Ferdinand Porsche: The Beginning of the Porsche’s History

It`s hard to say exactly which is the beginning of the Porsche’s story. It could be in 1950, when the famous Max Hoffman introduced the Porsche 356 to the United States. Or in 1948 when the first automobile to bear the name Porsche was introduced. But in order to understand Porsche’s heritage and its philosophy we need to go back to 1875, when, in September, at the home of a tinsmith in the Bohemian village of Haffersdorf, a son was born. His name was Ferdinand Porsche.

Ferdinand Porsche photo
Photo by Recuerdos de Pandora Ferdinand Porsche: The Beginning of the Porsche’s History

Since his adolescence, Ferdinand Porsche showed glimpses of technical genius: at the age of 18, he wired a family’s home for electricity in 1893. Still, he didn’t show many signs of disciplined engineering skills that will eventually become his trademark. Even if the “Doctor” is usually appended to his name, it is in essence honorary, since his only formal technical training was as a part-time engineering student in Vienna.

By the age of 25, the young Ferdinand Porsche had entered the field of automotive design. His first car design was already accepted by Lohner & Co. of Vienna. Over the next 20 years, Ferdinand Porsche, the temperamental but brilliant engineer succeeded in associating with every major automobile manufacturer in Germany. At the same time, he designed a dozen of the most technically significant cars in history.

Mercedes-Benz SSK photo
Photo by PatrickCain Ferdinand Porsche: The Beginning of the Porsche’s History

Working for Mercedes-Benz, he helped develop the most revered Mercedes-Benz cars of all time: the SSK series. For NSU, he designed Auto Union Wanderer and the Type 32, a precursor of the Volkswagen Beetle.

After being dismissed from Mercedes for disagreeing with the firm’s staid engineering policies, Porsche decided to establish what later became Porsche A.G.: his own engineering consulting group.

In a small office in Stuttgart, the senior Dr. Porsche gathered a select group of engineers to work under the dramatic name, “Doctor of Engineering Ferdinand Porsche, Inc., Construction Facility for Land, Air, and Sea Transportation.”

mid-engine Grand Prix car photo
Photo by omninate Ferdinand Porsche: The Beginning of the Porsche’s History

One of his employees was his youthful son, Ferry. His primary interest was one that any young man might select: sports and racing cars.

The senior Dr. Porsche and his team were kept extremely busy. The consulting firm developed for Steyr (now the utility-vehicle wing of the Steyr- Daimler-Puch combine), the Austrian Luxury Sedan, but it did not progress beyond the prototype stage.

They worked a lot for Auto Union, now Audi: the company developed the Front, the world’s first front-drive economy car. They astonished Auto Union with the mid-engine Grand Prix cars and their supercharged V-12 and V-16 engines which, together with Mercedes- Benz racers, dominated European auto racing for nearly a decade.

Volkswagen Beetle photoAfter that, the firm created its best-known designs for NSU and Zundapp. The pair of prototypes was characterized by Dr. Porsche’s patented torsion-bar suspension and a rear-mounted engine.

Since neither company moved rapidly enough to manufacture the designs, Porsche sold the concept to the German government. Then, he oversaw the construction of a plant on Wolfsburg to manufacture the design. His drawings called the car the Type 60. The world came to know it as the Volkswagen Beetle.

mid-engine Grand Prix cars photo
Photo by pedrosimoes7 Ferdinand Porsche: The Beginning of the Porsche’s History

After the second World War, the Porsche Company started to create vehicles that bared its name, and so became known world wide. Now, nearly a century later, Porsche became the marque and the family that created outstanding, often unique and surely lasting contributions to automotive engineering and design.