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Car designer Ferdinand Alexander Porsche and a Porsche 911 Carrera. The scion of the Porsche family started early in the design field, making his own toys as a child, before moving on to sports cars.

, Associated Press

Obituary: Designer Porsche left mark with sports car

  • Article by: JERRY HIRSCH Los Angeles Times
  • Los Angeles Times
  • April 5, 2012 - 10:08 PM

LOS ANGELES - Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, who designed the first 911 sports car and went on to found a consumer products design firm that also carried the Porsche name, died Thursday in Salzburg, Austria. He was 76.

Born in Stuttgart, Germany, he was the oldest son of Dorothea and Ferry Porsche, who along with Ferry's father founded the business that grew into the sports car maker.

Porsche grew up in the auto business and during a turbulent time.

His grandfather designed the original Volkswagen Beetle for the Nazi regime in Germany in the 1930s as well as tanks that were used by the Germans in World War II.

As a child, "Butzi" -- as he was known to his family and business associates -- enjoyed designing and building his own toys. He attended the Waldorf School and studied at the Ulm School of Design before starting work in the Porsche design department in 1958.

Porsche officials recall that he quickly demonstrated strong design skills by producing the first plasticine model of a successor to the 356 series -- the 40- to 60-horsepower sports cars the automaker was developing at the time.

The Porsche 911, developed directly from the model and his drawings, was shown for the first time in September 1963 at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

The 911 went on sale in 1964. With the first model starting at $5,500, the rear-engine 911 evolved in the next four decades to become among the best-known sports cars internationally.

The automaker debuted the seventh-generation 911 late last year. It now sells for about $115,000.

Porsche headed the company's design studio from 1962 to 1972.

"There has not been a single individual whose contribution to the Porsche brand over the decades since the '60s has been greater than that of Ferdinand 'Butzi' Porsche," said Mike Sullivan, who owns the Porsche dealership in Torrance, Calif.

Sullivan said that the 911 "has singularly dominated sports car racing for most of the last 40 years."

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