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Ferdinand Porsche
Personal information
Nationality Austro-Hungarian
Birth date 3 September 1875(1875-09-03)
Birth place Maffersdorf near Reichenberg, Austria-Hungary
(now Czech Republic)
Date of death 30 January 1951 (aged 75)
Children Ferry Porsche and Louisa Porsche
Work
Significant projects Mercedes-Benz ss/ssk, Tiger I, Tiger II, the Elefant, and the Volkswagen Beetle
Significant Awards German National Prize for Art and Science

Prof. Dr. Ing h.c. Ferdinand Porsche[1] (3 September 1875 – 30 January 1951) was an Austro-Hungarian automotive engineer. He is best known for creating the first hybrid vehicle (gasoline-electric), the Volkswagen Beetle, the Mercedes-Benz SS/SSK, as well as the first of many Porsche automobiles, and for his contributions to advanced German tank designs: Tiger I, Tiger II, Elefant and many other developments not so known by people in general but very significant. Porsche was awarded in 1937 the German National Prize for Art and Science, one of the rarest decorations in Nazi Germany.

Prof. Dr. Ing. h.c Ferdinand Porsche was the winner of the award of Car Engineer of the Century.

Porsche's son, Ferry Porsche, is the eponym for Porsche automobiles, initially based to a large extent on the Volkswagen Beetle design.

Contents

Early years

Ferdinand Porsche was born to German-speaking parents in Vratislavice nad Nisou (Maffersdorf in German) near Liberec (Reichenberg in German), then northern Bohemia, Austro-Hungarian Empire (today Liberec, Czech Republic). He showed high aptitude for mechanical work at a very young age. He managed to attend classes at the Imperial Technical School in Reichenberg at night while helping his father in his mechanical shop by day. Thanks to a referral, Porsche landed a job with the Béla Egger Electrical company in Vienna when he turned 18[2]. In Vienna he would sneak into the local university whenever he could after work. Beyond auditing classes there, Porsche had never received any higher engineering education. During his five years with Béla Egger, Porsche first developed the electric hub motor.

In 1898, Porsche joined the Vienna-based factory Jakob Lohner & Co, that produced coaches for Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, as well as for the kings of England, Sweden, and Romania[citation needed]. Jakob Lohner had begun construction of automobiles in 1896 under Ludwig Lohner in the trans-Danubian suburb of Floridsdorf.

Their first design, unveiled in 1898, was the "System Lohner-Porsche", a carriage-like car driven by two electric motors, directly fitted within the front wheel hubs, and powered by batteries. This drive train construction was easily expanded to four-wheel drive, by simply mounting two more electric motors to the rear wheels as well, and indeed such a specimen was ordered by the Englishman E. W. Hart in 1900. In December that year, the car was presented at the Paris World Exhibition under the name Toujours-Contente. Even though this one-off vehicle [1] had been commissioned for the purposes of racing and record-breaking, the 1,800 kg of lead acid batteries it required graphically illustrated the limits of this powertrain concept. Though it "showed wonderful speed when it was allowed to sprint",[citation needed] the weight of its huge battery pack meant that it was singularly reluctant to climb hills and suffered from limited range due to limited battery life.

The Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid

Still employed by Lohner, Porsche reached the logical conclusion and in 1901 introduced the 'Mixte' vehicle/transmission concept: instead of a massive battery-pack, an internal combustion engine built by the German firm, Daimler, was fitted to a generator to drive the electric hub motors and (for vehicle reliability) a small battery pack. This way Porsche had created the first petroleum electric hybrid vehicle on record, although since sufficiently reliable gears and couplings weren't available at the time, he chose to make it a series-hybrid, an arrangement currently more common in diesel-electric or turbo-electric railway locomotives than automobiles.

Though over 300 Lohner-Porsche chassis were sold up to 1906, most of them were two-wheel drive—either front- or rear-wheel driven trucks, buses and fire-engines. No further four-wheel-drive passenger cars were manufactured, however some buses were fitted with it.

The up to 56 km/h (35 mph) fast carriages broke several Austrian speed records, and also won the Exelberg Rally in 1901 with Porsche himself piloting a front-wheel drive hybrid specimen. It was later upgraded with more powerful engines from Daimler and Panhard, which proved to be enough to post more speed records. In 1905, Porsche was recognized with the Poetting prize as Austria's most outstanding automotive engineer.

