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Ferdinand Porsche (September 3, 1875 – January 30, 1951), Austrian engineer, founder-designer of the German automotive studios Porsche. Creator of the Volkswagen Type 1 (Beetle). Ferdinand Porsche and his son Ferdinand Anton, known as Ferry Porsche, created the automobile company Porsche AG in 1931.
Porsche was born into a German-speaking family from Maffersdorf (Vratislavice nad Nisou), Bohemia, of the then Austro-Hungarian Empire. His birthplace is part of the current city of Liberec, in the Czech Republic. Porsche is known for having designed the Volkswagen Type 1, for having designed a large number of successful projects in sports motorsport (such as the well-known AutoUnion P) and for its contributions in the advanced designs of the German tanks: a Tiger I prototype that lost in front of the Henschel model, the P2-Turm turret of the Tiger II and the Elefant, built with the disused chassis of the Tiger I prototype.
In 1937, Adolf Hitler awarded Porsche the German National Prize for Arts and Sciences, one of the least frequent decorations of the Third Reich. Dr. Porsche is considered one of the geniuses of automotive design.
Ferdinand Porsche was the third of the five children of Anton Porsche, an engineer and businessman. Since his adolescence, he became interested in electric power. In 1893 he joined Brown Boveri (now integrated in the Swiss multinational Asea Brown Boveri [ABB]), Vienna, a company belonging to the electrical sector. It proved to be a great professional and quickly rose. Towards 1898 it happened to comprise of the division of automobiles of Jacob Lohner, also in Vienna. In the universal exhibition of 1900, in Paris, the electric car Lohner-Porsche was presented, propelled by 4 electric motors integrated in the wheels of the car.
Ferdinand himself piloted his own designs in races in the early s. XX obtaining some victories. In 1906 he became technical director of Austro-Daimler. Porsche won in 1910 the Prinz-Heinrich Farht with an Austro-Daimler, occupying another of its cars the 2nd place. Later he was promoted to general manager. In 1922 the Sascha wins the famous Targa Florio in its class (4-cylinder engine and 1.1 liters).
In 1923 he is hired by Mercedes as technical director. There he is in charge of developing the engines with compressor of the brand, winning in 1924 the Targa Florio in the absolute classification. Merits that made him be named doctor honoris causa in engineering by the Technische Hochschule in Stuttgart. Porsche left its mark on Mercedes-Benz for the whole story, as it was responsible for the design of the magnificent Mercedes-Benz S, SS and SSK.
The project office
After a brief stint in Steyr, he set up his engineering and design office on April 23, 1931 in Stuttgart under the name of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche GmbH, Konstruktionen und Beratungen für Motoren und Fahrzeugbau.
Porsche would hire several of his former colleagues:
- Karl Rabe, chief engineer
- Erwin Komenda, chassis design
- Karl Fröhlich, broadcasts
- Josef Kales, engines
- Josef Zahradnik, direction and suspensions
- Franz Xaver Reimspiess and Josef Mickl, aerodynamics
- Adolf Rosenberger, manager
- Anton Piëch, lawyer and son-in-law of Ferdinand Porsche. His son Ferdinand Piëch would be a Volkswagen manager between 1993 and 2002.
- Ferry Porsche, son of Ferdinand Porsche.
The first project was called # 7 because they did not want it to be known that it was the first. His first relevant assignment was that of Auto Union for a grand prize single-seater with a 16-cylinder engine: the Auto Union P-Wagen (Porsche type 22), which won 1 of every 2 races in which it participated.
Porsche’s head had been around for some time the construction of a quality and popular car, which was not a toy version of the traditional saloons. This desire could materialize thanks to the commission received from the Nazi administration. This is how the Volkswagen Type 1 was born in the project workshop in Zuffenhausen (Stuttgart). The year was 1938 and the war was about to explode, so the plans to mass-produce the Beetle were parked.
The Second World War and the postwar period
During the war, the Porsche studio dealt with the design of war material, such as the Maus panzer or the off-road version of the Volkswagen (Kübelwagen), among others.
The Allied bombings forced the transfer of the Porsche from its facilities from Zuffenhausen to Gmünd, Austria, in 1944. In 1945, after the war, as part of war reparations, VW was offered to the French. However, the objections of the French industry, did not carry out the transfer. Ferdinand Porsche, together with his son Ferry and his son-in-law Anton Piëch (grandfather of Ferdinand Piëch, future president of VW), were arrested and imprisoned in a medieval prison in Dijon, France, for having used slave labor in their Nibelungenwerke factory where it produced military vehicles for the Nazis. Ferry would be released soon from the sentence, but Ferdinand and Piëch were condemned 2 years without previous judgment. During that confinement, he was forced to work on designs for Renault, from which the future 4CV model would emerge.
His son Ferry Porsche tried to recover the company, also arranging other vehicles and engines, and making prototypes for third parties, such as the 360 competition Cisitalia, with 4-wheel drive and a 1.5 supercharged engine for the Italian industrialist Piero Dusio , project that was reviewed by Ferdinand upon his release from prison and that filled him with pride for how well his son’s work was done.
Ferry would present the first model of the current Porsche brand, the 356, in June 1948, based on the VW. The first benefits of the vehicle were used to rid his father of prison. The 356 would initially be manufactured by hand in the Austrian town of Gmünd, and later, in 1949, the Porsche family and the production would be moved to Stuttgart.
Ferdinand Porsche was also hired by VW as a consultant, and received royalties for each “Beetle” produced, which provided significant income to the family, given the success of the model.
At the end of 1950, he suffered a cerebrovascular accident, from which he would not recover, and would die weeks later, on January 30, 1951. He was buried under the Catholic rite in the private chapel of the Porsche family, in the town from Zell am See.
In 1999, posthumously, he was named Automotive Engineer of the 20th Century.
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