Saturday, July 14, 2012

Dear Mr. Porsche

Stuttgart is where they build Porsches.  There is a Porsche museum near one of the show rooms, and I imagined that this might be a fun place for a family visit.  We drove over one Wednesday morning.  

As we entered the under-ground parking lot, the asphalt and concrete floors disappeared and we were driving on something that was white and very shiny.  I felt a little embarrassed in our somewhat dirty rental car.  Elevator doors opened and the unusual furniture, glass, steel, and white everything, made me think that I was visiting the future, despite the fact that the museum was of course about the past: history of Porsche and automotive engineering. 

The kids had a blast posing with and sitting in the fancy cars, but I thought the most interesting thing was the small exhibit that they had made to honor Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, the grandson of the original Ferdinand Porsche (who designed not only Porsches, but also the first Volkswagen Beetle).  The grandson died about two months ago and his major work was the design of Porsche 911.  In this exhibit there was a young lady attending a couple of imposingly large books bound in black leather.  Curious, I walked over and she told me that the books were there for visitors to sign.  I opened one and started reading.  I was surprised to read so many emotional comments.  The authors, just ordinary visitors to the museum, were from all over the world, but they were writing to the deceased man as if he was their friend, often thanking Ferdinand for the passion that he had brought to their lives.  One said: "Your car helped me when I was in a difficult period in my life".  Another said: "The design of the 911 was an inspiration to me when I needed an example of a passionate design."

I imagined that the people who had left these notes had driven one of his cars (or maybe just appreciated looking at one of his cars), and felt joy.  It’s like when I read a good book, and feel that I have gotten to know the author a bit.  When the author teaches me a few things, I feel grateful.  I had never thought about feeling this way about a car, and its designer.  It is good to see that engineers can leave such a positive impression on people who use their designs.

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