Dr Wolfgang Porsche – Video
Dr Wolfgang Porsche is the face of the brand and its most important ambassador. As chairman of the Porsche AG Supervisory Board, he watches over both the company and the corporation. On May 10 he will celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday.
The Schüttgut estate on a mountain pasture in the Austrian town of Zell am See is more than six hundred years old. Ferdinand Porsche bought it in 1941 as a retreat for himself and his family, and because he wanted to maintain a connection with Austria long after putting down new roots in Stuttgart. His son Ferry, the founder of today’s company and the father of Wolfgang Porsche, had discovered the farmstead back in the 1930s while driving through the mountains. The area around the Großglockner, Austria’s highest peak, is an ideal place for test-drives and tours of discovery. As of 1943, Schüttgut became even more of a refuge for the entire family. Eleven children, including Wolfgang, enjoyed the idyllic location with its peaceful lake and imposing mountains far removed from the war.
Ferdinand Porsche was a brilliant designer and engineer. But his youngest grandson didn’t see much of him. Upon returning from a French prisoner-of-war camp, Ferdinand had health troubles, yet also a sense of restlessness. From Wolfgang’s perspective as a child, his grandfather was always driving off or just arriving from somewhere. But whenever Ferdinand was around, he was a kind and attentive man who would do things like take his grandson to the movies. Wolfgang would sit next to him and then delight in asking him afterward what he thought about the film, well aware that his grandpa had quietly dozed off.
In 1949 the small but high-caliber development team led by Wolfgang’s father, Ferdinand “Ferry” Porsche, returned to the German city of Stuttgart from wartime exile in the Austrian town of Gmünd in Carinthia. The throng of children slowly began to leave Schüttgut. The Porsches moved to Zuffenhausen and Feuerbach, and the Piëchs to Salzburg.
Even under the austere postwar conditions, Ferdinand Porsche’s seventy-fifth birthday celebration at Solitude Palace near Stuttgart in the fall of 1950 was quite an event. All of seven-year-old Wolfgang’s brothers and cousins were invited, but he himself was considered too young. To this day, Wolfgang Porsche remembers gazing longingly from the attic window of the Porsche villa on Feuerbacher Weg as the family set off for the festivities. Five months later, Ferdinand Porsche passed away.
Wolfgang Porsche attended the Odenwald School in the Ober-Hambach district of the Hessian town of Heppenheim, a leading boarding school for progressive education. In addition to receiving his Abitur (general qualification for university entrance), he completed an apprenticeship as a metalworker. The usual final requirement for a journeyman in the 1960s was to forge a set of fireplace tools and a grate, and candidates were expected to devote extraordinary effort to the project. Wolfgang Porsche hasn’t done much metalworking since then, but he does note that he has retained a practical bent. An element of primary importance throughout his life has been the sports car experience—on weekends and vacations, but also in his thoughts. There were lengthy discussions with his father, Ferry, and his brother Ferdinand Alexander about the successor to the 356, and evening test-drives on the nearby autobahn to Leonberg and through the Engelberg Tunnel. Starting in 1951, the Grand Prix on the Nürburgring was both a must and a joy for the family, as was the twenty-four-hour race in Le Mans. Customers of the young sports car brand made it a point to use the Porsche greeting—a brief flash of the lights. And Saint Christopher appeared on the steel dashboard of the 356.
Le Mans has been a magnet for the Porsche brand since 1951, and was for young Wolfgang from an early age as well. Trips to the Sarthe region of France were both an adventure and a matter of course. His first visit to Le Mans was captured particularly well: all the action at the pits, thirteen-year-old Wolfgang half-reclining on a wall with the casualness of youth, a stopwatch in his hand, his father at his side, and Porsche factory manager Hans Klauser in front.