Ferdinand Porsche (3 September 1875 – 30 January 1951) was
an automotive engineer and founder of the
Porsche car company. He is
best known for creating the first gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle
Volkswagen Beetle, the
several other important developments and
Porsche automobiles. In
Porsche designed the 1923 Benz Tropfenwagen, which was the
first racing car with a mid-engine, rear-wheel drive layout.
An important contributor to the German war effort during World War II,
Porsche was involved in the production of advanced tanks such as the
VK 4501 (P), Tiger I, Tiger II, Elefant, and Panzer VIII Maus, as well
as other weapon systems, including the V-1 flying bomb.
a member of the
NSDAP and allegedly the SS. He was a recipient of the
German National Prize for Art and Science, the
SS-Ehrenring and the
War Merit Cross, and was called the Great German Engineer by Nazi
Porsche was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame
in 1996 and won the
Car Engineer of the Century award in 1999.
1 Early life
2 Early career
4 Founding of Porsche
Volkswagen Beetle and National-Socialist membership
Auto Union racing car
5 Military vehicles
6 Post war
7 Return to Stuttgart
8 Views on labor
9 Controversy in Porsche's birthplace
11 Further reading
12 External links
Porsche was born to ethnic German parents in Maffersdorf
(Czech: Vratislavice nad Nisou), northern Bohemia, part of the
Austrian Empire at that time, and today part of the Czech Republic.
Ferdinand was his parents' third child. His father, Anton Porsche, was
a master panel-beater.
He showed a strong aptitude for mechanical work at a very early age.
He attended classes at the Imperial Technical School in Reichenberg
(Czech: Liberec) 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. In Vienna, he
would sneak into the local university whenever he could after work.
Other than attending classes there,
Porsche never received any higher
engineering education. During his five years with Béla Egger, Porsche
first developed the electric hub motor.
After the breakup of the
Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World
War I, he chose Czechoslovakian citizenship. In 1934, either Adolf
Joseph Goebbels made
Porsche a naturalized German
Porsche Mixte Hybrid
Porsche joined the Vienna-based factory Jakob Lohner &
Company, which produced coaches for Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria
as well as for the monarchs of the UK, Sweden, and Romania. Jakob
Lohner had begun construction of automobiles in 1896 under Ludwig
Lohner in the trans-Danubian suburb of Floridsdorf. Their first design
was the Egger-Lohner vehicle (also referred to as the C.2 Phaeton).
First unveiled in Vienna, Austria, on 26 June 1898,
engraved the code "P1" (standing for Porsche, number one, signifying
Ferdinand Porsche's first design) onto all the key components.
The Egger-Lohner was a carriage-like car driven by two electric motors
within the front wheel hubs, powered by batteries. This drive train
construction was easily expanded to four-wheel drive, by mounting two
more electric motors to the rear wheels, and a four-motor example was
ordered by Englishman E. W. Hart in 1900. In December that year, the
car was displayed at the Paris World Exhibition under the name
Toujours-Contente. Even though this one-off vehicle had been
commissioned for the purposes of racing and record-breaking, its
1,800 kg (4,000 lb) of lead–acid batteries was a severe
shortcoming . Though it "showed wonderful speed when it was allowed to
sprint", the weight of the batteries rendered it slow
to climb hills. It also suffered from limited range due to limited
Still employed by Lohner,
Porsche introduced the "Lohner-
Hybrid" in 1901: instead of a massive battery-pack, an internal
combustion engine built by the German firm Daimler drove a generator
which in turn drove the electric wheel hub motors. As a backup a small
battery pack was fitted. This is the first petroleum-electric hybrid
vehicle on record. Since sufficiently reliable gears and couplings
were not available at the time, he chose to make it a series-hybrid,
an arrangement now more common in diesel-electric or turbo-electric
railway locomotives than in 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. Some four wheel drive buses were produced, but
no four wheel drive automobiles.
The vehicles achieved speeds of up to 56 kilometres per hour
(35 mph), broke several Austrian speed records, and also won the
Exelberg Rally in 1901, with
Porsche himself driving a front-wheel
drive hybrid. It was later upgraded with more powerful engines from
Daimler and Panhard, which proved to be enough to gain more speed
records. In 1905
Porsche was awarded the
Pötting 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
World War I a decade later.
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". He also created a 30 horsepower model called the Maja,
named after Mercedes Jellinek's younger sister, Andrée Maja (or Maia)
Porsche had advanced to Managing Director by 1916 and received an
honorary doctorate from the
Vienna University of Technology in 1916:
the title "Dr. Ing. h.c." is an abbreviation of "Doktor Ingenieur
Porsche successfully continued to construct racing
cars, winning 43 out of 53 races with his 1922 design. In 1923,
Austro-Daimler after differences ensued about the future
direction of car development.
