Ferdinand Porsche and the foundation of the Porsche Company
Ferdinand Porsche was born on September 3rd 1875, in the Bohemian village of Maffersdor. After attending grammar school and Staatsgewerbeschule (State Vocational School) in Reichenberg, he entered his father’s metalworking business. The young and imaginative Ferdinand pursued a fascination with electricity working on the design of an electric car and in 1900 The Lohner-Porsche electric car is presented at the World Fair in Paris. Porsche’s wheel hub engines brought the young engineer international attention. In the same year, he developed an all-wheel-drive racecar, as well as a hybrid petrol/electric vehicle.
In 1906 Ferdinand Porsche became Technical Director at Austro-Daimler in Wiener Neustadt. At the age of only 31, he became responsible for the model range of one of Europe’s largest automotive concerns.
In September1909 Ferdinand’s first son, Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche, later known as ‘Ferry’, was born. In 1910 The Austro-Daimler touring car designed by Ferdinand Porsche scores a triple victory in the Prince Henry Trials.
In 1923 as Technical Director and Board Member of the Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft in Stuttgart, Ferdinand Porsche was responsible for the design of the legendary Mercedes Compressor Sports Car and in the following year, he led the development of the 2-litre racecar won the Targa Florio. The Mercedes-Benz S-Type models dominate international motorsport from 1927.
In 1931 Ferdinand Porsche founded the company that bears his name “Dr. Ing. h. c. F. Porsche GmbH” to provide ‘engineering and consultation on engine and vehicle design’. Based in Stuttgart the company carried out projects for manufacturers such as as Wanderer, Zündapp and NSU. In 1933 Porsche developed a Grand Prix mid-engined 16-cylinder racecar for Auto Union. He also developed a rear engined compact vehicle concept for NSU.
One year later the Porsche company received an official order for the design and construction of a German ‘Peoples Car’ or Volkswagen. The prototype was developed and assembled in the garage of the Porsche villa in Stuttgart and was road tested within 12 months At the same time production facilities were being set up for the Volkswagen which was officially called the ‘KdF-Wagen’.
In December 1935 Ferdinand Alexander Porsche the first son of Ferry Porsche (and later known as ‘Butzi’) was born in Stuttgart.
During 1939 Porsche developed 3 racing coupés for long-distance endurance competition. These ‘BerlinRome-Wagens’ could be considered the forerunners of later Porsche sports cars.
He also designed the Mercedes T-80 in1939 to conquer the world land speed record. It was reputed to have a 3000 hp aircraft engine.
Because of the outbreak of the second world war Volkswagen production was diverted towards the military version of the Beetle, the Kübelwagen and Schwimmwagen. Only 1207 Volkswagen KdFs were built between 1941 and 1944
Porsche also designed several heavy tanks but did not get the production contract. Towards the end of the war the Porsche Engineering office moved to the relative safety of Gmünd in the Austrian province of Carinthia.
After the war the Volkswagen factory at Wolfsburg was taken over by the British and Ferdinand Porsche was arrested and imprisoned in France for 20 months.
In 1946 under the direction of Ferdinand Porsche’s son Ferry, the Porsche Engineering office became involved in the design of an all-wheeldrive Grand Prix racecar for an Italian industrialist, Piero Dusio.
Ferry Porsche saw a market for a small, light two seater roadster and was unable to find a car in the market that matched his preference. He decided to build a car which became the first 356 and the first sportscar to bear the Porsche name.
> Ferry Porsche and the development of the 356 – 1948 to 1953