It has been a bit over 30-years since I made this image, at Ferry Porsche’s 75th birthday party at his home in Stuttgart. The man himself is flanked by his four sons (L to R: Peter, Gerd, Butzi, and Wolfgang), and is standing behind a rather unusual 928. A four-seater, it was a gift from the company that he himself had molded into an internationally famous builder of sporting automobiles in the less than forty years before that day. Betraying little emotion, he looks directly into the camera, undoubtedly wishing that this would soon be over so he could return to the quiet celebration.
Much has changed in the years since this image was made: so many new models, so many new features, so many competition successes, and a company that has finally become owned by the Volkswagen group—itself largely owned by the descendants of Ferdinand–after a reversal of fortune that almost saw the smaller Porsche company owning the much larger conglomerate. It must be confusing to the new Porsche enthusiast who hears about “the old Professor”—Ferry’s father, Ferdinand—who began the engineering company, did landmark automotive work for other companies, and ushered in the Volkswagen. Many perhaps assume that he also directly gave birth to the cars that carry the Porsche name today, but such is not the case.
The health of that towering genius was broken after his post-war imprisonment by the French (who later recanted the charges), and Ferdinand Porsche was able to participate in only a limited way, dying in the first month of 1951. Ferry had taken the reins during his father’s imprisonment, had produced a Formula One car with which to provide money for the elder Porsche’s ransom, oversaw the move back to Germany of the production facilities from what had been a sawmill in Austria (where the Gmünd coupes were built), and brought about the production of cars bearing the name Porsche there.
A publication at the time of the birthday proclaimed: “Through him was Porsche first PORSCHE.” He was The Man.