The Sunday supplement: sister act

17w ago


One of the nice things about being a member of the Porsche family is that you get proper birthday presents. Such was the case for Ferry’s sister Louise Piëch, who was famously given the very first 911 Turbo for her birthday in 1973, a car that now resides in Porsche’s own Museum collection. Many cars were given to Louise by the company over the years and the last, presented to her on her 85th birthday in 1989, is the very car you see here.

Louise Piëch, née Porsche, was born in Vienna in 1904 to Ferdinand and Aloisia Porsche, five years before her brother Ferry. With their father Ferdinand working for Austro-Daimler, both children caught the automotive bug at an early age, learning to drive in a makeshift go-kart in their backyard. Louise was particularly passionate, gaining her driving licence at just 14 and acquiring her first car one year later. She even competed in local races with some success. Once, when she won a race in a Mercedes built by her father, he gave the trophy to the driver who’d come second to avoid any allegations of favouritism.

Louise’s real passion, however, was art, and she would go on to study painting and art history in Vienna. In 1928, she married the lawyer Anton Piëch, who had already worked for Porsche for many years. He and Louise would later save Porsche from post-war nationalisation by transferring company assets to their newly founded “Porsche Konstruktionen Ges.m.b.H.” in Austria. This timely manoeuvre would ultimately allow her brother Ferry to return Porsche to Stuttgart in 1950 and begin full scale production of the 356.

Shortly afterwards, fate dealt the family a series of blows which forced Louise to play a larger role in the company: her father died in 1951, and only 18 months later her husband Anton also suffered a fatal heart attack. From 1952 onwards, the free-spirited mother of four acted as managing director of Porsche Holding in Austria.

Between the end of the war and the early 1970s, Louise Piëch was probably the most influential woman within the Porsche Group. Even though she was never interested in climbing the ranks within the company, she was regarded as its unofficial treasurer.

In 1971, however, she stepped back from the day-to-day duties, from then on acting as honorary chair of the Supervisory Board and an éminence grise at the company headquarters in Salzburg. During this time, she began to enjoy more excursions in her 911s, famously driving up into the Alps alone to paint from the comfort of the cockpit. Louise Piëch died in 1999 and her last car, the 964, was made available for sale.

Today it is owned by Clemens Frigge, dentist by day and Porsche lover by night. Until he purchased it, Louise’s last 911 had never left Austria and it was by chance that Frigge stumbled across the car which he has now owned for two years. The previous owners had simply not realised its true value, and it had stood untouched for a whole year in a local dealership.

In truth, Frigge himself is ambivalent about this special car’s potential worth: “I don’t buy vehicles based on their value – the story behind them is what matters to me, and that’s something that money can’t buy.” Testament to its hard-driving original owner, the 964 has an impressive 103,000km on the clock but is in pristine condition. “It’s definitely the original,” confirms Frigge. “The documents for the engine, transmission and paintwork all have matching numbers.” The car even has the number plates associated with all of Louise’s vehicles – ‘S 200’.

What makes this 964 so unique is not its condition, however, but how it was tailored to Louise’s requirements. Instead of leather seats, a mottled mother-of-pearl fabric was chosen at her request to replicate the office curtains favoured by both the Piëch and Porsche families.

And the bizarre touches don’t end there. Although it’s almost impossible to capture in photographs, the perfect silver paintwork has a strange purple shimmer running through it, another special request from Porsche’s former first lady.

The white leather interior trim, meanwhile, has fluffy white edges, a design that Frigge freely admits evokes a response of sheer horror from many Porsche connoisseurs. “Who the hell did that?” he is often asked. But interestingly, he tends not to reveal the car’s remarkable provenance, preferring to keep its secrets close. Instead, he simply explains that the car was “retrofitted for a lady in her twilight years”, who had used a walking frame to make her way as far as the driver’s door before falling into the seat and zooming off into the Alps.

Frigge can sympathise with the confusion of the unwitting Porsche purists: “You need a very high pain threshold to leave the original design unchanged,” he chuckles, “but none of that matters as soon as you drive the car.” And once you’re in the know, of course, was there ever a more authentic 964?