PORSCHE AND KOMENDA: THE HORIZONTAL AND THE VERTICAL LINE
Ferry’s philosophy was concise. Body engineer Eugen Kolb recited it in an interview in late November 2012: “Make a car that will sell. Then think of a new variation.” Komenda’s job included offering proposals for the variations. Since the boss had not yet signaled a direction, he followed his own instincts. As Porsche historian Tobias Aichele put it, Komenda “gave more thought to a four-seat body based on the 356, to expand the model line upwards, possibly with a more powerful engine, rather than a replacement for the successful four-cylinder.” With that as Komenda’s philosophy, later in 1952 he delivered the Typ 534, and then the Typ 555 appeared in 1953. These were new fourseaters to which modeler Klie gave alternate rooflines and rear window treatments. Aichele assessed Komenda’s results:
“The external body could be given enormous strength by means of strong curvature. This led to a somewhat plump variant.” These zaftig bodies were a little surprising from a team whose slimmer versions appeared in production as the 356A. Still, with sellable 356 models emerging from drawing boards and model shops, and a continual flurry of technical advances and updates from his engineering staff, Ferry didn’t protest too loudly against the bigger cars his design engineer offered. Both men had expressed an interest in—and marvel of—American cars of the period. According to Kolb, however, in retrospect, the concepts Komenda presented weren’t exactly what he had in mind. Or perhaps they weren’t what he felt he could get away with.
That never deterred Komenda. Both Kolb and Gerhard Schröder (in separate interviews in 2012) described Komenda as a rebel. “There was a conversation with Ferry,” Schröder recalled, “and he said, ‘When I say to him to make a horizontal line, Komenda in general makes a vertical.’ He always made the opposite to what Ferry said. He was always so. . . . It was his character.” Whether this was Komenda’s modus operandi, few people had real cause to complain. Although additional four-seat proposals emerged from Komenda’s imagination as the Typ 656 in early 1955, he and Klie also had delivered the Typ 550 Spyder in 1953. If that was a “vertical line,” it may be gilding the lily to imagine the horizontal line Ferry had in mind instead for his racer.
The Neuester Sportwagen Typ 550 Spyder was one of Erwin Komenda’s finest collaborations with modeler Heinrich Klie. This early model was photographed outside Wendler Karosserie, Reutlingen, before its first speed test. Porsche ArchivKomenda and Klie developed a number of front-end models for the Typ 644 during 1954. Many of these utilized the 356A rounded-front deck lid in between a pair of concepts for headlight treatments. Porsche ArchivThe Typ 656 on a 2,400-millimeter wheelbase provided comfortable rear seat room with two-thirds of a meter from seat back to seat back. This 1:10-scale seat measurement sketch appeared July 2, 1954. Porsche Archiv Through 1955, Porsche had plenty to keep him busy. His company introduced the Typ 597 Jagdwagen, or “Hunter,” at the Geneva Auto Show in March. Ferry’s engineers developed this no-nonsense utility vehicle from VW pieces and he hoped to win a profitable contract to produce them for the German army. In Zuffenhausen, engineering work to replace the 1,488cc highperformance engines with a 75-horsepower 1,582cc version filled the spring and summer. The year ended on a high note when the U.S. Combined Forces finally returned Porsche Werk I to the family business. This date had been a moving target starting in 1950, forcing the company to rent space from neighboring Reutter Karosserie in February that year and then acquire a small building ten months later in December. Restored to its full capacity, Porsche expanded production. Relocation, reorganization, and racing updates to the Typ 550A ate up much of 1956.
Erwin Komenda’s design team, with Heinrich Klie as his chief modeler, offered this full-scale proposal in 1955. This was the Typ 656. Porsche ArchivThrough January 1956, Heinrich Klie experimented with new front-end ideas. This 1:1-scale clay was an early concept on the 695 platform. Porsche Archiv Where the company passed milestones for its 500th and 1,000th cars assembled (in 1951 on March 21 and August 28, respectively), the company manufactured 2,903 cars in 1955 alone. On March 16, 1956, company officials watched their 10,000th car drive away.
