If you know RKH you’ll know that there’s a healthy contingent among us who are petrol heads. There are also a few connoisseurs of the electric car as well, but this is my blog post and I like noisy, big engines.
I love cars, I always have. I love motor racing. I love sports cars. I love classic cars. I love driving. It’s a love affair that has been in existence for the majority of my life and shows no signs of abating.
It’s hard to pinpoint where it all started.
I have a very early memory of being in a garage at Donington Park when somebody suddenly started up an AC Cobra. I was literally blown away by the noise of the Shelby Ford V8 engine.
Another one about being thrown around a grass track at Oulton Park by Jimmy McRae in an insane Ford RS200.
My dad didn’t help matters by constantly buying and then doing up performance Fords including a number of XR3s, XR3is and a ridiculous Fiesta RS Turbo.
But deep down the true cause of this, and the pinnacle of my obsession belongs to one car and one car only.
In my humble opinion the most perfect combination of design and engineering that has ever been produced. An iconic car that surpasses its purpose and transcends to a pure design classic.
The Porsche 911.
I’ll get the geeky car nerd bit out of the way so that we can get onto the design bit, which is of course what this blog is supposed to be about. By maintaining the same basic modus operandi for fifty years - a flat six, rear engined, rear wheel drive, two door supercar - and slightly honing each iteration, Porsche have created a car that drives like no other, handles like no other, sounds like no other and looks like no other.
It is as near to perfection as a car can be. I love the 911 more than is healthy for a man to love a car.
Pretty much everyone on the planet can describe what a 911 looks like.
The beautiful swooping curves over the body of the car, the bulbous headlights and the enormous wheel arches that are wider at the front than at the back. I imagine most people could make a passable stab at drawing one from memory.
The 911 is immediately identifiable and utterly iconic. Despite the fact that Porsche have introduced other models since, it is the 911 that will always be Porsche for me. The others are just side notes in the story of the manufacturer. Other manufacturers have their ‘look’ - you can tell a Ferrari is a Ferrari - but I’d argue that no other specific car model is as totally ubiquitous as the 911.
The other day I asked my Dad when it was that I first became fascinated by the 911. Without hesitation he said I was 4. I drew them, I built models of them, I pretended I was driving them. It has been a constant throughout my life and very little, if anything, has stood the test of time for me like the 911 has.
So, why is the design of the 911 so memorable? And I mean design in the full product design sense, rather than just the aesthetic.
The famous Indian custom car designer, Dilip Chhabria, was asked which car was the hardest to customise and he immediately chose the 911 saying: "It has to be the Porsche 911. It hasn’t dated since it was designed. It is a very desirable car. I have attempted to redraw, reskin and redesign it but could not do anything with it. I realised that it is difficult to alter the perfect design.”
Porsche set a very simple brief with the 911 and stuck to it with a steadfastness which is unparalleled, not just in the automotive industry, but also in any other sector that I can think of. They have been brave and utterly consistent in what they have done with the car. Rather than make wholesale changes with each generation they have just made tweaks here and there, adapting and subtly changing it, making it better and better and better.
There’s a lesson here to be learned by all of us who work in marketing communications. The temptation when working on any brand is to go in and change it. To think that we know best and to tear everything down and start again. Of course, in some cases this may well be the case, but I’d argue that in most instances we can take the Porsche route - be very clear about what it is we want to achieve and then by a series of iterative changes take the design on a journey to a better place.
Porsche is still on its journey and hopefully it will continue long after I’m around to witness it, but in the meantime I’m going to continue enjoying my lifetime obsession and appreciate the 911 for what I believe it is - the most beautifully designed car on the planet.