A few months later
Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft
Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft hired
Porsche to serve
as Technical Director in Stuttgart, Germany, which was already a major
center for the German automotive industry. In 1924, he received
another honorary doctorate from the
Stuttgart Technical University for
his work at
Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft
Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft in
Stuttgart and was later
given the honorary title of Professor. While at Daimler Motoren
Gesellschaft he came up with several very successful race car designs.
The series of models equipped with superchargers that culminated in
Mercedes-Benz SSK dominated its class of motor racing in the
Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft
Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft and Benz & Cie merged into
Daimler-Benz, with their joint products beginning to be called
Mercedes-Benz. However, Porsche's ideas for a small, light-weight
Mercedes-Benz car was not popular with Daimler-Benz's board. He left
in 1929 for Steyr Automobile, but due to the
Great Depression Porsche
ended up being made redundant.
Founding of Porsche
Main article: Porsche
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Adolf Hitler laying the foundation stone of the KDF-Wagen (Volkswagen)
Fallersleben (Wolfsburg) on 26 May 1938. Ferdinand
Porsche at far right.
Porsche was heavily involved in the production of advanced tanks such
Tiger I tank as shown above
In April 1931,
Porsche returned to
Stuttgart and founded his
consulting firm Dr. Ing. h.c. F.
Porsche GmbH, Konstruktionen und
Beratungen für Motoren und Fahrzeugbau (designs and consulting
services for engines and vehicles). With financial backing from the
Anton Piëch and Adolf Rosenberger, Porsche
successfully recruited several former co-workers he had 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 was a development 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 scarce due to the depressed economic climate,
Porsche founded a subsidiary company, Hochleistungs Motor GmbH (High
Performance Engines Ltd.), to develop a racing car for which he had no
customer. Based on Max Wagner's mid-engined layout the 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 was that the weight of the car without
driver, fuel, oil, water and tires was not allowed to exceed
750 kg (1,650 lb).
Auto Union Gmbh was formed, consisting of struggling auto
manufacturers Audi, DKW,
Horch and Wanderer. The Chairman of the Board
of Directors, Baron
Klaus von Oertzen wanted a showpiece project, so
at fellow director Adolf Rosenberger's insistence, von Oertzen met
with Porsche, who had done work for him before. At the 1933 Berlin
German Chancellor Adolf Hitler announced his intention to
motorize the nation, with every German owning either a car or a
tractor in the future, and unveiled two new programs: the "people's
car" and a state-sponsored motor racing programme to develop a "high
speed German automotive industry"; to initiate this, Mercedes-Benz
were to be given an annual grant of 500,000 Reichsmark.
These projects led to two projects for Porsche, and set a precedent
for the rest of the decade, with
Porsche undertaking further projects
for the Nazis, including the Tiger tank and the
Volkswagen Beetle and National-Socialist membership
German Press Ball 1939. Dr. Ferdinand
Porsche presents the Volkswagen
tombola prize to Mrs. Elsa Ellinghausen, the lucky winner.
In June 1934,
Porsche received a contract from Hitler to design a
"people's car" (or Volkswagen), following on from his previous designs
such as the 1931 Type 12 car designed for Zündapp. The first two
prototypes were completed in 1935. These were followed by several
further pre-production batches during 1936 to 1939. The car was
similar to the contemporary designs of
Hans Ledwinka of Tatra, in
Tatra V570 and Tatra 97. This resulted in a lawsuit
Porsche claiming infringement of Tatra's patents regarding
air-cooling of the rear engine. The suit was interrupted by the German
invasion of Czechoslovakia: several years after World War II
Volkswagen paid a settlement.
Since being engaged by the National-Socialist authorities in building
Porsche was praised as the Great German Engineer.
Hitler considered Czechs subhuman and
Porsche was in 1934 urged to
apply for German citizenship. A few days later,
filed a declaration giving up the Czechoslovak citizenship at a
Czechoslovak consulate in Stuttgart. In 1937,
Porsche joined the
National Socialist German Workers' Party (becoming member no.
5,643,287) as well as the SS. By 1938,
Porsche was using the
SS as security members and drivers at his factory, and later set up a
special unit called SS Sturmwerk Volkswagen. In 1942, Porsche
reached the rank of SS-Oberführer. During the war,
further decorated with the
SS-Ehrenring and awarded the War Merit
Cross. As the war progressed his proposed solutions to new
developments became more complex and Ferdinand
Porsche gained a
reputation in certain circles as a "mad scientist" especially with
Albert Speer (mainly due to his new found affinity for "pointy"
A new city, "Stadt des KdF-Wagens" was founded near
Volkswagen factory, but wartime production concentrated almost
exclusively on the military
Mass production of the car, which later became known as the Beetle,
began after the end of the war. The city is named
Wolfsburg today and
is still the headquarters of the
Auto Union racing car
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
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
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 II.
