Manager of the entire business, which was located in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen since 1938. Because of the increasing threat of air attacks on Stuttgart, Ferry Porsche oversaw the relocation of essential divisions of the design engineering office to Gmünd/Carinthia. The headquarters and Ferry Porsche, himself, remained in Stuttgart.
Following several month’s imprisonment by the Americans and the French and internment, Ferry Porsche returned in July 1946 to Gmünd/Carinthia, the sole location of the company since the end of the war, and took over management of the business because his father was still in French captivity. The realization of his concept of a small sports car based on the Volkswagen in collaboration with the head design engineer Karl Rabe (1895-1968) and the body design engineer Erwin Komenda (1904-1966), 17 years after his father had founded the business, constituted a new departure for the company, which, hitherto, had been a pure design engineering office and was now also to become a production company.
Thanks to the Porsche model 356, Ferry Porsche founded the company’s global reputation as a producer of successful sports and racing cars in 1948. In doing so, he used the same design principles that his father applied with the Volkswagen (air-cooled horizontally opposed engine in rear), and, at the same time, upheld the racing tradition that his father started in 1900 at the beginning of his career as a design engineer. 52 units of the Porsche model 356 were manually built at Gmünd.
In 1949, Ferry Porsche returned with the company to Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen in his capacity as General Manager. However, the former premises were still occupied by the Americans. Consequently, the first Porsche 356 was produced under makeshift conditions in the rented rooms of the car body company Reutter in spring 1950. Prior to this, Ferry Porsche concluded a forward-looking contract with Heinz Nordhoff (1899-1968), the General Manager of Volkswagen. The contract stipulated that the Volkswagen plant would supply the parts required for the sports car series. Furthermore, it set forth that the cars produced by the company would be sold via the sales network of the VW plant and be serviced by its service organisation. The Porsche company undertook to advise the Volkswagen factory on activities relating to design engineering.
Ferry Porsche achieved a second major triumph by concluding contracts with VW wholesalers, which meant a more stable financial situation for the company’s future development.
When his father died in January 1951, Ferry Porsche had assumed sole responsibility of the company and, as General Manager, oversaw its transformation from a limited partnership to a public limited company (plc) in 1972. Although the nominal capital of the plc was increased in 1984, the Porsche and Piëch families are still the sole proprietors of the ordinary shares.
The Full Timeline & Visual History
1909 September 19 Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche is born in Wiener Neustadt (50 km south of Vienna), Austria-Hungary, as the second child of Ferdinand and Aloisia Johanna Porsche (born Kaes). The day Ferry Porsche was born, his father was competing with his Austro-Daimler Maja race car at Semmering (40 km from home). He found out about his son’s birth by telegram. At that time Ferry’s father was employed as a Technical Manager at Austro-Daimler in Wiener Neustadt.
Ferdinand Anton Ernst got his name from his father Ferdinand, his grandfather Anton and his uncle Ernst.
In 1925 and 1926, the authorities issued a special driving license for the 16 year old Ferry.
1928 Ferry completed a 1-year industrial placement at Bosch in Stuttgart.
April 25, 1931 Ferry’s father set up his own independent design office. It was recorded in the Commercial Register as “Dr. Ing. h. c. F. Porsche GmbH, Konstruktionen und Beratung für Motoren und Fahrzeuge”. Ferry was one of the first employees there.
In 1932, at his father’s design bureau Ferry was assigned test control, the coordination of design engineers and the maintenance of good client relationships (e.g. with Auto Union).
In 1934, when Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche GmbH was commissioned by the Imperial Federation of the Automobile Industry (Reichsverband der Automobilindustrie – RDA) to create the Volkswagen, Ferry Porsche was placed in charge of the test drives very soon afterwards.
On January 10 1935, Ferry marries Dorothea Reitz. December 11, son Ferdinand Alexander Porsche is born.
In 1937, Ferry joins his father on his second US visit. They travel to USA on the SS “Bremen” (June 22-26). The first goal was a visit to the Vanderbilt Cup race at the Roosevelt Raceway on Long Island, New York on July 5. Bernd Rosemeyer and Ernst von Delius took part in this race in Auto Union 16-cylinder “P” racing cars (Porsche Type 22). Bernd Rosemeyer finished in first place ahead of Dick Seaman in a Mercedes-Benz. Ernst von Delius was fourth. It was the first time since 1918 that German cars had raced in North America. Ferdinand and Ferry Porsche were also accompanied by Jakob Werlin of Daimler-Benz, Otto Dieckhoff, an expert in production techniques, Dr. Bodo Lafferentz of the German Workers Front and Ghislaine Kaes, Dr.Porsche’s private secretary. After the race, the group studied the modern production methods of major American motor manufacturers, in order to gain ideas for the proposed Volkswagen plant.
In 1938, as more and more of his father’s time was being taken up with concerns relating to the establishment of the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, Ferry Porsche was appointed Deputy Manager of the entire business.
Son Gerhard Anton Porsche is born.
