Porsche and the Pink Pig

What if I told you that one of Porsche’s proudest moments involved a pink race car, that was a pig, would you believe it? With such an image conscious company, it might be hard to grok that once that was true.

Back in 1971, the Porsche 917 was the most fearsome competitor on the track. In fact, it was so powerful and fast that the aerodynamic design was not up to the task, making it outright dangerous on the long, fast Mulsanne Strait of LeMans. To compound the risk- the driver’s footwell was beyond the front axle, exposing the driver’s feet to extreme danger, if not total loss in a crash. To get the opportunity to drive this car in compeition was such an honor, that many put aside their trepidation out of pure love and ambition.

So iconic, this car became the subject of a Steve McQueen film, and endless fanboy adoration since.

So what about the pig? The high-speed stability for this car became enough of an issue that the engineers at Porsche redesigned the car to handle the high-speed airflow better… but the result was a car that was derided as ugly. It has lost the sinewy, powerful lines. One wisecrack was that it looked like a pig.  Nowadays that might cause umbrage and hours of PR spin control… but the engineering department embraced this idea, and the debut of the new car included a striking visual treatment. Instead of a more common race livery, it was painted up in full-pig, complete with the cuts of meat proudly on display.

Why is this Meta? This is a perfect example of an organization embracing an opportunity, and running with it. I suspect that the decision to paint it in “Pig” didn’t come from a marketing or PR department. Engineers designed the car, and they released it with the implicit message that it’s performance first, image second.  This stuck, and was part of the legacy that Porsche now squanders as the years go by.

Thanks for the inspiration goes to my friends at Jalopnik.

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