Having obtained 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
World War II in 1939.
Porsche produced a heavy tank design in 1942, the
VK4501 also known as
"Tiger (P)". Due to the complex nature of the drive system, a
competing design from Henschel was chosen for production instead.
Ninety chassis that had already been built were converted into
self-propelled anti-tank guns; these were put into service in 1943 as
the Panzerjäger Tiger (P) and known by the nickname "Ferdinand".
The Ferdinand was driven by a hybrid electric powertrain, and was
armed with a long barrel version of the 88mm Flak cannon. The most
common reason for losses was because the vehicle became stuck or broke
down, and so the crews often had to destroy their own vehicles to
avoid allowing them to be captured. It had a kill ratio of nearly
10:1, but as with most German wartime vehicles, lack of supplies made
maintenance a serious problem, reducing the effectiveness of the
vehicles, and forcing crews to destroy many otherwise operational
In November 1945,
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 freed after 6 months, Ferdinand and Anton
were imprisoned first in Baden-Baden and then in Paris and Dijon.
While his father was in captivity, Ferry tried to keep the company in
business, and they also repaired cars, water pumps, and winches. A
Piero Dusio was completed for a Grand Prix motor racing
car, the Type 360 Cisitalia. The innovative 4WD design never raced,
but the money it received was used to redeem Ferdinand
The company also started work on a new design, the
Porsche 356, the
first car to carry the
Porsche brand name. The company then was
located in Gmünd in Carinthia, where they had relocated from
Stuttgart to avoid Allied terror bombing. The company started
Porsche 356 in an old saw mill in Gmünd. They made
only 49 cars, which were built entirely by hand.
Return to Stuttgart
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
The series production version made in
Stuttgart had a steel body,
welded to the central-tube platform chassis, instead of the aluminium
body used in the initial limited Gmünd-made series. When Ferry
Porsche resurrected the company he counted on series production
figures of about 1,500. More than 78,000
Porsche 356s 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 income as more
than 20 million Type I were built.
In November 1950,
Porsche visited the
Volkswagen factory for
the first time since the end of World War II.
Porsche spent his visit
Heinrich Nordhoff about the future
of VW Beetles, which were already being produced in large numbers.
A few weeks later,
Porsche suffered a stroke. He did not fully
recover, and died on 30 January 1951.
Porsche was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall
of Fame and in 1999 posthumously won the award of Car Engineer of the
Views on labor
Porsche visited Henry Ford's operation in
Detroit many times where he
learned the importance of productivity. There he learned to monitor
work. He was also surprised at how the workers and the managers
treated each other as equals; even he, as a visiting dignitary, had to
carry his own tray in the cafeteria and eat with the workers.
The need to increase productivity became an obsession for him.
Conventional methods for increasing productivity include longer
working hours, a faster rate of work, and new labour-saving
techniques. Originally the
Volkswagen project was to be a
collaboration of the existing German auto manufacturers, but they
bowed out of the project, and a complete workforce was needed. The
Volkswagen plant was completed in 1938 after Italian labor was brought
in. Volkswagen, under Ferdinand Porsche, profited from forced labour.
This included a large number of Soviets. By early 1945, German
nationals only made up 10% of Volkswagen’s workforce.
Controversy in Porsche's birthplace
Following protests from local
World War II
World War II survivors that Porsche's
Vratislavice nad Nisou
Vratislavice nad Nisou was promoting Nazism by
displaying signs commemorating its native son, in 2013 the town
authorities removed the signs and changed the content of a local
exhibition so that it would cover not only his automotive
achievements, but also his Nazi party and SS membership, and the
importance of his work for the Nazi war cause. The move was criticized
by the local association of
Porsche car owners as silly and intent on
smearing the name of Porsche. Moreover,
Porsche AG hauled away
cars that it had previously provided for the museum.
Porsche Founder’s Legacy Hits Nazi Past in Czech Hometown
Porsche Tradition - Classic World - Dr. Ing.
Porsche AG". Porsche.com. Retrieved 29 May 2014.
^ The name
Porsche is pronounced [ˈpɔʁʃə] in German and
/ˈpɔːrʃə/ in English, with an audible schwa.
^ a b "Volkswagen's history of forced labour - Le Monde diplomatique -
English edition". Mondediplo.com. 28 November 1947. Retrieved 29 May
^ a b c Hiott, Andrea (2012). Thinking Small: The Long, Strange Trip
Volkswagen Beetle. Random House LLC.
