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The automotive world suffered a huge loss yesterday. We lost Ferdinand Alexander Porsche who along with his cousin Ferdinand Piëch shaped the early portion of the second half of Porsche's motorsport legacy. As everyone has covered extensively, F.A Porsche was responsible for the 911 and the 904 and left the company in 1972 when the Porsche family restructured the company to found his own, independent design firm.
I was a little sad when I read that he had died, and sadder when I read Bloomberg's awful obituary. I had always hoped that I might get to meet F.A Porsche. He was not that old at 76, and I lived in Salzburg for a little while. I think that I admire him as much for his design work as for the cars. His watches for IWC were wonderful, and he was basically responsible for popularizing aviator sunglasses in the 80s.
The other big news this week came out of the New York Motor Show with the introduction of the next generation Viper. The styling is awkward from the 3/4 perspective, and some of our commenters think that the car does not have enough power for an 8.4l V10; 640hp and 600lb-ft is impressive no matter how you cut it though. Chrysler was billing the car at the show as a halo model for them. It proves that they are a real car company again. It is not selling the Viper at a loss, but it means more to them for what it stands for than the profit it makes for them.
Say what you will about the car, but it is great that it is getting back into the American Le Mans Series. The GT-class in the series is made up of Ferrari, BMW, Corvette and a single Lotus Evora. SRT bringing the Viper into the series can only help things. It has not said when the car will begin racing other than it will be this year, but I predict it will be the final race this season at Road Atlanta in October.
Unfortunately, there are not many high quality racing videos of the Viper, but I think that I found two. The first is a video the ALMS put together this week showing the Viper racing.
The next one is an on-board video of a Viper at the 24 Hours of Le Mans from 1999. This video is interesting because it is right on the cusp of modern sports car racing. Audi entered the R8C and R8R that year. The cars did not perform well, but the next year Audi brought the R8 and revolutionized the sport.
The rest of this post is going to focus on F.A Porsche and his legacy. For someone who only worked at Porsche for 12 years but defined the look of Porsches going forward. One of the major models that he designed was the 904, which was the first purpose-built Porsche race car since the 550 in 1957. From a pure design perspective, the 904 is immaculate. Ferdinand Piëch took over the design of the 906,908 and 910, but the 904 was purely F.A Porsche's design. This video shows Walter Röhrl driving the car. Some things to notice about it are that this specific car is a 904/6 with a flat-six engine - it was also made with a flat-four. Also look that the instrument cluster with a large, raised tachometer, and two other, circular gauge clusters to either side of it. A Porsche design element still used today. Also these cars were street legal and sold by the Porsche factory. The four-cylinder car cost $7245, the equivalent of $53,207 today.
Here is a video showing some of the development history of the 911 and some early racing footage. Unfortunately, it is in German, but the quality of the video makes it worth watching.
Finally, let's end with the ultimate current Porsche - the GT3 RS 4.0. Until the next generation GT3 and 918, this is the most hardcore of Porsches. It pushes the engine displacement of the GT3 up to 4 liters bringing power up to 493hp. The first video shows the car on track, and the second is a video that Porsche produced explaining the car. Have a good weekend, and enjoy driving no matter what you have.