Professor Ferdinand Alexander Porsche was the eldest son of Ferry Porsche and grandson of Porsche founder Ferdinand Porsche. FAP, who died in 2012, joined the company that bore the family name in 1958, and the design of the original 911 is widely credited to him. In 1972, he left to create Porsche Design, an independent company that not only handled Porsche’s growing merchandise demands (starting with a bespoke watch for “longtime employees”), but also ventured in collaborations with other, non-automotive, brands.
Fifty years later, Porsche Design is still going strong. Current partners include Philips, Acer, and Huawei, and PD also offers its own low-profile, highly-engineered versions of durable consumer products, from soundbars to headphones, glasses, watches, menswear, pens, and, for some reason, an excessive number of lighters.
To celebrate this anniversary, the parent company has created a special edition of the 911 Targa 4 GTS. The Targa is one of the stars of the current 911 lineup, with its smart roof mechanism coming closest to a real car than a Michael Bay-style Transformer.
The new edition has an unwieldy name – the 911 Edition 50 Years Porsche Design – but it is, after all, a company that sells a model called the Taycan GTS Sport Turismo (or, in other words, the Porsche Taycan Gran Turismo Sport Sport Turismo). Naming may not be Porsche’s forte, but the new edition demonstrates that it still has pretty much everything else going for it.
The 911 is now in its eighth generation. Without the combination of dynamic specialists and transmission technology, the model would not have survived so long. In fact, a modern 911 is a pretty miraculous machine considering how flawed the fundamental package is; a rear-engined four-seat sports car. Over the decades, this rear-heavy design has been perfected and refined to create what is now considered the gold standard of sports cars. In its most basic form, a 911 is perfectly balanced, delightfully responsive, meticulously detailed inside and out, and extremely easy to live with. In its most extreme version, the 911 GT3, it is a real supercar.
The 50 Years Edition from Porsche Design reinforces the obsessive attention to detail. The black bodywork references Porsche Design’s very first product, the all-black Chronograph 1, juxtaposed with Satin Platinum rims and a “Targa” bar. There are subtle logos, including FA Porsche’s signature on the center console and Porsche Design on the headrests, plus some of the company’s long optional extras added as standard. Chief among these is the Sport Chrono Pack, a dashboard-mounted chronograph and steering wheel mode switch to cycle through the 911’s various driving modes (Normal, Sport, Sport Plus, Individual and Wet) .
The company’s Porsche Classic division also rebuilt a 1972 911 S 2.4 Targa to reflect the modern car. Shown here, this full restoration of an original car is finished in the same color specification as the new edition, with the same badging.
The Targa model has an intriguing history. The first version was released in 1967, apparently an open top car with a highly visible steel roll bar in place of the ‘B’ pillars, with the first cars having a removable plastic rear window. The reason for the design was a rumored change in US automobile safety laws that would effectively ban the sale of conventional convertibles. Several manufacturers offered semi-open sports cars in response (like the classic Chevrolet Corvette ‘T-Top’), but the rules were never introduced. “Targa” – named after the Targa Florio race in Sicily – has become a generic term for this type of open-top sports car, but the name belongs to Porsche.
It would be another 15 years before a “real” 911 Cabriolet was launched (creating yet another packaging headache for engineers), but the Targa style lives on. Ironically, the modern Targa is even more complex than a convertible, eschewing a simple soft top in favor of a mechanism that raises the rear window and away from the car to reveal the central roof panel, which is then lifted into place. . Twin hatches on the roll bar open to receive the struts as they snap into place, closing neatly behind them. It is a mechanical ballet, fluid, fast and precise.
Porsche will build 750 examples of this 50th anniversary issue of Targa, each accompanied by a limited edition “Chronograph 1–911 50 Years of Porsche Design” (still with those names). The new watch has a dial inspired by the design of the car’s speedometer and is made in Porsche Design’s own watch factory in Switzerland.
Finally, the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart – a dramatic slice of contemporary architecture bristling with Austrian firm Delugan Meissl – is currently hosting an exhibition of Porsche Design’s best work, as well as the life and work of Ferdinand Alexander. The show includes FAPorsche’s 993 Speedster, a custom factory edition of two (the other was made for Jerry Seinfeld), the 904 Carrera GTS and the pair of cars you see here. Porsche Design has always acted as a filter, ensuring that the factory is represented by products and specifications of impeccable taste. “Even though the customer is king, you shouldn’t go beyond your own understanding of your own brand image,” FA Porsche told me when I interviewed him in 2000, “Stay honest.”
911 Edition 50Y Porsche Design from £144,360.00.
Find out more at www.porsche.com/Museum and www.porsche-design.com/de/en/50y.