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A dreamer of dreams that is no longer
April 6, 2012 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, creator of the 911, head of Porsche Cars, has died. A sportscar most people can only ever dream of driving, yet even master it's full potential... Its cousin model the 935 won the LeMans in 1976. A marvel of engineering, built with a mid-rear engine, no other car debatably seems as gracious in elegance and as robust in power. Ferdinand Alexander Porsche creator of the 911, will certainly have touched many in awe, inspiration and confidence with his brilliant conception.
posted by Meatafoecure (49 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by radwolf76 at 12:44 PM on April 6, 2012


vroom))))..... .
posted by anigbrowl at 12:47 PM on April 6, 2012


Someone has to say it, the 911 engine is not mid-rear, it is rear.

and

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posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 12:48 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I were to ever buy a sportscar, the 911 would be it.
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posted by jillithd at 12:50 PM on April 6, 2012


It's a testament to good design that almost every consumer model Porsche since has at least superficially resembled the 911.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:51 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


An iconic design of any type, not just autos.


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posted by Thorzdad at 12:52 PM on April 6, 2012


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posted by ZeusHumms at 12:53 PM on April 6, 2012


A very, very tasty motor indeed.

I am a middle-aged bloke though, so it's genetically programmed that I want one, somehow, some day. (A vintage one, though, because in my head I'm still a hipster).

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posted by colie at 1:00 PM on April 6, 2012


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posted by jquinby at 1:01 PM on April 6, 2012


Born in Stuttgart on Dec. 11, 1935, F.A. Porsche was initiated into the family business while still a boy, spending time in his grandfather’s workshops and design facilities.

So I guess he was old enough to watch grandpa building this, this, and this.
posted by Meatbomb at 1:02 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


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And another for single minded determination to solve the issue of having the engine in the wrong place.

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posted by Samuel Farrow at 1:05 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of my uncles got a 911 Turbo in the late 80s.

It was so much fun to be a passenger in that car, the acceleration and turning was better than any roller-coaster I knew. It always felt like you were one millimeter away from losing control.

The problem was that my uncle lived in rural Mexico, in a cobbled town where they put speed bumps everywhere. In exchange for letting us ride, my cousins and me would form a bicycle caravan behind the Porsche and we would all help my uncle lift the car over the speed bumps until we made it to the paved highway.

There my uncle would drive back and forth over the same 10km stretch of road all afternoon.

Last time I saw the car, in the mid 90s, it was stored in the fertilizer shed next to a bunch of old tractors. None of my cousins are into European sports cars, they are all into gigantic overpowered American pick-up trucks. Maybe it is time to start being nice to my uncle again, and be the son he wished he had :)
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 1:15 PM on April 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Never been a fan of Porsches, but I can respect the engineering and pedigree.

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posted by Big_B at 1:16 PM on April 6, 2012


"Someone has to say it, the 911 engine is not mid-rear, it is rear."

Thanks for the clarification
posted by Meatafoecure at 1:37 PM on April 6, 2012


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posted by Gelatin at 1:38 PM on April 6, 2012


So I guess he was old enough to watch grandpa building this, this, and this.

Not what I had in mind when I made the post.
posted by Meatafoecure at 1:40 PM on April 6, 2012


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posted by Meatafoecure at 1:43 PM on April 6, 2012


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Who is taking over as the dreamer in charge for Porsche now?
posted by infini at 1:49 PM on April 6, 2012


The most beautiful ugly car ever is the 911. At first it looks like a grinning frog, hardly the most sporting presence. Then you drive one and realize what having the engine in the right place (hanging over the rear axle) does: it makes it handle and accelerate like no other. Not only is the engine mounted as far back as possible, it's mounted as low as possible, as well. All that low-slung weight and power over the wheels that made the car go was, and is, the best idea since the invention of the very idea of what goodness is.

Danke, Butzi.
posted by basicchannel at 1:53 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


infini: It's Michael Mauer... the guy that brought you the Panamera and Cayenne.
posted by basicchannel at 1:56 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


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I drive a '62 beetle, that count?
+ cue laughter +
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:58 PM on April 6, 2012


A very, very tasty motor indeed.

