February 5, 2007


And the man behind the brand is...
Ferdinand Porsche

The first vehicle to carry Dr. Ferdinand Porsche’s marque was a tank. He designed tractors and the first Volkswagens, or “people’s car.” His automotive designs earned him two honorary doctorates. At his funeral in 1952 the West German minister of transport delivered this eulogy: “We are not only standing at the bier of a great designer, but we are burying with him the heroic epoch of the motor car.” Still, Dr. Porsche never built an automobile that carried his name.

This legend of automotive design was self-taught in his hometown of Maffersdorf, Bohemia, a region of Austria-Hungary when Porsche was born in 1875. As a teenager Porsche chose not to follow his father into the tinsmithing trade and instead pursued a fascination with electric motors. The Porsches became the first family in Maffersdorf to be wired for electric lights when Ferdinand rigged a generator into the house.

His design career began in 1898. Porsche joined the firm of Jacob Lohner & Co. to create carriages for the royal Austrian House of Habsburg. In 1905 he began an association with Austro-Daimler, the largest automobile maker in Austria, that would span nearly twenty years. One of Porsche’s rare failed designs at Austro-Daimler was the Maja, a passenger car named for the daughter of a wealthy Austrian, Emil Jellinek. Another car designed for Jellinek’s other daughter, Mercedes, did become a commercial success.

During World War I Porsche’s designs for the Austrian military, including a motorized gun carriage for light artillery, earned him the Austrian Officer’s Cross and an honorary doctorate from the technical college in Vienna where he had studied briefly twenty years earlier but never bothered to enroll. In 1924, after leaving Austro-Daimler for Daimler in Germany, won a second doctorate from the technical college in Stuttgart for his design of a Mercedes SSK racer.

Mergers in the German automobile industry compromised Porsche’s autonomy and, now in his fifties, he returned to Austria to head the engineering department for Steyr Motor Works. Here Porsche could work on the small, affordable cars he favored over the luxury vehicles Austro-Daimler had preferred. However, Steyr and Austro-Daimler merged in 1930 and Porsche left once again for Stuttgart, Germany and his own design firm, buoyed by nine Austrian engineers he took with him.

Porsche once again set out to become the henry Ford of Europe. He designed three prototypes for the Volksauto, a car for the masses, but the cars were never produced. The car would be resurrected decades later as the car Americans know as the Beetle. Adolph Hitler, also seeking a car for the German masses, appointed Porsche as a director of the government’s new car company and awarded him the title of professor. During World War II he designed tanks for the Third Reich, the first vehicles to carry the Porsche name.

After the war Porsche was interred for several months at an American interrogation center while being questioned about his military activities. After he was released in November 1945 Porsche was invited to France to discuss the possibility of establishing an automotive factory there. Once again Porsche was arrested and accused of war crimes. The 70-year old Dr. Porsche was forced to help design a Renault car before raising one million francs to secure his freedom. He had spent 18 months in prison.

Broken upon his release n 1947, Porsche’s son Ferdinand II, “Ferry,” assumed management of the business. It was under his direction that the first Porsche automobile, crafted from spare Volkswagen parts, reached the market in 1948. The Porsche name would be carried on to future generations rightly as a high-performance sports car and not a utilitarian tank.


Anonymous said...

You have tested it and writing form your personal experience or you find some information online?

Anonymous said...

I didn't understand the concluding part of your article, could you please explain it more?