An enduring inspiration

It’s over 70 years since the first Porsche 356 emerged from the converted sawmill in the Austrian alpine village of Gmünd in which it was built. Its singular and compelling design still has the power to stop you in your tracks, even today. And it’s exactly this enduring, magnetic attraction that’s led to the 356 becoming the source material for a modern boat inspired by classic Porsche design – the Hermes Speedster.

Leather interior of cruiser with inspiration from Porsche 356
The Hermes Speedster boat takes the Porsche 356 as inspiration, but is far from a mere copy

The timeless design cues of several iterations of the Porsche 356 are there for all to see in the Hermes Speedster. Although this is no slavish copy – as Peter Politis, marketing director of Seven Seas Yachts, the company who make the Hermes Speedster, is keen to point out. “If you look closely, you will see that it only has a few traits of the 356,” says Peter. “It’s actually just the rough shape of the windshield, the dashboard, the front seats and the intake grilles above the engine compartment. And yet you immediately get that classy 356 vibe when you see the boat.”

But why make a ‘runabout’ like this, inspired by classic Porsche design? “The design of the 356 recalls a particularly romantic era,” says Peter. “We had emerged from a very tough time after World War 2. People were able to focus on design and art. It was a great time for it. And the 356, with its beautiful curves, had what has proved to be a timeless design.”

Brown Hermes Speedster boat turns, producing a wake, in sea
The Hermes Speedster recalls the classic elegance of the 1930s ‘gentlemen’s runabout’

And it’s this timelessness and beauty that encouraged Nikolas, the CEO of Seven Seas Yachts, and the chief designer of the boat, to embark on the project. “It is Nikolas’ favourite car of all time,” explains Peter. “He saw something in it, like its beautiful curves, that he was able to relate to as a boat designer and translate it via his own design. While it’s not a revolutionary idea for a boat to be inspired by automotive design, in the past other designers have been less successful as they weren’t able to find a balance between the two worlds.”

Timeless Porsche design

The Hermes Speedster took six months to design, says Peter, before spending several years being tweaked as the final shape and interior details were fine-tuned. As well as being inspired by classic and timeless Porsche design, like all modern Porsche cars today, attention to detail was key. The boat, produced by UK-based Seven Seas Yachts and made at their production facility in Thessaloniki in northern Greece, is made chiefly from bespoke components – from the pull switches that sit within the stitched leather dashboard to the custom-made covers for the speakers. “It’s these little things that make such a big difference,” says Peter.

Rear view down length of the Hermes Speedster boat
These twin cooling vents resonate with those on later 356 models

The 6.75m-long (22ft) vessel, which can reach speeds up to 72km/h (45mph), is designed to help transport you to remote beaches or restaurants and, says Peter, has even been sold to existing Porsche 356 owners. With a wide range of colour combinations for the Hermes Speedster, 356 owners often match their boat with the colour of their vehicles.  

A classic of seven decades… and counting

Peter isn’t afraid to admit that while the reception has been overwhelmingly positive, there have been some who have been conflicted by a boat inspired by such timeless Porsche design. “Either people love it, or not at all. There is no middle ground,” says Peter.

But as to what Erwin Komenda, the man who designed the elegant curves of the 356, would think, then Peter is in no doubt. “I think he would be proud that we are now sitting here, talking about his design, all these years later,” he says. “That his design is still relevant and so successful that it still inspires new products more than 70 years later.”

Red Hermes Speedster moored in clear waters of an inlet
More than 70 years on, the Porsche 356's timeless design is still inspiring designers and consumers alike

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Green Porsche 356 with whitewall tyres at Porsche Experience Centre