The Sunday supplement: badge of honour
A potted history of one the world’s most famous company crests
You could lose count of the number of automotive initiatives attributed to the New York-based luxury car importer Max Hoffman. It was he that cemented Porsche’s status in the US just after the Second World War, and he who suggested there was a market for a paired back, lightweight weekend racer, thus giving rise to the iconic 356 Speedster.
A lesser known fact about this Austrian-born sports car Svengali is that it was also he who prompted Ferry Porsche, during a visit to New York, to come up with a recognisable crest for his car, to act as seal of quality for the circumspect US market.
Ferry Porsche returned to Stuttgart with Hoffman’s words ringing in his ears, and quickly put the concept out to tender at various art colleges. But the solution ultimately appeared closer to home, courtesy of his head of publicity Herrmann Lapper and Franz Xaver Reimspieß, a well-known designer and artist thought to have penned the original Volkswagen logo in 1936.
Reimspieß’s first sketches appeared at the beginning of 1952, a fairly complex vision full of dynamism and history, intended to reference the roots of the company alongside its current, increasingly sporting personality. In the centre of a gold shield was a rampant horse – a traditional heraldic symbol expressing power and energy. Above it the familiar name of Stuttgart, home to Porsche’s offices since the early 1930s. It’s background, in red and black with sets of stylised black antlers, was based upon the coat of arms of the State of Württemberg-Hohenzollern. At the top, the company name in bold, clear font.
After its registration at the German patent office, the Porsche crest first appeared on the steering wheel hub cover of the relatively new pre-A 356 at the end of 1952. Then in November 1954, it was integrated into the familiar bonnet handle, and from 1959 onwards appeared on the rims and the wheel hubs of every car leaving Zuffenhausen.
Porsche’s increasing acclaim in sportscar racing was bringing its name, and now its company crest, to a growing audience. The design soon became something to cherish in its own right, with lapel pins and cufflinks featuring this symbol of quality and performance sneaking into the everyday life of aficionados the world over - a subtle nod to the cognoscenti that you, too, were in the know.
The brand loyalty didn’t end there, however, with today’s most dedicated Porsche obsessives apparently knitting the crest into their wooly jumpers and painstakingly planting up flowerbeds so that they bloom into the pattern for the following Spring. The tribe doesn’t know quite what to say about this, but suffice to say it takes all sorts and no-one’s judging anyone round here.
The main thing is that however far from home, and from its original purpose, the crest may travel, it remains inextricably linked to Zuffenhausen, and to every car that wears one. Be it a bonnet badge, key fob, cufflink or dodgy Christmas jumper, it’s all about a shared passion, about being part of the family. And that’s what Porsche has been about since day one.