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
Porsche ), the
Volkswagen Beetle , the
Mercedes-Benz SS/SSK ,
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.
Porsche was an important contributor to the German war effort during
World War II
World War II . He 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
Porsche was a member of the German Nazi party and allegedly
the SS (see below). He was a recipient of the German National Prize
for Art and Science , the
SS-Ehrenring and the
War Merit Cross . He
was called the Great German Engineer by Nazi propaganda.
Porsche was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall
of Fame and in 1999 posthumously won the award of Car Engineer of the
* 1 Early life
* 2 Early career
* 4 Founding of
Volkswagen Beetle and Nazi membership
Auto Union racing car
* 5 Military vehicles
* 6 Post war
* 7 Return to
* 8 Views on labor
* 9 Controversy in Porsche\'s birthplace
* 10 References
* 11 Further reading
* 12 External links
Porsche was born to German-speaking parents in Maffersdorf
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
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 citizen.
Porsche Mixte Hybrid
Porsche joined the Vienna-based factory Jakob Lohner "> the
weight of the batteries rendered it slow to climb hills. It also
suffered from limited range due to limited battery life.
Still employed by Lohner,
Porsche introduced the "Lohner-Porsche
Mixte 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, although 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
Panhard , which proved to be enough to gain more speed records. In
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
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) Jellinek.
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
Honoris Causa ".
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 hired
serve as Technical Director in
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 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 and Benz "> Adolf Hitler
laying the foundation stone of the KDF-Wagen (Volkswagen) factory near
Fallersleben (Wolfsburg) on 26 May 1938. Ferdinand
Porsche at far
Porsche was heavily involved in the production of
advanced tanks such as the
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
Auto Union Gmbh was formed, consisting of struggling auto
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 Motor Show
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
These projects led to two projects for Porsche, and set a precedent
for the rest of the decade, with
Porsche undertaking further projects
Nazis , including the Tiger tank and the
VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE AND NAZI 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 Nazi authorities in building the
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,
Porsche indeed filed a
declaration giving up the Czechoslovak citizenship at a Czechoslovak
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,
Porsche was further decorated with
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" designs).
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
Volkswagen Group .
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 bombing. The company started manufacturing
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 advance.
The serial version made in
Stuttgart had a steel body welded to the
central-tube platform chassis instead of the aluminium 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
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
for the first time since the end of World War II.
Porsche spent his
visit chatting with
Heinrich Nordhoff about the
VW Beetle , which were already being produced in large
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
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 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
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