I am a middle-aged bloke though, so it's genetically programmed that I want one, somehow, some day. (A vintage one, though, because in my head I'm still a hipster).

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posted by colie at 1:00 PM on April 6 [+] [!]


Oh don't worry. There's a "gruppe" for that.
posted by basicchannel at 2:14 PM on April 6, 2012


First link should go here: http://www.twinsparkblog.com/whats-an-r-gruppe-porsche-911-car
posted by basicchannel at 2:15 PM on April 6, 2012


Oh don't worry. There's a "gruppe" for that.

Now I'm just doing that Homer Simpson noise when he sees a donut or a turkey.
posted by colie at 2:20 PM on April 6, 2012


When I was a kid (and I'm talking about being an eight-year-old in 1988-89) there were three cars worth talking about. Everybody loved the Ferrari Testerosa and the Lamborghini Diablo, and for good reason. But even at that young age, they seemed a little too... obvious? Showy? A neighbor had a gold Corvette that he would drive around the neighborhood, and my mom, who didn't like the guy anyway, would talk about how he was overcompensating, and I guess that the Testerosa and Diablo both seemed like the same sort of thing.

But the Porsche 911? Good god that thing made me fall in love with a car. My attraction to women has always been strongly towards the "cute" over the "hot," and I think that's reflected somewhat in my car of choice as a child. The Testerosa and Diablo were "hot." The 911 was (is) "cute."

I've never gotten to drive one but I've had the joy of riding in one, and it truly is like nothing else. Hats off to F.A. Porsche for creating a badass and innovative car, and allowing it to be beautiful, rather than a copy of its contemporaries.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:24 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


In WWII, he also designed the Ferdinand aka The Elephant. (This was for the German side, folks).

According to this account, when it was first deployed on the battlefield on the Russian Front, it was a piece of junk with serious design and performance flaws.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 2:25 PM on April 6, 2012


thermonuclear.jive.turkey: That was an older generation of Ferdinand Porsche. F.A. Porsche was born in 1935.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:27 PM on April 6, 2012


I'd still go for a Lotus Elise or Elora in terms of handling and a pleasure to drive, not to mention cost, but I have driven a 963 and a Boxster S. The 963 was very impressive, the Boxster not impressive, though it has nice brakes (you can pick up used one's for $15 grand).
posted by juiceCake at 2:28 PM on April 6, 2012


With a Lotus you get a Toyota engine. A Porsche has a Porsche engine. :)
posted by basicchannel at 2:31 PM on April 6, 2012


My boss used to own a mid-80's Porsche 928. One day he was in a fender bender; another car tapped his front fender at about 5 MPH having just started from a stop without looking at a 4-way stop. There was no visible external damage to the car, but the headlights wouldn't go up and down any more, and over the course of the next week the battery went flat twice.

He took the car to the dealership, and was told the repair would be -- wait for it -- FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS. The mechanic whipped out an exploded drawing (I've seen it, he insisted on being given a copy) showing the 170+ moving parts involved in making the headlights go up and down on a Porsche 928, all of which had been knocked out of alignment by the collision. Needless to say the other driver's insurance balked at paying it all and he had to eat a lot of that to get his car fixed.

That said, he did crank it up to about 145 MPH one day when I was in the passenger seat, and I can attest that the pine trees on the side of the interstate do whiz by in an impressive blur when you crank that puppy up.
posted by localroger at 2:34 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The 911 brings back so many memories. RIP. :(
posted by Anima Mundi at 2:42 PM on April 6, 2012


When I was a young man in the late seventies, I thought the whale-tail Carreras of those years were about the most beautiful machine on the road. I still think that era is better looking than the new ones; the new look is too buttoned-down for my taste.

The rear engine is a great concept, but if you don't know how to brake and throttle steer in curves at speed, it's a recipe for a big spinning catastrophe. Once that weight in the back comes loose, it wants to swing all the way around.

