Remembering F.A. Porsche Through His Art
As you all know by now, the man responsible for shaping the design culture at Porsche has passed away. Ferdinand Alexander Porsche left a legacy of excellence, and rather than mourning the loss of the man, I want to take the next few paragraphs to celebrate his triumphant career. I would like not only to celebrate his works, but also to view his existence as a gift given rather than a life taken.
While many will, and have, focused on his contributions in the form of his design work on the 901, I much prefer his work in the world of motorsport. Naturally.
It would be hard to deny the inherent beauty in the simplistic sweeping lines of the 904 Carrera GTS. It was the first all-new rennsport vehicle in the Porsche stable to have been designed from the ground up for the express purpose of motorsport in several years, and it proved an important turning point in the company’s motorsport history. Where other racers had previously been evolutions of earlier models, either with new bodies, rearranged layouts, or improved engines, the 904 was bespoke, and it showed.
I could spout off the facts of the 904’s near perfect reliability in racing, I could discuss the various merits of it’s performance, I could regale you with production numbers, reasoning behind its official name, or even list the chassis numbers and victory tallies. I could do all of these things, though I won’t, as these facts and figures speak credit to the car, while I want to, for once, avert our collective attention to the man and his design.
Beginning at the front, the sculpted and sloped nose of the Carrera GTS is somewhat reminiscent of the model it replaced, the Carrera GTL. The upwell of fender combined with the faired in headlamp provide an abrupt abutment against the long and flat front trunk lid. Often obscured by fog lamps, the unfettered flat width of grill opening, flanked by a pair of two tone markers, is inorganic, yet oddly it flows.
The knee height separation between upper and lower body gives the car a more squat appearance than even its absurdly small dimension let on. Beginning at the nose, this origamic crease extends all the way to the back to form the tail structure outline. One of the defining design cues of the car, this crease simply should not work, and yet it does. So much of the car is contradictory, yet complementary.
The side profile provides a view of a crisp front quarter line that is abruptly interrupted by the relatively sharp angle of the windshield. The curve of the top of the windshield interrupts a comparatively flat roof. The door gap appears as though the car were a work of art hewn of a common piece that has been carved into with wide swooping arcs. With nothing but a shiny chromed button visible as a door mechanism to interrupt the smooth sweep of the side of the car, the design is as pure as was intended by F.A. Porsche.
Butzi claimed the 904 as his favorite of any of his designs due to it’s rapid rush to production. With little time left to produce a run of 100 cars before the start of the next racing season, there were very few changes from the original design study through to the production piece. Ferdinand Alexander Porsche loved his 904, and I stand at his side in appreciation for the most beautiful Porsche ever created.
As a testament to the design, the 904 was later proved to be as much as 7% more efficient in a wind tunnel than its successor, the Carrera 6. The Carrera 6 was crafted by committee and scientific design, while the 904 was comparatively penned freehand on a sheet of paper by a single man. A brilliant man.
Rest peacefully Butzi, the world is better with your 904 in it. Thank you.