Porsche 911 hero: Anatole Lapine

Porsche 911 hero: Anatole Lapine

The Head of Style Porsche shaped the company’s 911 design language for more than two decades

Anatole ‘Tony’ Carl Lapine’s contribution to Porsche and its 911 sports car is sizeable. Lapine was chief of Style Porsche for 21 years, from 1967 to 1988, overseeing not just key developments in the 911’s storyline but also the hiring of notable individuals who would go on to play their own part in its history. Born in Riga, Latvia, Lapine first served an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic with Daimler- Benz in Hamburg, Germany, before travelling to the United States to join GM’s advanced body engineering department in 1951. Lapine would stay there for 14 years until 1965, returning to Germany to head up Opel’s Research Centre, before he made his decisive move to Porsche as head of the company’s styling department.

When Lapine joined, the 911’s wheelbase had merely grown by 57mm. By the time Lapine left Porsche in 1988, the lineup had evolved into the G-series era, maintaining its well-recognised profile while adhering to stricter US safety standards thanks to the addition of 5mph impact bumpers. The lineup had also expanded to include the mighty (and wide-bodied) 911 Turbo, as well as the Cabriolet, then the introduction of a four-wheel-drive 911 in the 964. Lapine worked closely with his team on all of this, while also answering to the differing demands of consecutive CEOs Ernst Fuhrmann and Peter Schutz at what proved to be periods of great change at Porsche as the company transitioned from being family-run.

Aside from development of the 911, Lapine directed new Porsche models including the 924, 928 and 944 transaxle cars which, at the time, were intended to replace Porsche’s iconic Neunelfer. Lapine and his team also delivered a number of third-party client development design projects on behalf of Porsche, including the A310 cockpit for Airbus, as the company spread its creative tentacles far beyond that of sports car design. Lapine was pivotal here, though it was the 911 which remained the fabric of the company, highlighted by its revitalisation in the form of the 964, in what was Lapine’s last input before retiring in 1988.

Lapine died in Baden-Baden in 2012, yet his legacy as a key contributor to the 911’s evolution is assured. A close and longterm friend of Ferry Porsche, Mr Porsche would certainly have been very proud of Lapine’s efforts to further the company’s design language while preserving the 911’s status as the ultimate icon of the company.

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