I remember a reading a review on one of the turbos from that era in one of the car mags, and the reviewer said " You don't drive a turbo Carrera. You hold it back."
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:19 PM on April 6, 2012


Sadly, as each member of the old Porsche clan gets older or passes away, the company gets a little further from it's roots. If you told anyone in 1970 that Porsche was going to eventually make a four-door sedan or two (2!) truck-like SUVs, they would have laughed you out of town. Hell, the 911 didn't even have factory cupholders until 1995.

I once took a look at a 928 on a Porsche dealer's used lot, probably around 2004. The dealer had no interest in showing the car really, and kept making snide comments about how it wasn't like new Porsches. I really wish I had told him that he was right. Old Porsches were designed by engineers, new Porsches are designed by accountants.
posted by hwyengr at 3:30 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Triumph TR7 and the Porsche 911 were the cars I wanted to grow up to drive (she says, dating herself to a very narrow band of years).

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posted by immlass at 3:31 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Triumph TR7 and the Porsche 911 were the cars I wanted to grow up to drive (she says, dating herself to a very narrow band of years).

Ha. Ha. That certainly puts you in my age range - I always wanted a 911 and actually had a TR7.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:36 PM on April 6, 2012


Sadly, as each member of the old Porsche clan gets older or passes away, the company gets a little further from it's roots.

Those models you hate account for almost all of their profit so that they can continue to make the 911. The 80s front-engined Porsches are grossly underrated. Would you say BMWs are less engineered because they've always been front-engined inline 4/6cyl engines? You would not, sir!

I said Good Day, sir!
posted by basicchannel at 3:40 PM on April 6, 2012


Bah. I say even the 911 has been watered down, at least since they offered an automatic on the Turbo.

The greatest travesty of all, though, is that the fantastic Cayman chassis isn't given a proper engine, because it would kill their branding strategy if a model other than the 911 was the top performer.
posted by hwyengr at 3:43 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then you drive one and realize what having the engine in the right place (hanging over the rear axle) does: it makes it handle and accelerate like no other.

Actually you'll find that's a minority opinion - the 911 is the only modern performance vehicle from any manufacturer that uses a rear engine layout, and really that's only because they can't change that formula after building up 50-ish years of brand "heritage" around it.

Even Porsche's own Cayman, basically a 911 chassis with the engine flipped longitudinally so that it sits in front of the gearbox rather than behind it, demonstrates this. It's noted for its superior handling and has to be sandbagged with lesser engines by Porsche so as not to threaten the 911 sales. The Cayman is arguably closer in spirit to Ferdinand's 911 anyway - more of a pure sports car - while most of 911 range has moved toward the luxury end of the spectrum.

(On preview, what hwyengr said).
posted by phl at 3:45 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not to be a detractor as I love the 911 and have owned several but, really, the 911 is a bad design refined to perfection.
posted by bz at 3:49 PM on April 6, 2012


It IS true the modern 911 is very unlike its ancestors of even 12 years ago. Instead of the ripping air cooled sound and wild handling we have an even-tempered water-cooled engine note and a more tame/easier/safer handling setup.

Having neutralized so much of what makes a 911 a 911, I agree the Cayman S is a better car. That said, the 911 Cup car is still the most commonly-used car in any sports car series. Let's not pretend it isn't still an amazing sporting automobile.
posted by basicchannel at 3:51 PM on April 6, 2012


I'm pretty sure the rear engine is a carry over from the Type I and I've always considered the 911 to be a highly evolved Bug anyway. Sure, scientifically, mid-engine is better, but as a mechanic I prefer having the engine in the REAR.

It's utilitarian, but also provides an awesome view.

*drools at photo...pours some out for Ferdi*

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posted by snsranch at 4:28 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The 80s front-engined Porsches are grossly underrated.

Indeed, and while I love 911s, those front-engined cars would, in skilled hands, smoke most anything on the road or track.

My best friend's Dad, who was an accomplished racer and a Porsche Club of America driving instructor for a time, had a completely stock 1987 944S (not the turbo, just a 16-valve version of the normally aspirated 4-cylinder) and would, after humiliating various mega-buck 911 turbos and the like, enjoy fielding all the post-track-event questions about what modifications he'd made by opening the very unmodified hood and showing the very unmodified engine. Horsepower is great, but a balanced chassis wins races.
posted by jalexei at 5:15 PM on April 6, 2012


2bucksplus writes "It's a testament to good design that almost every consumer model Porsche since has at least superficially resembled the 911."

