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Old 22nd February 2016, 21:09   #1
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Default Ferdinand Porsche – The Great German Boffin

Ferdinand Porsche – the Great German Boffin

Few women and men in history have had the courage to move forward in the face of fear and adversity. It is this persistence that makes them “great” and sublimes their existence enough to make them legends. One such legend, albeit a controversial one (as is the case with almost all great women and men) was Ferdinand Porsche – a renowned engineer whose works not only gave the world its first mid-engine race car with rear wheel drive (The Benz Tropfenwagen) but also fuelled the Nazi war machine during World War II through engineering marvels like the feared Tiger tank. People may have polarizing opinions on his political affiliations with the SS but there is no denying the fact that his contributions gave the world one of the most premier German car companies which sells iconic products like the 911, regarded by many as the best designed car ever made !

1875 – The boffin is born
Ferdinand was born in Bohemia, Austro-Hungary (modern day Czech Republic) though his parents were German speaking people (which is probably why Hitler gave Porsche German naturalised citizenship in 1938).
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Ferdinand Porsche

Formative years
Porsche had an aptitude for engineering since a young age. He helped his father run his mechanical shop while attending night school. Porsche landed his first job with the Béla Eggar Electrical Company in Vienna while he was only 18 and 5 years into the job invented the electric hub motor in 1898! (Electric motor that rotates wheel hubs – modern day electric cars can thank Porsche!). Moreover, Porsche never had any formal degree. He used to sneak into classes at the local university in Vienna after work to “learn”.

1901 – Porsche invents the Hybrid car, even before internal combustion became mainstream!
While working for the Jakob Lohner & Company, Porsche first helped design components in an all-electric “Egger-Lohner” carriage, later designing and creating the “Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid”. By bringing together an internal combustion engine from Daimler and hooking it up to a generator which in turn drove the electric hub motors, Porsche had created a combustion/electric hybrid “car” capable of reaching 56 kilometres per hour! This car went on to win the Exelberg rally in 1901 with Porsche himself driving his front wheeled hybrid and in turn, he was awarded the Pötting prize as Austria’s most outstanding automotive engineer.
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The Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid

1906 – Modell 27/80 and Maja.
Working as chief designer for Austro-Daimler, Porsche first designed the 85 BHP Modell 27/80 and then the 30 BHP Maja. By 1916, he became managing director of the company and received the title of Dr. Ing. H. C. (Doktor Ingenieur Honoris Causa) [Full name of Porsche AG today is Dr. Ing. H. C. F. Porsche Aktiengensellscaft when established it was Dr. Ing. H. C. F. Porsche Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung] (phew!)
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The 85 BHP Modell 27/80. A modern day Maruti Swift is 83 !
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The Austro-Daimler Maja (pron: Maya)
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The Benz Tropfenwagen. The world's first racing car with mid-engine and rear wheel drive; courtesy Ferdinand Porsche!

1924 – Mercedes-Benz SSK
By 1923, Stuttgart had become a major centre for the automotive industry in Germany. By this time Porsche had left Austro-Daimler and joined Daimler Motoren Gesellshaft (Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft and Benz & Cie merged into Daimler-Benz, with their joint products beginning to be called Mercedes-Benz.) as a Technical Director focusing his energies on building race cars like the Mercedes-Benz SSK. The SSK had a supercharged 7 litre straight 6 engine producing 300 horses with a top speed of 190 kilometres per hour! Needless to say it was the Bugatti Veyron of those days and won almost all races in the 1920s. The SSK was the last car that Porsche made for Mercedes-Benz before founding his own company.
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The Mercedes-Benz SSK produced close to 300 horses ! and had a top speed of 190 kph.