By this time Ferry had begun to consider some kind of new model. In his mind, however, that car looked different from what his willful body engineer was offering. And so in February 1957 Komenda tasted the first bitter flavors of competition. He had delivered yet another oversize “stepped roof form” proposal designated the Typ 644 that too closely resembled one more swollen 356. In July Ferry reached outside the building and found a man who came highly recommended as one who might deliver other ideas for The Next Porsche. Because Komenda followed up every few months with slight variations from his 644 notchback concept, Ferry’s decision seemed ever more understandable. Historian Jürgen Lewandowski characterized those 644 variants in his book Porsche 901—Die Wurzeln einer Legende (Porsche 901—The Roots of the Legend). It did not matter, Lewandowski observed, “how many different designs of Typ 644 came from the drawing boards,” he wrote, “the 356 was still strong.”
“We could have made the model out of butter for what it cost.”
— Eugen Kolb
Ferry’s outsider was Albrecht Graf von Goertz. He was a German who had emigrated to the United States in 1936. While he worked his regular jobs, he also modified Ford Model A and B cars, putting his own custom body on one he kept. He served five years in the U.S. Army, but soon after the war, he encountered industrial designer Raymond Loewy. Loewy saw Goertz’s personal car, funded his design school education, and then put him to work. After several years with Loewy, Goertz left in 1953 and opened his own studio. He met Max Hoffman, the Viennese auto dealer in New York City who sold Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Porsche cars from his Fifth Avenue showroom. Through Hoffman, Goertz had earned the commission to create two new models for BMW in Munich. One was the smart-looking 503 as a 2+2 coupe and cabriolet, and the other was the sleek muscular two-seat 507 introduced in 1955. Ferry understood the impact the American market had on his sales because of his distribution arrangements with Hoffman; he believed Goertz might have valuable ideas for The Next Porsche.
This February 6, 1957, plan of the Typ 644 put the car on the 2,250-millimeter wheelbase. This 1:5 drawing designated the car as a hardtop. Porsche ArchivNothing is left to chance in the design of an automobile. This drawing, made on the 695 platform on February 14, 1957, examined the change in weight distribution by the number of occupants and luggage. Porsche ArchivIdeas flew fast and furiously from the body engineering design studio. This 1:10-scale concept appeared on June 15, 1957, labeled “Sportwagen.” Porsche Archiv Goertz made initial sketches in his New York office and then moved into Klie’s Werk I basement studio to make his model. He followed Ferry’s guidelines and created a fastback coupe that offered greater interior and front trunk space. But as it took form on the 2,400mm wheelbase (designated the Typ 695,) it became too “American” for Porsche’s conservative Swabian tastes. Quad headlights and sharp creases with square edges seemed to take “Porsche” out of this car. For better or worse, Erwin Komenda had defined Porsche “style.” Years later, Ferry acknowledged that the details on Goertz’s proposals moved the car in the wrong direction for his aesthetic. (Ironically, Komenda’s team had developed concepts with quad headlights and separate, chrome bumpers. That had proven to be the wrong direction as well.)
But Ferry had paid for Goertz’s design, so Porsche assigned his modelers to sculpt a full-size representation. It proved to be a false economy. As Eugen Kolb explained, Goertz insisted on using Plasticine, introducing the modeling medium to Porsche designers. It suited the subtle sculpting required for automotive shapes, but it was expensive. Kolb recalled that Ferry complained about the material, saying, “We could have made the model out of butter for what it cost.” Porsche modeler Ernest Bolt told historian Tobias Aichele that Ferry had them sweep up the valuable scrapings to use them again rather than send them out the door as trash.
Porsche asked Goertz to try again. At the same time, despite his dissatisfaction with the first design, Porsche hired two Stuttgart plasterers to cast a mold from which he considered making a full-size fiberglass model with simulated windows to provide a realistic sense of the design. While Goertz worked on a second presentation as a body half, modeler Heinrich Klie developed his own concept. A clever system allowed them to mount each half together for comparison viewing. This two-faced model carried on the project 695 designation.
In the design studio, these were known as “A” and “B,” done in 1:1 scale. Photographed on July 24, 1957, the version on the A passenger side was Porsche staffer Heinrich Klie’s work while the B driver’s side represented Goertz’s second approach to the 695. Porsche ArchivWith little modification, Goertz’s Typ 695 concept would have worked well as either a front- or rear engine model. By this time in 1957, no single Porsche model used such hard edges and abrupt cut lines. Porsche ArchivBody designer Gerhard Schröder offered this step down rear window variation on the Typ 695 on July 26, 1957. He completed the Plasticine model in 1:7.5 scale. Porsche ArchivAt the same time Klie worked alongside Goertz on the full-size A/B twins, he continued developing smaller scale concepts for consideration. This 1:7.5 clay model appeared on July 26, 1957, two days after he and Goertz had completed the full-size twins. Porsche Archiv