October 29, 1940, his son Hans-Peter Porsche is born.
May 10, 1943 his son Wolfgang Porsche is born. Ferry moves his family to Zell am See, Austria, to avoid bombing.
In 1944, because of the increasing threat of air attacks on Stuttgart in autumn Ferry oversaw the relocation of essential divisions of the design engineering office to Gmünd in Carinthia, Austria. The headquarters and Ferry himself remained in Stuttgart.
In 1945, after the war the French government requested Porsche to build a French version of the compact Volkswagen, but Jean Pierre Peugeot resisted this. Surprisingly, on December 15, during an official appointment at Wolfsburg, Ferdinand and Ferry Porsche as well as Anton Piëch, a Viennese attorney who was the husband of Ferry’s sister, were arrested as criminals of war. Ferry was detained by Americans, his father interned by French.
In 1946, Ferry returned to Gmünd in July. Gmünd was the sole location of the company since the end of the war. Ferry took over the management of the business because his father was still in French captivity. Ferry 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.
Ferry sees Cisitalia building small sports cars using Fiat engines and has the same plan with Volkswagen parts. Porsche had done it already before the war, with the KdF Berlin-Rome racing car (Porsche type 64 / Volkswagen type 60K10).
In July 1947, design work began on the Type 356 under the direction of Ferry Porsche and head of construction 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). In September, upon his return from prison, Ferry’s father examined the design of the Cisitalia racing car, which was constructed under the management of Ferry. After close observation, he came to the conclusion: “I would have built it exactly the same, right down to the last screw”.
In 1948, the 356 design concepts became reality in the first half of the year. The chassis had completed its maiden drive in February and on June 8, first Porsche 356 prototype is road registered. It gained a “single approval” from the Kärnten regional government’s construction control office in Klagenfurt. In July, this mid-engined tubular steel framework roadster with lightweight aerodynamic aluminium body scores its first class victory at the Innsbruck Stadtrennen.
On September 17, 1948 Ferry concluded a contract with the Volkswagenwerk on the supply of VW parts and the use of VW’s distribution network for selling Porsche cars. This clearly shows that Ferry was not only an outstanding engineer, but also a great entrepreneur.
52 units of the aluminiumbodied Porsche 356 were manually built in Gmünd between 1948-1950.
In 1950, Ferry Porsche returned the company to Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. On April 6, the first Porsche 356 is produced in Stuttgart in the rented rooms of the car body company Reutter. 369 cars are made in 1950.
January 30, 1951 at the age of 75 Ferry’s father Professor Dr. Ing. h.c. Ferdinand Porsche dies in Stuttgart. He is laid to rest in chapel in family estate “Schüttgut” in Zell am See, Austria.
For its first entry in the Le Mans 24-hour race, Porsche had a 356/2 Gmünd coupé with aluminium body on the starting grid. Auguste Veuillet and Edmond Mouche won the 1.1L class (20th overall out of 60 starters). Although the new factory in Stuttgart had been producing the steelbodied 356’s for more than a year already, the aluminiumbodied 356’s from the Gmünd era were used.
The 34th IAA was the first ever in Frankfurt am Main and the second to be held after the war. The first show after the war was held in Berlin in 1950. 1951 was Porsche’s first time as an exhibitor at the International Motor Show.
By March 1956, 10,000 Porsches made.
Rabe joined the Austrian “Daimler Motor Company” (Austro-Daimler) in Wiener Neustadt in 1913 at the time that Ferdinand Porsche was working there as technical director. When the Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche company was formed in Stuttgart in 1931, Karl Rabe was made Head of Construction, a role that he performed until his retirement in 1965. Even after retirement, he remained a personal technical advisor to Ferry Porsche. As car-body constructor from 1931, Komenda played a substantial part in the construction of many ground-breaking Porsches, such as the Volkswagen (Porsche type 60), the Auto Union “P” racer (Porsche type 22) and the Porsche 356.
In 1959, the decision is taken to develop a new sports car, a successor to the 356.
1960 November 5-8 Tour de Corse. Herbert Linge and Paul-Ernst Strähle won the challenging Corsica rally in a 356 B Carrera 1600 GS/GT (1.6L 115 hp, 900 kg / 1984 lbs)
1963 September 12, IAA Frankfurt. The Porsche 901 was shown to the public for the first time. The production started a year later and in November 1964, the 901 was renamed to 911.
In 1965, production of the Porsche 356 ceased with about 78,000 units made. Never before in the history of motoring had a sports car achieved sales success of this kind. Ferry received Honorary Doctorate title from the Technical University of Vienna.
1966 December 21, Porsche celebrated the 100,000th Porsche built. The 100,000th Porsche, was a 912 Targa outfitted for the police.
In 1969, the Type 914 is introduced, sold in Europe as VW-Porsche 914 and in USA as Porsche 914. 914/4 had 4-cylinder VW engine and the car was produced at the Karmann plant in Osnabrück, 914/6 had a 911 6-cylinder engine and assembly was done in Stuttgart.