In 1902, he was drafted into military service. He served as a chauffeur to Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the crown prince of Austria whose assassination sparked World War I a mere decade later.

Austro-Daimler

In 1906, Austro-Daimler recruited Porsche as their chief designer. Porsche's best known Austro-Daimler car was designed for the Prince Henry Trial in 1910, named after Wilhelm II's younger brother Prince Heinrich of Prussia. Examples of this streamlined, 85 horsepower (63 kW) car won the first three places, and the car is still better known by the nickname "Prince Henry" than by its model name "Modell 27/80".

Porsche had advanced to Managing Director by 1916 and received the honorary doctorate degree, "Dr. techn h.c." from the Vienna University of Technology in 1917 (hence the "Dr. Ing h.c" in his name, meaning "Doktor Ingenieur Honoris Causa"). Porsche successfully continued to construct racing cars, winning 43 out of 53 races with his 1922 design. In 1923, Porsche left Austro-Daimler after differences ensued about the future direction of car development.

Only a few months later Porsche landed a new job as Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft's Technical Director in Stuttgart, Weimar Germany, which was already then a major hub for the German automotive industry. He received another honorary doctorate from the Stuttgart Technical University for his work at Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft in Stuttgart and later the honorary title Professor. While at Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, he came up with several very successful race car designs. The heavy series of models equipped with superchargers that later culminated in the Mercedes-Benz SSK dominated its class of motor racing in the 1920s.

In 1926, Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft and Benz & Cie merged into Daimler-Benz, with their joint products beginning to be called, Mercedes-Benz. Porsche's concept of a small, light-weight Mercedes-Benz car was not popular with Daimler-Benz's board, however. He left in 1929 for Steyr Automobile, but the Great Depression brought about Steyr's economic collapse and Porsche ended up being unemployed.

Founding of Porsche

In April 1931 Porsche founded his consulting firm, Dr. req. h.c. F. Porsche GmbH, Konstruktionen und Beratungen für Motoren und Fahrzeugbau, in Stuttgart, where he returned. With financial backing from Adolf Rosenberger, Porsche successfully recruited several old co-workers he befriended at his former places of employment including Karl Rabe, Erwin Komenda, Franz Xaver Reimspiess, and his son, Ferry Porsche.

Their first project was the design of a middle class car for Wanderer. Other commissioned designs followed. As the business grew, Porsche decided to work on his own design as well, which happened to be a reincarnation of the small car concept from his days at Daimler-Benz in Stuttgart. He financed the project with a loan on his life insurance. Later Zündapp decided to help sponsor the project, but lost interest after their success with motorcycles. NSU then took over the sponsorship, but also lost interest due to the high tooling costs.

With car commissions low in the depressed economic climate, Porsche founded a subsidiary company Hochleistungs Motor GmbH (High Efficiency Engines Ltd.) in 1932 to develop a racing car, for which he had no customer. Based on Max Wagner's mid-engined layout 1923 Benz Tropfenwagen, or "Teardrop" aerodynamic design; the experimental P-Wagen project racing car (P stood for Porsche), was designed according to the regulations of the 750 kg formula. The main regulation of this formula meant that the weight of the car without driver, fuel, oil, water and tire was not allowed to exceed 750 kg.

In 1932 Auto Union Gmbh was formed, comprising struggling auto manufacturers Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer. The Chairman of the Board of Directors, Baron Klaus von Oertzen wanted a show piece project, so at fellow director's Adolf Rosenberger insistence, von Oertzen met with Porsche, who had done work for him before. At the 1933 Berlin Motor Show, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler announced two new programs:

  • The people's car: Hitler made it his political agenda to motorize the nation, and that every German should own either a car or a tractor in the future.
  • A state-sponsored motor racing programme: to develop a "high speed German automotive industry," the foundation of which would be an annual sum of 500,000 Reichmarks to Mercedes-Benz

The announcement lead to two projects for Porsche, and set a precedent for the rest of the decade with Porsche accepting further projects from Nazi Germany, latterly including military vehicles from the Panzer, Tiger Tank and the Elefant tank destroyer.

