Unsung heros: Erwin Komenda – former chief of body design at Porsche

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A post on James List about an immaculate-looking Porsche 356 for sale reminded me of Erwin Komenda. Komenda worked along side-by-side with Ferdinand and Ferdinand A.E Porsche designing the body for the iconic Porsche 356. At the time sports cars had modest small engines so much of the performance gains were gained from the body design.

The 356, sported a functional yet aerodynamically slippy body that most modern cars wouldn’t match. This quickly put Porsche on the road to building iconic sports cars. Komenda died a relatively young man aged 62 years old. Komenda was also influential in the 911 design which you can can see derived from the 356 in spirit, but he disagreed with the Porsche family on design elements. The car went on display at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1963 and three years later Komenda was dead.

Whilst the names of the Porsche family live on, Komenda is very much on the sidelines of history. Yet if you look at the clean designs that he came out with, he is more of today’s man in terms of industrial design than many of his modern contemporaries like J. Mays at Ford. The clean functional design of Komenda’s work reminds me of Dieter Rams, the influential former design head for Braun.

If you look at the archive footage in this Porsche advertisement you can see the influence that Komenda’s work had.