It was with great sadness that we learned last week of the passing of one of Porsche’s stalwarts, Rolf Sprenger, on Wednesday 24 February 2021.
Sprenger arrived at Porsche in 1967 as a young engineer, and as he explained to this writer in an interview in 2005, his first task was to develop the fuel injection system for the Porsche 911. Back in ’67, the 911 was itself a young model on the market, and the only fuel injection system available for an air-cooled engine was fitted to the Magirus Deutz diesel trucks, which would obviously not do for a sports car engine.
At that time, the power output of the 911 T, E and S were all fairly close together, and there was no “hammer” (strong engine) as Sprenger called it. This is why getting the fuel injection system just right was so important for Porsche, so that they could showcase their most powerful version of the 911. Once they got the system perfected, then Porsche was ready to introduce their 911 Carrera RS in late ’73.
In the beginning, Sprenger worked as a research engineer but he later moved into the Service Department. After four or five years, Sprenger was put in charge of the Werk 1 which, at that time, was the Repair Department or Reparaturwerkstatt for customers.
The Repair Department included the Sports Parts delivery office, and amongst others, Sprenger had a young Jürgen Barth working for him. Later, Sprenger was responsible for the Used Car sales and New Car delivery, but he is perhaps best known for starting the ‘Sonderwunsch’ program at the end of the 1970s. “I was the father of the what you call today ‘Exclusive Program Tecquipment’ where we made all models of Porsche cars special, very personal,” he told the author back in 2005.
It all started with engine enhancement, chassis strengthening and all manner of sports spoilers for customers. For more than ten years, Sprenger and his team had been responsible for supporting Porsche’s sports car customers at race tracks during the racing season. Then over the winter, he would build a small number of special cars such as RSs and RSRs, and in the ‘80s and ‘90s this led to the limited series such as the Turbo S. “We also did the ‘Slantnose’, this was a series during two or three model years that amounted to more than 1000 cars, and we were very successful,” Sprenger added.
At the age of 28, Sprenger was promoted to manager of the Reparaturwerkstatt, one of the main duties of which was technical modification of customer cars. Ferry called him in to explain what he expected: “He said ‘I want all Porsche customers to come here and for you to give them outstanding service. Make our reputation with that.’ In 1969 the racing service was merged with the Reparaturwerkstatt, so as well as fitting tuning kits to 911Ss, we built client competition cars too.”
The  turbo had found a new and rich clientele for the 911: despite being a fully equipped model with air conditioning, leather upholstery and top-quality stereo, Sprenger found that increasingly these new Turbo owners were turning to Porsche to customise their already exclusive Porsches. And there seemed almost no limit to the money some of these clients were ready to spend. “I began to see a pattern,” said Sprenger. “I realised that if we started to stock certain parts, we would get them cheaper – we always got a better deal when buying in twenties, rather than ones or twos, and we could offer faster service. To deal with clients who wanted to upgrade their Porsches we created a special department, the Sonderwunsch, which was fairly open-ended about how far clients could customise their Porsches.”
As from 1989, Sonderwunsch was renamed ‘Exclusive’ as it was felt a more internationally understood term would help marketing and in any case the operation had to adapt: the winds of change were beginning to blow and special wish requests were becoming harder to fit into production schedules.
After serving Porsche for 39 years, Rolf Sprenger retired from Porsche in 2006, Kieron Fennelly noted. Since then he has established himself as a specialist in used Porsches: “I do inspections for clients and advise on restoration costs and which companies to use. For some clients I manage their entire restoration project. Occasionally I handle a Mercedes 300SL or an old BMW, but it’s mostly Porsches of course,” he added.
Readers can find a detailed profile on the life and times of Rolf Sprenger at Porsche HERE, where you will find much more on this convivial and highly professional engineer.
All the staff at Porsche Road & Race, would like to extend our heartfelt sympathies to his family and colleagues.
Written by: Glen Smale with Kieron Fennelly
Images by: Porsche Werkfoto, Kieron Fennelly & Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale