And In The Beginning There Was Porsche
Well, not exactly. Porsche isn’t one of the oldest automakers in the world but they have certainly become on of the most prestigious and they have been for quite some time. So when did the company begin?
Some would say that the story begins when Max Hoffman started importing the Porsche to the United States, of course that would be an American point of view. I say the story of Porsche begins with the birth of its founder, Ferdinand Porsche who was born to a tinsmith in the village of Haffersdorf, Germany in 1875.
Ferdinand showed his genius at an early age, wiring his family’s home for electricity at the age of eighteen. He hadn’t yet displayed the incredibly disciplined engineering skills that he would eventually found a company on. Sometimes you will see the term “Doctor” added to his name, although his only formal education in technical engineering was as a part time student in Vienna, Austria.
Seven years later, at 25, he had begun designing automobiles with his first design accepted by a company in Vienna by the name of Lohner & Co. For the next two decades Ferdinand was an engineer with all of the big players of the day in the German automotive industry and was responsible for designing at least a dozen of the most important vehicles in automotive history, at least from a technical standpoint.
While working for the renowned Mercedes Benz, he was a developer of the most popular Mercedes models in history, the SSK. His temperamental attitude got him in trouble with the higher ups in Mercedes and he was released for not agreeing with their philosophies on engineering. He went out on his own and began a company he called Porsche A.G., which was engineering and consulting firm based in Stuttgart. One of his key employees was his young son, Ferry who was highly interested in racing cars and sports.
While working for the forerunner of Audi, then known as Auto Union, they developed the Front, which was the first front wheel drive car. Then they dazzled the company and the rest of the automotive world with their mid-engine Grand Prix racers and super charged V-12 and V-16 motors that won the majority of racing titles in Europe along with Mercedes for almost ten years.
Many people don’t realize that is was Ferdinand Porsche who engineered the design that would become the VW Beetle. He had created prototypes for NSU and Zundapp but became dissatisfied with their not moving on to build the designs so he allowed the German government to buy the plans. Afterwards, he directed the building of a factory to build the vehicle he called the Type 60, which became the Beetle.