Volkswagen Beetle

In June 1934, Porsche received a contract from Hitler to build three prototypes from designs Porsche already had, such as Porsche's 1931 Type 12 car. The three cars were completed in winter 1936. However, the original car designs follow from the innovative ideas of Hans Ledwinka, which resulted in a lawsuit by Tatra, against Porsche and his collaborators; settled by Volkswagen only several years after WWII. Daimler-Benz was contracted to build an additional 30 prototypes. A new city, "Stadt des KdF-Wagens", near Fallersleben was founded for the factory. The city is named Wolfsburg today and is still the seat of Volkswagen.

Auto Union racing car

German racing driver Hans Stuck had met Hitler before he became Chancellor, and not being able to gain a seat at Mercedes, accepted the invitation of Rosenberger to join him, von Oertzen and Porsche in approaching the Chancellor. In a meeting in the Reich Chancellery, Hitler agreed with Porsche that for the glory of Germany, it would be better for two companies to develop the project, resulting in Hitler agreeing to split the money between Mercedes and Auto Union with 250,000 Reichsmark to each company. This highly annoyed Mercedes, who had already developed their Mercedes-Benz W125, and resulted in a heated exchange both on and off the racing track between the two companies for the period until World War Two.

Having garnered state funds, Auto Union bought Hochleistungs Motor GmbH and hence the P-Wagen Project for 75,000 Reichsmark, relocating the company to Chemnitz. As Porsche became more involved with the construction of the Wolfsburg factory, he handed over his racing projects to his son, Ferry. The dominance of the Silver Arrows of both brands was only stopped by the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

Post war

In November 1945 after the war, Porsche was asked to continue the design of the Volkswagen in France and to move the factory equipment there as part of war reparations. Differences within the French government and objections from the French automotive industry put a halt to this project before it had even begun. On 15 December 1945, French authorities arrested Porsche, Anton Piëch, and Ferry Porsche as war criminals. While Ferry was set free soon, Ferdinand and Anton were held in a Dijon prison for 20 months without trial.

While his father was in captivity, Ferry tried to keep the company in business, and they also repaired cars, water pumps, and winches. A contract with Piero Dusio was completed for a Grand Prix motor racing car, the Type 360 Cisitalia. The innovative 4WD design never went into races, but the money it raised for Porsche was used to redeem Ferdinand Porsche from French prison.

The company also started work on a new design, the Porsche 356, the first car to carry the Porsche brand. The company was located in Gmünd in Carinthia at the time, to which they had evacuated from Stuttgart to avoid Allied bomb raids. The company started manufacturing the Porsche 356 in an old saw mill in Gmünd. They manufactured 49 cars, which were built entirely by manual labor.

The Porsche family returned to Stuttgart in 1949 not knowing how to restart their business. The banks would not give them credit, as the company's plant was still under American embargo and could not serve as collateral. So Ferry Porsche took one of the limited series 356 models from Gmünd and visited Volkswagen dealers to raise some orders. He asked the dealers to pay for the ordered cars in advance.[3] He even wrote a letter to the bank's director to thank him for refusing.[citation needed]

The serial version made in Stuttgart had a steel body welded to the central-tube platform chassis instead of the aluminum body used in the small Gmünd-made series. When Ferry Porsche resurrected the company he counted on series production figures of about 1,500. More than 78,000 Porsche 356's were manufactured in the following 17 years.

Porsche was later contracted by Volkswagen for additional consulting work and received a royalty on every Volkswagen Type I (Beetle) car manufactured. This provided Porsche with a comfortable financial situation as more than 20 million Type I were built.

In November 1950, Porsche visited the Wolfsburg Volkswagen factory for the first time since the end of World War II. Porsche spent his visit chatting with Volkswagen president Heinrich Nordhoff about the future of VW Beetle, which were already being produced in large numbers.

A few weeks later, Porsche suffered a stroke. He did not fully recover, and died on January 30, 1951.

In 1996, Porsche was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and in 1999 posthumously won the award of Car Engineer of the Century.

References

  1. ^ The name Porsche is pronounced [ˈpɔʁʃə] in German and /ˈpɔrʃə/, POR-shə in English, with an audible "e".
  2. ^ "Ferdinand Porsche, a 'Bogár' atyja" (in Hungarian). National Geographic Hungarian edition. 2004-09-03. http://www.geographic.hu/index.php?act=napi&id=3027. Retrieved 2008-12-10. 
  3. ^ Howstuffworks "Porsche Takes Root"

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