In April 1969 the “VW-Porsche Vertriebsgesellschaft mbH” (VW-Porsche Marketing Company Ltd) was founded by the two firms and had its head office in Ludwigsburg. Both parties had a 50% share in the marketing company. Sales operations for the types 914-4, 914-6 and 911 were carried out by the marketing company through the head office in Ludwigsburg. Key positions in the marketing company were held on an equal authority basis by Otto-Erich Filius of Porsche and Klaus Schneider of VW.
On September 19, 1969, Ferry’s 60th birthday present is a 914 with 3-litre 8-cylinder engine from a 908 racing car. Two 8-cylinder 914 prototypes were made, one for Ferry and the other as an experiment of 914 project leader and Porsche’s head of development Ferdinand Piëch (can be seen on the photo with paper file in his hand).
In 1972, Porsche KG (Kommanditgesellschaft = limited partnership) is transformed into AG (Aktiengesellschaft = public limited company). This was done probably because Ferry and his sister Louise Piëch felt their offsprings did not team up well. Ferry Porsches offsprings probably were sure the company leader must bear “Porsche’s” name, despite Louise Piëch’s son Ferdinand Karl Piëch being an extraordinary engineer and the best candidate for the steering wheel of Porsche car company. This led to the foundation of an Executive Board whose members came from outside the Porsche family, and a Supervisory Board consisting mostly of family members.
In 1975, Ferry was awarded with the Grand Gold Medal (Großen Goldenen Ehrenzeichen) for the services to the Republic of Austria.
In 1976, as Porsche was converted into a public company in 1972 and the family members stepped down from their positions, Ferry Porsche also retires from direct leadership and continues as the Head of Supervisory Board. From 6.11.1976 Porsche is directed by Professor Ernst Fuhrmann.
In 1979, Ferry was awarded with the highest possible decoration for the service – the Great Federal Cross of Merit with star (Großen Bundesverdienstkreuz mit Stern) of the Federal Republic of Germany. Also received the Wilhelm Exner Medal for excellence in research and science (his father was awarded with the same medal in 1936 and his nephew Ferdinand Piëch in 2002).
On September 19, 1979, Ferry Porsche’s 70th birthday and the 928 S just released to the markets (the 928 probably was a present from the factory – and if so, it must have had some special modifications for Ferry)
1981 January 1, Ferry names new CEO: Peter W. Schutz. The same year Ferry is awarded honorary citizenship of town Zell am See.
1984 The federal state of Baden-Württemberg bestowed on him the title of Honorary Professor.
On September 19, 1984, Ferry’s 75th birthday present is a special modification of the Porsche 928 S (sometimes referred to as 928-4 or 942) with extended wheelbase, higher roofline and 4 fullsize seats. It might have been CEO Peter Schutz’s idea to push Ferry in the direction of expanding the Porsche product portfolio with products meant for people not so enthusiastic about pure sports cars. Ferry didn’t like the fullsize 4-seater idea as he thought Porsche must be sporty and must look beautiful.
In 1985, Ferry’s wife Dorothea Porsche dies (born 1911).
In 1988, Ferry names new CEO: Heinz Branitzki
In 1989, Ferry received the “Citizen’s Medal” of Stuttgart.
Ferry Porsche reached 80 years on September 19, 1989 and his birthday present, the Panamericana, was at the IAA Frankfurt at the same time.
In 1990, Ferry resigned as Chairman of the Supervisory Board and was named Honorary Chairman. Arno Bohn takes CEO’s position over from Heinz Branitzki.
In 1991 Ferry stopped the Porsche 4-door car project, known as the type 989.
In 1994, Ferry received honorary citizenship of his birth-town, Wiener Neustadt.
1996 July 15, the Millionth Porsche produced was given to police of Stuttgart. As seen from the photo, for some odd reason this car was a US-model. There was at least one euro-spec car given to police. Maybe the US-version was made only for the photoshoot. The funny thing was that the “police version” was equipped with Tiptronic gearbox, so if you bought a proper Carrera (= with manual gearbox), police couldn’t catch you. The police 993 later involved in a big accident and the wreck was given back to Porsche. It was restored by Porsche Classic in 2006 and is part of the Porsche Museum collection.
On March 27 1998, Ferry Porsche died in Zell am See, Austria, and was buried beside his parents and his wife Dorothea in the “Schüttgut” chapel on the family estate. Porsche enthusiasts still have his words recurring in their heads: “The last car ever made will be a sports car”. After the true sportscar enthusiast had passed away, CEO Wendelin Wiedeking halted the Le Mans racing programme (despite the new 5.5V10 engine already being designed) and started the 4-door 2.2-ton SUV programme.
Porsche engineer and race director Peter Falk has said: “Ferry Porsche was always passionate about motor racing and was at Le Mans numerous times himself. In 1982, for instance, he was there when we swept the podium with the new 956, and he always supported us, even when money was at stake. He said, Porsche needs motor racing, Porsche grew up with motor racing, so keep it up.”