F.A. Porsche Dies, and Germany Is Winning the Car Wars

April 9th, 2012

2012 Porsche 911 Cabriolet

World War II was of course not the end for Germany, though the country was pulverized. The three Porsches, all named Ferdinand, were still alive, but it was Ferry, son of the founder, who brought the car company to fame and success in the late 1940s.

His Porsche 356 took the prototype Volkswagen—created under Hitler in the 1930s but not produced till after the war—and made it a smartly engineered, rear-engine, desirable sports car. And it caught on in the U.S.

The third Ferdinand (F.A., right), who died last week at 76, in my view really made the company with his 1963 design of the 911 (Type 901), a complete departure from the 356 with a 6-cylinder (some few 912 fours were made) and a more functional and beautiful design that has endured to this day.

Porsche 904 GTSButzi, as he was called, also designed the fabulous 904 GTS (right), one of which I saw running at Road America in the early ‘60s. In the ‘70s he created Porsche Design, which made high-end watches, sunglasses, etc.

Today’s 911 is now totally and subtly redesigned and has improved on the performance and precision of prior models. It recently beat out the Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 and the McLaren MP4-12C to take the 2012 World Performance Car title at the New York Auto Show. Porsche has been in the top three for the WPC title six out of the last seven times.

The 2012 World Car of the Year was declared to be the Volkswagen Up!, a car we also have praised. (When is VW going to sell this in the U.S.?)

Despite the constant feuding and battling over the years between VW and Porsche, both seem to be winning in the car wars. BMW and Mercedes are doing well but lagging their compatriots.

Kelley Blue Book also gave Porsche its 2012 Coolest Brand (whatever they mean by that) award, plus the 2012 Best Performance Brand.

Well, the awards are one thing; driving these cars is another. There is just no experience like it. As the Porsche ads used to say, “There is no substitute.”

Have you driven a Porsche lately? Tell us your Porsche story.

—jgoods

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Used Porsche 356
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  1. Randy
    | #1

    I’ve driven a track setup 914 and several 911′s, including the 4wd version. It always amazes me that what is basically a revamped design from the 1930′s (boxer engine in the rear) has turned into what must be the longest-running car model that has remained in the same basic configuration. Second would be the Mustang, which came out a few years after the 911 was introduced. The fact that the 911 is superior to the Mustang in any way imaginable is tribute to Porsche. The only thing I can say that I don’t like about 911 handling is that the rear drive car can get twitchy and non-linear in the older cars, which had a stronger rear bias than the latest models. Given yesteryear’s less capable tires, one could find oneself suddenly going backwards off the road.

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