Short & crisp: Harm Lagaay about the Boxster design

Nothing against the 911, but Porsche is much more than that - something we have Harm Lagaay to thank for, too. A conversation with Porsche's former chief designer about the Boxster, launched 25 years ago, Porsche's design language - and how to create something brand new for the future from a glorious history.
Text Marko Knab
Photo Marko Knab · ramp.pictures

Mr. Lagaay, the Boxster was first drawn thirty years ago. Did you have any idea then that it would become a hit and be mass-produced for almost a quarter of a century?
Yes, absolutely! But you have to know the entire history of the Boxster 986 and the 911 996. It was the spark to completely change the company, because Porsche could not have survived with only the existing three cars, the 944, 928 and 964. Before the 986 and 996 pair came along, however, there were other model strategies.

What did these look like?
There was, for example, the four-seater and four-door 989 - and a mid-engine version of it. But when it was decided to continue with the ingenious and common platform for the 986 and 996, a completely different situation arose, and not just for the company. We were also so enthusiastic about the concept internally that we were absolutely certain that we could lead Porsche into the future in this way.

"We were also so enthusiastic about the concept internally that we were absolutely certain that we could lead Porsche into the future in this way."

Let's talk about the shared front of the two vehicles. How did that come about?
You have to remember: When the cars were being developed, expenses had to be drastically reduced. And every department, including design, had to do its part. How can you cut costs in production or tools? We decided, based on the success of the Boxster study, to produce the headlight module with five functions, all in one extremely cheaply. We were well aware that it was going to be one headlight for both vehicles.

Were you surprised by the feedback nevertheless?
We were convinced that the headlight could be successful. Because the show car was so well received and the headlight seemed good enough for the 911. When we realized that customers were expecting a greater difference between the two cars, there were different headlights again for the 997.

"If a design language like that already exists in a company, that's worth gold."

Harm Lagaay

Let's move on to the idols of the Boxster: One of them is the 550 Spyder. Is it a curse or a blessing to take your cue from such a purist racing machine?
Definitely a blessing. If a design language like that already exists in a company, that's worth gold.

Is there a certain part of the Boxster that you particularly like?
No. Precisely because the Boxster is the very first vehicle that really looked to the past - in other words, to the RSK, RS60, 718, and indeed the 550 Spyder. It was the first vehicle to take the look of the past and think about how it could be translated into the future. Porsche's philosophy and design language are very elastic concepts. And you could develop them infinitely in the future.n.

So the Boxster was also the initial spark for Porsche in terms of appearance?
It was definitely the initial spark for a very attractive mid-engine sports car that is priced below the 911.

Is it true what they say about this mid-engine sports car? After the great feedback, someone is supposed to have said: Please build it just like that!
I've been asked that a lot! We were aware that the show car did not fit the planned package in terms of size. When we were told to build it exactly the same way, we knew that we had to make a few changes. In the end, however, we simply increased the size by a few percent in order to do justice to the entire package.

"It was - and still is - about whether an idea is really the right one for Porsche. And in this case, it turned out to be the right one."

Harm Lagaay

And then things moved pretty quickly with the Boxster.
Yes, the project progressed very quickly. But we didn't have any other option than to keep developing the pair! I also don't think it was a hasty decision. It was - and still is - about whether an idea is really the right one for Porsche. And in this case, it turned out to be the right one.

Can a special history make a vehicle more attractive?
Let me put it this way: It also came about with the right designers, the right modeler, and the right interior designer. A team that I put together and was convinced could produce a good show car in the shortest possible time with a limited budget. And that turned out to be true. Which was also due to the great enthusiasm of the designers and the modeler for the Porsche cars from the past.

While we're on the subject of enthusiasm: You have designed icons and worked on many projects. The Boxster, the Cayenne…
… on the Cayman, on the Carrera GT, on the very first Panamera studies, on the 993, on the 968, on the 928 GTS - not to mention our influence on racing cars, exclusive series and customer development. In other words, companies that needed our advice in the area of transportation design - for anything that flies, floats or floats on water. That's where we worked on some, albeit secret, projects. But yes, the main work was, of course, the vehicles for Porsche.

Is there a favorite project of yours?
No, they were all projects that I enjoyed working on. If there is anything I don't like, I have to blame myself. You can turn any project into a success with concentration. But one vehicle that was launched under completely different conditions than usual was the Carrera GT. That is why it is particularly close to my heart. The first study was created on the west coast of America - far away from the motherland and from Weissach. But the Carrera GT is also special because it's a car that still looks stunning today!

"If there is anything I don't like, I have to blame myself. You can turn any project into a success with concentration."

One last question: it is said that the cars in the countries where you grew up were so boring that they motivated you to draw an exciting car yourself. Is that true?
Interesting question! But no, I don't think my time in Venezuela, Brunei or Argentina had any sort of influence. I've wanted to be a designer since I was a kid. It doesn't matter which country you live in, it's more important to find out what else the world has to offer in terms of cars.


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