Porsche Crest Idea Born Over a NYC Dinner Table in 1951

In this increasingly relentless visual world, we are inundated with logos, emblems, symbols, monograms, insignias, whatever you want to call them, of companies everywhere we look. They appear online, offline, on TV and billboards, and on our cell phones, among other places. Some are recognizable, while others are not. Some make sense, while others do not.
Porsche Crest Wheel 10 photos
Photo: Porsche Media
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But they all have one thing in common; the singular purpose to represent a company through recognizable and easily understood visual means. Now that is a bit overstated when it comes to the logos of companies such as Amazon and FedEx, both of which have obscure meanings more suitable for a riddle.

There are some of those visual representations of companies and their respective products that are forever embedded in the minds of consumers regardless of whether or not they own or even fancy the product itself.

In the automotive world, the logos and even the silhouettes of the logos of companies such as Ford and Chevrolet are easily recognizable, as boring as they are. Across the pond in Europe is where logos, crests, badges, et al, represent much more history and even more to their respective brand. Brands the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, and Aston Martin all have very distinctive emblems with intriguing back stories of how and why they came about.

The crest of the renowned German sports car manufacturer Porsche, easily one of the most identifiable visuals in all things automotive and beyond, has a story of its own that, oddly enough, was reborn in the States. The crest that we see today on the hoods and steering wheel hubs (and most often wheel caps) of every Porsche model was first fashioned on the steering wheel hub of a Porsche 356 back in 1952. Two years later, in 1954, it was added to the hood and has stayed there ever since. The crest replaced the Porsche lettering on the hood, that was in place since 1948.

Porsche Crest
Photo: Porsche Media
The story behind creating a genuine trademark for the 356 began in March 1951 with a design competition organized by Porsche and Ottomar Domnick, a Stuttgart doctor and original Porsche customer. Students from German art academies would submit design ideas with 1,000 Deutsche Marks going to the winning design. None of these designs was chosen and it wasn't until Austrain-born Max Hoffman got involved did the idea take shape.

Hoffman was a familiar name in the automotive world and, as owner of Hoffman Motor Company, he specialized in importing European sports cars. Hoffman had somewhat of a Midas touch as he often created the next big thing in terms of automobiles on American byways from his Frank Lloyd Wright-designed showroom.

After winning an award for the most interesting car at Concours d’Élégance in Watkins Glen, with his newly imported Porsche 356, he would meet Ferry Porsche for dinner in New York, in late 1951, and set the wheels back in motion to create a symbol for the 356, that would create and exude more identity.

Ferry would return to Germany with a handwritten note he wrote that read; “Steering wheel hub featuring ‘Porsche’ and the Stuttgart coat of arms or something similar.” He tasked Porsche designer Franz Xaver Reimspiess with designing a trademark that “symbolically reflects the company’s roots as well as the quality and dynamism of the products.
Porsche Crest
Photo: Porsche Media
The result (there is no word on whether Franz had any prize money) was a coat of arms crest inspired by the company's home turf of Stuttgart, Germany. A rearing horse (oddly similar to the Ferrari prancing horse) is in the center, outlined by the shape of a golden shield with the city's name above. Stripes in the state colors of Red and Black run horizontally in two sections diagonally opposed to one another on the southwest and northwest portions, while Württemberg-Hohenzollern coat of arms-style antlers occupy the other two sections. The Porsche name in bold is emblazoned at the top of the crest.

Throughout the years, there have been several subtle changes to the crest for whatever reason. The initial iteration was flat on top until 1954, when the crest was reworked with a slight radius at the top. The initial size of the crest stayed until a bigger version was introduced in 1963 with a slight redesign of the horse's mane.
Porsche Crest
Photo: Porsche Media
Then in 1973, the red stripes appeared to be a little darker, the horse's main was changed back to its original form, and the Porsche font was less bold. The fourth iteration came about in 1994 and included 'PORSCHE' scripted in black in even finer font and a slight change in the posture of the horse. The fifth and current version appears more contemporary with a brighter gold hue and lighter shade of red in the stripes.

Today, the Porsche crest can not only be found on the sports cars rolling out of Zuffenhausen, but also on the many Porsche-branded products out there in the world, from sunglasses, watches, and custom cell phones to polo shirts and other fashion accessories.
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