By De­sign


Automobile - - Contents - By Robert Cum­ber­ford

On the oc­ca­sion of Porsche’s 70th sports car an­niver­sary, Mr. Cum­ber­ford rolls down mem­ory lane and calls out three of his fa­vorites.

L AST SUM­MER I was talk­ing with a friend who pos­sesses one of the finest de­sign minds I’ve ever en­coun­tered. Al­though he has never worked on cars, he said some­thing that I re­al­ized summed up Porsche’s op­er­a­tional phi­los­o­phy per­fectly: “The best way to do a new project is to use as much ex­ist­ing and off-the-shelf stuff as pos­si­ble.” Cast your mind back to 1948 and Porsche’s hum­ble be­gin­nings as a car man­u­fac­turer, and you en­vi­sion that hardy band in the Gmund sawmill do­ing just that. Quite lit­er­ally mak­ing jew­els out of junk, they rounded up off-the-shelf bits from mil­i­tary Kü­bel­wa­gens and pieces they could get from an Aus­trian Volk­swa­gen dealer to make VW hot rods.

So­phis­ti­cated hot rods to be sure, but re­worked econ­omy cars all the same. They were in essence do­ing what the re­turned G.I.s in Cal­i­for­nia were do­ing with old Fords, sav­ing the best bits and trans­form­ing both ap­pear­ance and per­for­mance—the key dif­fer­ence be­ing the Porsche en­gi­neers had de­signed their econ­omy car source them­selves.

There’s a mantra I’ve al­ways liked, usu­ally at­trib­uted to Amer­i­can Quak­ers and used widely dur­ing the De­pres­sion Era: Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do with­out. The glo­ri­ous Porsche 356 em­bod­ies some bad fea­tures that stayed to the end, so in ef­fect Porsche made do with what it had avail­able in the be­gin­ning and com­pletely wore out the con­cept of us­ing VW parts, but made it do for a long time un­til the 911 com­pletely re­placed the 356. Re­mem­ber, the 911’s ini­tial de­sign was quite weak, and early mod­els were sim­ply bad cars, so Ferry Porsche rightly re­moved Hans To­mala, who had run the 911 de­vel­op­ment pro­gram. Porsche AG was too poor at the time, though, to tool up a com­plete al­ter­na­tive to what it had al­ready spent most of its cap­i­tal get­ting ready. So it had to make do with the 911, and as half a cen­tury of re­spected suc­cess has shown, it did so in spades. The last part of my fa­vorite say­ing, “or do with­out,” ap­plies to Porsche as well. For a full 50 years, the com­pany did with­out ra­di­a­tors, wa­ter pumps, pipes, hoses, clamps, and other hard­ware mis­cel­lany in its cool­ing sys­tems, and it ben­e­fited greatly from do­ing so.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.