I'm not sure how much a 914 or Cayenne resembles a 911.

hwyengr writes "Sadly, as each member of the old Porsche clan gets older or passes away, the company gets a little further from it's roots. If you told anyone in 1970 that Porsche was going to eventually make a four-door sedan or two (2!) truck-like SUVs, they would have laughed you out of town. Hell, the 911 didn't even have factory cupholders until 1995."

For a while there after they introduced their SUVs Porsche was America's fastest growing truck company. For some reason Porsche guys really hated when you pointed that out.
posted by Mitheral at 5:48 PM on April 6, 2012


My parents had a Porsche 912, the economy version of the 911 with a smaller engine. They sold it when I was about seven because my younger brother and I were having increasing trouble fitting in the back seat. Yeah, there were a pair of tiny fold-down seats in the back, as seen here and here. I can still remember that scratchy fabric. There wasn't really any rear legroom so we sat with our legs drawn up in front of us.

I adored that car, and after we sold it I wished like crazy that there was a four door Porsche (just about all 60's era sedans, even muscle cars, were far too boxy and boring after the glorious Porsche). So, I have to put in a good word for the Panamera for fulfilling my childhood wish at last. Of course I also remember wanting a Porsche camper with a second story bedroom equipped with a fireplace. I'm still waiting on that one.

So, thanks Ferdinand from six-year old me, crammed against my brother in the back seat of a red 912 with my bare legs itching from that damn fabric, grinning like mad as we hurled down a twisty highway.
posted by gamera at 6:19 PM on April 6, 2012


I always wanted a Porsche 911 but had to settle for a '67 Karmann-Ghia.

I did get to drive a '78 911SC Turbo Targa and what stuck with me is that you need very very good brakes and firm handling to bring a car rapidly down from 120 when a bigass Kingswood station wagon pulls out on you.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 6:37 PM on April 6, 2012


With a Lotus you get a Toyota engine. A Porsche has a Porsche engine. :)

I am of course entirely aware of that. It's another great thing about the Lotus.
posted by juiceCake at 6:45 PM on April 6, 2012


Completely biased (classic) 911 owner that I am, I still would argue that having the engine in the rear gives you some benefits that you don't get out of mid-engined layouts. The flip side of that of course is you get some problems that you also don't have with mid-engined layouts...

My dad dug up an old car mag from 196...4?ish with a fantastic review of the first 911 (can't remember exactly what year they debuted) and in that issue was an interesting article by a guy who was an engineer for chaparral (I think) about how race cars with (rear-engines/rear weight bias) were the best design and how everybody would be doing it soon... Anyway, I need to scan that whole magazine next time I go home.

Having owned cars covering everything except a mid-engine rear wheel drive layout, I have to say I love driving my 911 the most. It is so engaging and rewarding to drive. You can get on the throttle way early in the corners, it feels like a go-kart with its short wheelbase, the light front end makes the steering (no power steering) sing, and i could just go on and on and on...
posted by inparticularity at 9:08 PM on April 6, 2012


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Love Porsches, still aspiring to a 911 GTS. Would happily settle for a Cayman S (only it's not really settling).
posted by arcticseal at 4:04 AM on April 7, 2012


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BTW, therrmonuclear.jive.turkey, the Ferdinand Porsche who did design in WWII is not the same one who just died. There have been three.

Grandpa Ferdinand was born in 1875, and founded the company that all three ran at one point or another. He's responsible for the wartime work, and also has the VW Beetle on his C.V. This one also did some time for war crimes, but it's not clear if that was politics or actual guilt. This guy died in 1951.

Son Ferdinand, called Ferry, was born in 1909. His claim to fame is the 356. He died in 1998.

The third Ferdinand Porsche was known as Butzi, and it's he who designed the 911, and who is mourned here. He was 76, so not quite old enough to have done any work for the Nazis.
posted by uberchet at 11:13 AM on April 9, 2012


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