the big interview: Ben Dimson

Ben Dimson was born in the Philippines, yet it was in the automotive playground of California where, as a student, his love for vehicle design could be harnessed.

Upon graduation, his talents would land him a job at Porsche where, surrounded by household greats such as Tony Lapine and Richard Söderberg, Dimson flourished. His revamp of the 928 sparked a homogenous front-end design which would permeate throughout all Porsche models including the 944 Turbo, 959, and 964 Carrera. In between this, Dimson was also put in charge of styling Porsche’s first ever 911 Speedster, creating iconic liveries for Porsche’s 962 race cars, and assisting in aviation projects at Weissach, as Porsche looked to expand its engineering expertise from the road to the runway.

Despite his enormous achievements, Dimson has largely kept himself out of the public eye – which means there are few, particularly in Porsche circles, who know his story. However, Dimson agreed to an exclusive interview with Total 911’s editor, sharing his remarkable account of life at Weissach in the 1980s. Speaking from his NorCal vineyard, Dimson talks openly about his arrival at Porsche, joining the 959 styling effort, and winning approval for the look of the now universally loved 964…

Total 911: Ben, you arrived at Porsche in 1981 via Manila and then California. What took you to Porsche in Stuttgart?

Ben Dimson: I grew up in Manila and was exposed to quite a few cars. The Philippine car environment was heavily influenced by European, American and Japanese manufacturers in the ’60s and ’70s. I went to a university in the Philippines to begin Industrial Engineering before I learnt about design. Back then car design existed only in the United States of America and Europe but whilst I was at university, I came across a leaflet about the General Motors Design Programme, and it piqued my interest. I didn’t know such a career existed! I travelled to the USA to visit friends and family and whilst I was there I followed up on the links to the Art Center College of Design. I saw the campus, the programme, but also fell in love with California because the car culture was incredible, and that was it – I got the bug and was hooked. It was what I had to do. My engineering background helped but design brought about a whole new perspective for me. You could, through sketching, be responsible for the look of a car.

From my time at the Arts Center focusing on transportation design, I began interviewing with multiple car companies. Once I graduated I got the chance to join Ford, Volkswagen and finally Porsche. I never expected that my application would be taken seriously at Porsche!

What was it like to work in a reinvigorated Porsche workforce under newly appointed CEO Peter Schutz?

It was very exciting, especially for me coming from the Philippines, studying in the United States and then arriving in Germany. My first ride in a Porsche at the tremendous Autobahn speeds that we reached between the airport and Weissach was such a welcome. I had never been above 130mph but we were doing 170mph in a Porsche, on the Autobahn – it was an incredible experience…

To read our full, exclsuive interview with 964 designer Ben Dimson, pick up Total 911 issue 199 in store today. Alternatively, order your copy online for home delivery, or download it straight to your digital device now.

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