1931 – Porsche Consulting, Project P-Wagen and Hitler’s pet project – “Volkswagen”
In April 1931, Porsche found his own design consulting firm called Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche GmbH, Konstruktionen und Beratungen für Motoren und Fahrzeugbau (designs and consulting services for engines and vehicles). As business grew, Porsche designed cars for Wanderer and other car companies while working on his own designs for a “small car” whose backers turned away once the economic depression hit the industry. This led to Porsche again focusing on his strength – race cars and founding a subsidiary company called Hochleistungs Motor GmbH (High Performance Engines Ltd.) which ultimately generated a prototype called the P-Wagen (Porsche Wagon). No car companies wanted a race car design until Auto Union Gmbh (A union of struggling auto manufacturers – Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer) approached Porsche after Adolf Hitler announced his two pet projects. These projects were 1) a state sponsored race program 2) a “people’s car” which would revolutionize motor transport. This led to two developments – Auto union purchased High Performance Engines Ltd and thus the P-Wagan became a race car, the Volkswagen (literally meaning people’s car) Beetle was born! Hitler’s act of splitting the state sponsored race program grant between Mercedes and Auto Union also led to one of the earliest race rivalries between the two groups until World War II.
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The Auto Union Type C was derived directly from the P-Wagen built by Porsche. Auto Union later became Audi.
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The Mercedes W125 was Auto Union's chief competitor. This rivalry was born because Adolf Hitler (a born petrol head apparently, distributed the grant money between Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union.)
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Porsche's Model 12. The prototype upon which the VW Beetle is based. Fun fact: Tatra accused Porsche of copying it's designed and VW settled the dispute after World War 2.

1942 – The most feared tank in the world “Tiger (P)”
Though the Tiger I tank is credited to Henschel, it was jointly developed with Porsche. While Porsche’s Tiger P was considered a more effective tank killer (with a kill death ratio of 10:1), Henschel’s design ultimately made the cut and was mass produced as Porsche’s design had a complex hybrid electric powertrain which was difficult to fix when it broke down. All Tigers were armed with the most effective artillery gun in the World War – the 88mm flak cannon. Porsche’s design ultimately became the Panzerjäger Tiger (Tank Hunter anti-tank Tiger) nicknamed “Ferdinand” by the German Wehrmacht. It is said that almost all destroyed Ferdinand Tanks were scuttled by the Germans themselves as supply lines became weak and fixing broken down tanks became a problem. The tank’s operational effectiveness was such that it managed to inflict maximum damage.
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The Tiger (P) which became the Panzerjäger Tiger (Ferdinand Tank)(Elefent Tank)

1945 – Consequences of Hitler’s war
When Hitler offered Porsche a chance to make Volkswagen (the people’s car) he made him a member of the German Nazi Party and the SS. This meant that after the war Porsche and his family were war criminals. The French government asked him to continue the design of VW Beetle and move production to France which never happened and the Porsche family were locked up in jails. His son tried to keep the company afloat and launched the first car with Porsche’s name – the Porsche 356. The Porsche family returned to Stuttgart in 1949 and Volkswagen gave Porsche royalty on every VW Beetle sold by way of which he was able to survive after losing everything. Ferdinand Porsche died in 1951 aged 75 but left the automotive world with some of the most controversial and sought after technologies – the teardrop design of race cars gave birth to aerodynamics and race cars, the hybrid powertrain used by hybrid cars today, front wheel drive, the birth of one of the most hated and loved cars – VW Beetle and VW itself, the Panzerjäger Tiger tank and most of all the legacy that created the 911 – my favourite supercar.
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The Porsche 356. Porsche's first true manufactured car. Unfortunately, the founder Ferdinand Porsche was still lodged in a French prison when his son launched this car.
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The 911 truly stands for the legacy that Ferdinand Porsche gave the German Auto-industry. It's timeless design is reminiscent of the Beetle at the same time reflects the racing history of the company.

I hope you enjoyed reading and learning about one of the greatest automotive boffins of all time as much as I enjoyed researching about him, his relationship with Hitler and Porsche’s history with VW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

Last edited by RocketRaccoon : 22nd February 2016 at 21:17.
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Old 26th February 2016, 12:38   #2
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Default Re: Ferdinand Porsche – The Great German Boffin

Nice write up RocketRacoon.

Ferdinand Porsche is a legend in the world of cars. Great man. From making the 'people's car' to outright racers, lots of inventions, military vehicles and finally, some of the finest sports and super cars in the world - Porsche commands respect from one and all.

The 911 was, is and will be my favourite sports car of them all.

Porsche has now returned to LeMans and broken Audi's stronghold.
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Old 28th February 2016, 01:22   #3
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Default Re: Ferdinand Porsche – The Great German Boffin

Originally Posted by Aditya View Post
Nice write up RocketRacoon.
Appreciate the kind words. Researching for this piece gave me insights to the origins of many German manufacturers and how their histories are related to each other. I was also fascinated to find out that it was actually Adolf Hitler who commissioned 'the people's car' or Volkswagen. Come to think of it, we won't have the Golf, Polo or the Beetle if it wasn't for him. History is strange that way.


Last edited by RocketRaccoon : 28th February 2016 at 01:23. Reason: added name signature
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