Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Ferdinand Porsche (September 3, 1875 - January 30, 1951) was a Bohemian-born German automotive engineer born in Vratislavice, Austria-Hungary (now in the Czech Republic), who developed the original Volkswagen and a prototype of the Tiger I tank. Dr. Porsche's son was Ferry Porsche, the eponym for the Porsche automobile, based on the Volkswagen design. Incidentally, the name is pronounced "PORSH-uh", not "PORSH".
Porsche showed a fine mechanical aptitude while being young. He got a recommendation for a job at Bela Egger in Vienna at the age of 18. After work, he sneaked into university classes; he never received any more formal engineering education than this.
After working for Bela Egger for five years, Porsche entered the automobile industry, joining the carriage factory Jakob Lohner & Co., which began the construction of automobiles in 1896 under Ludwig Lohner in Floridsdorf (today Vienna). From 1898, their first design, the "System Lohner-Porsche" was a carriage run by a combustion engine powering wheel-mounted electric motors. They presented the car on the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris. The up to 35 mph (56 km/h) fast carriage won several Austrian speed records, and stronger combustion motors from Daimler and Panhard provided enough power to win additional speed records. In 1905, Porsche won the Poetting prize as Austria's outstanding automotive engineer.
In 1902, he was called up for military service. He worked as a chaffeur to Archduke Ferdinand, the crown prince of Austria whose assassination sparked off the I World War.
In 1906, Austro-Daimler recruited Porsche as their chief designer. Porsche's most famous Austro-Daimler was designed for the Prince Henry Trial of 1910. 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 name "Modell 27/80".
Austro-Daimler's main business was war material: trucks, motorized cannons, and motors for aircrafts. Porsche became managing director in 1916 and received the honorary doctorate degree, "Dr. techn h.c." from Vienna Technical University in 1917. Porsche successfully continued to construct racing cars, winning 43 out of 53 races with his 1922 design. In 1923, Porsche left Austro-Daimler after differences about the future directions of their cars.
Only a few months later he got a new job as Daimler's Technical Director in Stuttgart, a center of automotive industry. He received another honorary doctorate from the Stuttgart Technical University for his work for Daimler. He constructed more very successful racing cars, dominating racing in the 1920s . His idea of a small, light-weight Daimler-Benz car was not much liked by Daimler's board. He left in 1929 for Steyr, but the Great Depression made Steyr collapse and Porsche was unemployed.
In April 1931 Porsche founded his consulting firm, Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung, Konstruktionen und Beratungen für Motoren und Fahrzeugbau, in Stuttgart, where he returned. Several people he had worked with before joined him:
- Karl Rabe , chief engineer
- Erwin Komenda, body design
- Karl Fröhlich , transmissions
- Josef Kales , motors
- Josef Zahradnik , steering and suspensions
- Franz Xaver Reimspiess and Josef Mickl , aerodynamics
- Adolf Rosenberger , business manager
- Anton Piëch , lawyer, Ferdinand Porsche's son-in-law and later father of Ferdinand Piëch (chairman of Volkswagen 1993-2002)
- Ferry Porsche, his son
Their first project was the construction of a middle class car for Wanderer. Others followed. Porsche decided to start a design of his own for a new, small car. He financed the project with a loan on his life insurance. Zündapp became a sponsor of the project, but lost interest after their success with motorcycles. NSU took over, but also lost interest due to the high tooling costs. No one was interested in the project until Adolf Hitler decided that every German should own either a car or a tractor. In June 1934, Porsche got a contract to build three prototypes based on his design. The three cars were completed in Winter 1936. Daimler-Benz was made to build another 30 prototypes. A new city, "Autostadt", was founded for the factory. The city is named Wolfsburg today and is still the seat of Volkswagen.
At about the same time, Porsche designed a racing car for Auto Union to compete with Daimler's Silver Arrows. The car became known by the name P-Wagen and was both innovative and successful.
Ferdinand Porsche became involved in the construction of the factory in Wolfsburg. He handed over the racing projects to his son, Ferry. Ferdinand accepted further projects from the Third Reich, including the construction of tanks. Those projects also involved forced labor, e.g. in the construction of the Volkswagen factory.
After the war, in November 1945, Porsche was asked by the French to continue the design of the Volkswagen in France and to move the factory equipment to France as part of the war reparations. Differences within the French government and rejection by the French automotive industry stopped this project before it had begun. Ferdinand Porsche, Anton Piëch, and Ferry Porsche were arrested as war criminals on December 15. Ferry was set free, but the other two went to prison in Dijon for 20 months, without a trial.
While Ferdinand was in captivity, Ferry tried to keep the company in business. A contract with Piero Dusio was concluded for a Grand Prix racing car, the Type 360 Cisitalia. They also repaired cars, water pumps or winches. They also started the design of a new model, the Porsche 356, the first to have the name Porsche. The company still resided in Gmünd in Austria, where they were evacuated to during the allied bombings of Stuttgart. The company started building the Porsche 356 in the old saw mill in Gmünd and 49 were built, entirely by hand.
Porsche was contracted by Volkswagen for additional consulting and received a royalty on every Volkswagen built. Porsche, now having a good financial situation, returned to Stuttgart in 1949. There the Porsche 356 was built with a steel body instead of the aluminium one that was used in Gmünd. More than 78,000 Porsche 356's were built in 17 years.
In November 1950 Porsche visited the Wolfsburg Volkswagen factory for the first time after the war. It was already producing the VW Beetle in large amounts at that time. Some weeks later, Porsche had a stroke. He never recovered completely from the stroke and died on January 30, 1951.
- Ferdinand Porsche, from Auto History Online
- Hybrid-Vehicle.org: The Lohner-Porshe.
- Hybrid-Vehicle.org: The Landwehr and The C-train
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