One of the most evocative names in automobile design the Porsche company was established by Ferdinand Porsche (1875–1951) in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1930. With minimal formal engineering qualifications he entered the field of automobile design in his mid‐twenties, patenting an electric motor in 1897 and presenting an electric car at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900. Subsequently he worked with many of the leading German automobile manufacturers including Austro‐Daimler in 1906 for which he became a general manager from 1916 to 1922. In the mid‐1920s he was appointed as chief engineer at Mercedes‐Benz where designs such as the SS (Super Sport) and SSK (Super Sport Kurz) of 1928 helped consolidate the company's reputations as a manufacturer of stylish and expensive cars. In 1930 he set up his own engineering consultancy inStuttgart and amongst the projects on which he worked were prototypes for economic mass‐produced cars for the NSU and Zundapp motor companies. He also made a proposal to the German Ministry of Finance for the production of an economic people's car in 1932. This evolved into the rear‐engined Volkswagen, prototyped in 1935, the distinctive streamlined shape of which was designed by Erwin Komenda, with whom Porsche developed a productive working relationship. A special factory for mass‐producing this car—dubbed the ‘Beetle’ by the New York Times—was built at Wolfsburg and the car shown to the public in Berlin in 1939. However, the car did not go into mass production until after the end of the Second World War.
The first major post‐war initiative was the establishment of the Porsche Company in Gmund in 1948. Of real significance was the 356 sports car, on which Porsche collaborated with his son Ferry and Erwin Komenda, who created the distinctive streamlined fastback shape. It went into production in 1950, the company having relocated to Stuttgart, and soon established a corporate reputation for high‐quality production and innovative engineering. The 356 remained in production in various guises for sixteen years, and established a strong reputation in racing and rallying. The next model, the distinctive 911, was designed by Komenda and Ferdinand ‘Butzi’ Porsche, the founder's grandson, and attracted considerable critical and public acclaim at the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show. A classic design, it remained in production for more than three decades. Collaboration with Volkswagen was initiated in 1969, although models such as the 924 (1969) failed to capture the public imagination. In 1996 the company produced the Boxter, designed by Haarm M. Laagay in charge of design from 1989.
Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.