Up top: Ferry Porsche and Maximilian Hoffman
In the photo below, of the Frank-Lloyd-Wright-designed Hoffman Auto Showroom, at right you can see the large planter in the center of the rotating car platform. And atop that planter you can see a box with the now-familiar Porsche logo on it. But back then, in 1955, that logo was brand new.
You'll recall that the Hoffman Auto Showroom was intended to sell Jaguars; so why, you ask, is it filled with Porsches during its 1955 opening? Hoffman commissioned the space in 1953, but just two years later his business arrangement with Jaguar had evaporated. This wrinkle happened close to the Showroom's launch date; Frank Lloyd Wright had designed a leaping Jaguar statue to go onto that planter, in the center of the showroom, and Jaguar craftsmen had completed it and shipped it over to New York. After the Jaguar/Hoffman relationship evaporated, the statue was shipped back to Coventry, so the only thing it really leaped was the Atlantic. Twice.
Now back to the Porsche logo. Porsche was a logo-less company until (rumor has it) Ferry Porsche—son of company founder Ferdinand—had lunch in New York with Max Hoffman. The suspiciously colorful story, which contains at least one geographic error, goes like this:
In 1952 while dining in a New York restaurant, Max told Dr. Ferry Porsche all cars of some standing in the world have a crest. "Why not Porsche, too?" he asked. "If all you need is a badge, we can give you one, too!"
Ferry then grabbed a napkin and began to draw the crest for the state of Baden-Wurtremberg [sic] with its curved stag horns. He added a black prancing horse from Stuttgart's coat of arms and the word PORSCHE across the top and handed it back to Max asking, "How about something like that?" With a bit of refinement and color, the famed Porsche Crest was born and today remains true to Ferry's original sketch more than half a century ago.
(The error is the attribution of the crest to "Baden-Wurtremberg," which is both misspelled, and the incorrect region.)
The Internet being what it is, another story has it that Hoffman penned the logo himself. The needle on my BS meter is quivering.
I can't see the well-heeled Hoffman and Porsche having lunch in New York at the kind of joint that had paper napkins, but I also didn't think it possible that an auto importer could have Hoffman's influence. In any case, a more detailed version of the story has it that Ferry brought the sketch back to Germany, where a Porsche engineer further refined it.
Instead of rumor, let's look at some pure facts. As you can guess, the Porsche logo is based on a coat of arms. Here's a breakdown of what the images on the logo mean. First up, this is the coat of arms of the southern German region of Wurttemberg prior to World War II:
After World War II, the region was carved up into American- and French-controlled subregions. The French-administered part was called Wurttemberg-Hohenzollern, and this was their simplified coat of arms:
In 1952 Wurttemberg was subsequently merged with Baden, and cleverly named Baden-Wurttemberg, which is the modern German state we know today. And throughout Wurttemberg's long history, its capital was always Stuttgart, and here's that city's coat of arms:
Stuttgart, of course, is where Porsche began, and is still based. So knowing what you know now, their logo's provenance seems pretty clear.
Here's a super-cool (if dramatically-scored) video of a modern-day Porsche badge being produced:
As for the Porsche engineer who reportedly refined Ferry's sketch, his name was Franz Xaver Reimspress. Interestingly enough, he was also involved with the design of another famous German logo, as the result of an office design competition that he won. We'll look at Reimspress in future.
You also may be wondering why the hell Porsche competitor Ferrari's logo looks like Stuttgart's crest. Don't you worry, we'll get to that too.