^ Diel, Juliane (2008). "Du bist Deutschland!" - eine Kampagne in der
Kritik - Weblogs als kritische Meinungsführer (in German). GRIN
Verlag. ISBN 9783638006354.
^ "Sensations-Fund: Der erste Porche [....Elektroauto P1...]". Auto,
Motor und Sport. Stuttgart: Motor Presse
Stuttgart GmbH & Co. Nr.
04 2014: Page 135. 2014.
^ "Ferdinand Porsche, a 'Bogár' atyja". National Geographic Hungarian
edition (in Hungarian). 3 September 2004. Retrieved 10 December
^ Hiott, Andrea (2012). Thinking Small: The Long, Strange Trip of the
Volkswagen Beetle. Random House. p. 49.
^ a b Flink, James J. (1990). The Automobile Age. MIT Press.
^ Taylor, Blaine (2004).
Volkswagen Military Vehicles of the Third
Reich: An Illustrated History. Da Capo Press.
^ Erwin Steinböck (1984), Lohner zu Land, zu Wasser und in der Luft:
die Geschichte eines industriellen Familienunternehmens von 1823-1970
(in German), H. Weishaupt
^ Healey, James R. (27 January 2014). "Porsche's first car, in 1898,
was electric". USA Today. Tysons Corner, Virginia: Gannett Company,
Inc. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
^ Lohner-Porsche: The Real Story Archived 28 September 2007 at the
^ The VW Beetle: A Production History of the World's Most Famous Car,
1936-1967. Penguin. 2003. p. 5. ISBN 1557884218.
^ Grange, William (2008). Cultural Chronicle of the Weimar Republic.
Scarecrow Press. p. 173. ISBN 9780810859678.
^ ""Čech" Ferdinand
Porsche chtěl stavět auta, bez Hitlera by to
nesvedl" (in Czech). idnes.cz. 27 December 2013. Retrieved 27 December
^ Eberhard, Rieger (2013). The People's Car: a global history of the
Volkswagen Beetle. Harvard University Press.
^ a b Bernhard, Reuss (2008). Hitler's Motor Racing Battles: The
Silver Arrows Under the Swastika.
^ François, Etienne (2009). Deutsche Erinnerungsorte (in German).
^ von Preradovich, Nicolas (2004). Die
Schutzstaffel der NSDAP: eine
Dokumentation (in German). Druffel & Vowinckel-Verlag.
Porsche mizí z tabulí ve Vratislavicích. Byl nacista"
(in Czech). denik.cz. 22 November 2013. Retrieved 22 December
^ ISBN 978-08376-1331-4 “Porsche: Origin of the species” Karl
^ "Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger (P)". Retrieved 20 August 2014.
^ "Panzerjäger Tiger(P) – Ferdinand – Elephant".
Achtungpanzer.com. 2010-05-03. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
^ Ludviggsen, Karl (1977).
Porsche Excellence Was Expected. New
Jersey: Princeton Publishing Inc. p. 33.
^ Howstuffworks "
Porsche Takes Root"
^ a b Nelson, Walter (1967). Small Wonder. Little, Brown &
Company. p. 333.
^ "Porsche's Nazi Past Prompts Protest in Czech Birthplace".
Bloomberg. 26 November 2013. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
^ Jan Mikulička (2013-12-16). "
Porsche si odvezlo z Vratislavic svá
vystavená auta. Už je sem nevrátí - iDNES.cz" (in Czech).
Liberec.idnes.cz. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
Hiott, Andrea: "Thinking Small: The Long Strange Trip of the
Volkswagen Beetle." Random House, 2012, ISBN 0345521420.
Barber, Chris (2003). Birth of the Beetle: The Development of the
Volkswagen by Ferdinand Porsche. Haynes Publishing.
Ludvigsen, Karl E. (2008). Porsche: Excellence Was Expected – The
Comprehensive History of the Company, Its Cars and Its Racing
Heritage. Brooklands Books. ISBN 978-0-8376-0235-6
Hans Mommsen; Manfred Grieger: Das Volkswagenwerk und seine Arbeiter
im Dritten Reich, ECON Verlag, Düsseldorf 1996,
ISBN 3-430-16785-X (in German)
Peter Müller: Ferdinand Porsche. Der Vater des Volkswagens, 4. Aufl.,
1998 (in German)
Martin Pfundner: Austro Daimler und Steyr. Rivalen bis zur Fusion. Die
frühen Jahre des Ferdinand Porsche. Böhlau, Wien 2007.
ISBN 978-3-205-77639-0 (in German)
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ferdinand Porsche.
Porsche at Find a Grave
West Ham's Cedes Stoll Trolleybus
Website of the Society of Automotive Historians about him
Hybrid-Vehicle.org: The Lohner-Porsche.
Hybrid-Vehicle.org: The Landwehr and C-train
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