1979. Essex Porsche 936. Livery design and presentation at the Ritz Hotel ( Paris )
1979. Porsche 936. Designing the ESSEX Livery:
As I mentioned earlier I started work at the Porsche design studios in 1979 and spent over ten years working on a wide range of design projects and practically every motor sport project that Porsche was involved in during this period.
I had been in Weissach, at Porsches design and engineering centre, only a few months before I was to encounter my first livery design project. Porsche under the sponsorship of Essex was to make a surprise return to Le Mans in 1979 using 2 Porsche 936’s to be driven by: Car Nr.12. Jacky Ickx, Brian Redman and Jürgen Barth. Car Nr. 14. Bob Woolek and Hurley Haywood.
Our small design team was broken up into three studios and I had started off in the Interior design studio which was also responsible for graphic design for the road cars and livery design for the racing department.
On Friday morning we were briefed for the 936 Essex project and the three of us started to make design sketches of how the car could look. One had almost complete design freedom but restraints included incorporating the start numbers ( 60 cm circular white base which had to be illuminated for night time) as well integrating the main and second level sponsors logos. The racing department had requested a ‘reversable livery’ ( see the one pic from Le Mans) which meant the cars would be more recognisable when entering the pits. The basic colours were defined.
I was in work at 6.30 on Monday to finish off my designs and by eleven o’clock, Mansour Ojjeh( Now TAG ) had made a decision, and my design was chosen.
At this time Porsche still used a paint shop called ‘Haas’ in Bad Kreuznach which is close to the Martini & Rossi offices who had been sponsors up to this time, so a few hours later I found my self sitting in a brand new 928 traveling north with my boss. I was armed with my design sketch and box full of black tapes in different widths, made by Scotch, one of a car designers indispensable ‘drawing’ tools.
Automotive designers use these tapes to produce full size side views of a new design. ‘Taping’ is in itself an art form. Once the car design is taken into a full size clay model these tapes, applied to the clay are used again to define modeling lines, undercuts and surface changes.
The tapes are available in a variety of widths which means one ‘roughs’ in the basic lines with the wide tapes, as they are less prone to bumps, and then slowly refine the quality of the lines using thinner tapes. Once finished the painter applies his masking tapes to the other side and painting can begin.
Early evening. As planned a white 936 was waiting for us and at seven o’clock in the evening we began to transfer the design ‘sketch’ to the real car. For some reason I don’t have a single picture of this process and only took a few at the press presentation in Paris. By two o’clock in the morning we had the design on the car though I remember the four ‘S’ curves, where the red and blue colour intersected, seemed to take forever to get right. I learnt a great deal from my boss during my first Livery design taping experience and at around two thirty in the morning we left the paint shop having shown the the owner which side of our black tapes he was to put his masking tapes and headed for our hotel.
Arriving in the morning the car was already in the cabin having its red sprayed. The paint shop would work almost none stop over the next 24 hours.
Early afternoon the 936 was back in Weissach and we applied the sponsors stickers just in time for the press photo session. In the evening I found myself alone with the sparkling 936 in the racing workshops and armed with sheets of transparent paper set about tracing and copying the design so that we could ‘tape’ the second car. This would be another full speed Job.
Early next morning another 3 hour drive to Bad Kreuznach then a whole days taping and by ten in the evening the second car was finished and ready for painting. I would not see the car again until I flew to Paris a week later to apply the stickers, just hours before the car was shown to the press in the garden of the Ritz hotel.
As I arrived at the Ritz I witnessed an amazing scene. The 936 was standing outside the front entrance with the Porsche mechanics wondering how they would get it though such a narrow entrance. The celebration cake just fitted through the doors but the car?. Mansour Ojjeh and asked the hotel management to take out the 150 year old door…They politely declined. In the end the body work was taken off and the car was carried on its side though the loby and into the garden courtyard within the Ritz. The presentation took place later that evening, in the rain.
The presentation itself was a wonderful affair and no money what so ever was spared. To say that champagne and caviar flowed was an understatement. Most of the greats of the motoring world were there including the late Colin Chapman who I was briefly introduced to.
I remember thinking if the rest of my design life goes on like this it will be a great time.
P.S. Both cars retired but Jacky Ickx did set the fastest race lap: Porsche 936 (#12) – 3:36,100 = 227,003 km/h