It’s hard to imagine Porsche® without the 911 and its even more difficult to grasp the death of Ferdinand Alexander “Butzi” Porsche within the context of this: the most iconic sports car of the last 50 years outlasted the man at the drafting table responsible for the sketch-work, design, and ultimate production.
Not many cars out-live their creator. Models come and go, transitioning from one name to another in a constant change of design, taste, and consumer interest. Most models don’t last 10 years, let alone half a century. A few sports cars like the Corvette and Mustang have labored on for nearly the same lifespan, but both vehicles have undergone several re-inventions and share little elemental DNA to the original.
The 911 is unique for that very reason. Design changes have been evolutionary — rather than revolutionary — since 1963. The Carrera is a little sleeker, wider, faster, and more expensive nowadays, but the basic silhouette remains distinctly 911. The DNA of the 991 shares kinship to the original 901 and even automotive ignoramuses are capable of spotting a 911 of any vintage within a crowd of sports cars. And they can probably draw the outline as well.
Few sports cars carry such a lasting legacy, yet the story almost ended in the late 1970s when the 928 debuted and was positioned to replace the 911 as the “franchise” product in the Porsche® showroom. That was 30 years ago and the 911 remains in production — and in the automotive lexicon as a world-class sports car.
The conscious of the automotive community is shaken with the loss of FA Porsche. He was a juggernaut, a titan, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of guy that was the right person at the right time for the right project. Like his father and grandfather, Butzi understood the reasons people save just a little bit more to own and drive a Porsche®. The connection between driver and machine goes beyond lap times and top speed. It is an emotional relationship of confidence-inspiring unity.
Like Henry Ford, Enzo Ferrari, Colin Chapman, and Ferdinand Porsche, Butzi Porsche is irreplaceable. His legacy remains in his greatest work however and that car can still be seen on a street corner near you. Fifty years later, that’s a success story by which other braggadocio is silenced.