Professor Ferdinand Porsche celebrates his 85th birthday

A Life for the Car!

History tells us young Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche completely unnerved his parents with his wish for a car at the tender age of ten. It is very likely, however, that his father didn't find young Ferry's desire entirely unexpected and that it filled him with pride. As Technical Director at Austro Daimler in Wiener Neustadt the eider Ferdinand Porsche had the ideal workshop to hand for fulfilling such wishes. But parents being what they are, father Ferdinand and mother Aloisia told little Ferry he might get a wooden cart at best, perhaps with a goat up front to pull it. The boy stuck correctly to the family role-play and recalled later, with some amusement: "1 naturally thought that was a bit much and I was outraged." At the same time the apprentice department at Austro Daimler was practicing vehicle building on a small scale between autumn and Christmas.

The matter of the play car remained a secret right up to Christmas Eve, 1919, when the present had to be put under the Christmas tree in the Porsche family villa. The little two-seater wouldn't fit through the door of the entrance hall when it was assembled so chauffeur Goldinger and his helpers carried the car into the house with the wheels off. A screwdriver fell to the floor during the following reassembly. Ferry knew things were looking up "You don't need a screwdriver for a goat."

On Christmas day assembly work moved in the opposite direction so that Ferry's roadster could be put on its wheels in the park. Father Ferdinand believed some instruction was called for before the driving fun could begin. "My father attempted to explain all the motions to me, the clutch, brakes and throttle. But I was too impatient to listen to his final instructions any more and simply drove off."

And the father realized with proud shock: "The boy already knows how to drive a car." Ferry, however, realized it was a good time to confess. "I had to admit my secret drives with company cars in the factory yard."

At the age of ten young Mr. Porsche was relatively well motorized. The light two-seater had an air cooled, two-cylinder engine built for field machines in World War One. Anticipating the distant future, this engine was mounted in the tail from where it drove a two-speed gearbox and rigid axle. Ferry's speedy toy boasted six HP and 60 kilometers per hour, a respectable speed in the early twenties. Ferry used Boxing Day for his first longer trip. He drove the twenty kilometers to his friend Rudi Fischer in Nadelburg, and back in the fading light of the early afternoon. "I was naturally driving without a license and without any plates on the car. Thanks to the position of my father the police in Wiener Neustadt managed to look strictly the other way when I appeared," the illegal driver admitted in an interview fifty years later.

Ferry Porsche not only drove his car at the limits of the law through the Burgenland, he even took part in a gymkhana held by the Vienna Automobile Club at the age of eleven and posted fastest time of the day.

His ambition soon took on a technical nature. He wanted to turn his toy car into'a little Sascha race car, a miniature of that Austro Daimler with which a certain Alfred Neubauer had won his class in the Targa Florio, But this ambition, which his father would have been glad to promote, never reached fulfillment. Ferdinand Porsche became Technical Director of the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft in Untertürkheim in 1923 and the family moved to Stuttgart without Ferry's mini- Sascha.

When Ferry Porsche turned sixteen, an exceptional driver's license, with special permit, ended his youthful illegal driving. Even so, line 10 of the Stuttgart streetcar network played a role among the important vehicles of his life a year later in 1927, because that's where the student at Gottlieb Daimler Gymnasium met Dorothea Reitz.

"I fell in love with her immediately," he later told journalist Thora Hornung. "When I spoke to her and introduced myself under a pretense quite proper for that time, I didn't immediately find the response I hoped for." A Mercedes from his parent's garage was important for moving young love forward. "Many afternoons I drove that car along the given route and finally had some luck. She was standing at the streetcar stop with a large violin case. I offered to drive her to the music lesson and then pick her up afterwards." Dorothea Reitz agreed and became Mrs. Porsche in 1935.

Starting in December, 1930, Ferry Porsche's automobiles became more varied and more anonymous. The junior boss had worked in the design office of his father, Ferdinand Porsche, at Kronenstrasse in Stuttgart since its founding. Auto Union was an important contract partner. The office worked on Wanderer automobiles and associates naturally drove them as well. Ferry Porsche grabbed his chance at the wheel and became a factory driver for Wanderer. In 1933 and 1934 he took part in the 2000 kilometer trial with the Auto Union team which also included Bernd Rosemeyer, driving a Wanderer sports car.

However, the burgeoning design office soon left no time for such pleasure trips. When Ferry was 24 he devoted his work to an automobile he could be proud of. This was the Grand Prix car of Auto Union, which revolutionized race-car technology with its 16 cylinders and mid- mounted engine.

Editor's note: the dossier has here a repeated page n.2 ... we don't know whether this mistake means that a further page (n.3) is missing, but since we skip the story to the VW, we suspect so.

When a development contract was received from the national government of the Reich in 1934, Ferry Porsche's car was called a Volkswagen. He sharpened his skills as a designer on the concept for this Beetle. He grew into his role as director of technology through heading all experimental work on an automobile which the German people wouldn't drive so soon after all. And when it unfortunately turned out that they had to develop a jeep-like Kübelwagen and an amphibious vehicle for the armed forces, based on that Volkswagen, the project director was named Ferry Porsche. He retained a slice of Porsche tradition from this period for the future: all- wheel drive.

Far more Ferry Porsche automobiles are three sporting versions of the Volkswagen, developed before the war, already carrying all those genes which would later become typical of cars made in Zuffenhausen. Racing versions for the Berlin-Rome long-distance event, canceled by the war, were aerodynamically-improved Beetles, the direct technical forefathers of the first Porsche 356.

When the war was over, while the Porsche design office was still located in exile in Gmünd, Austria, work began on perhaps the two most important cars in the life of Ferry Porsche. These were a job without contract on one hand, bearing development number 356.00.012, whose success nobody could have predicted, plus project 360, which nobody expected to fail.

Together with two designers of the old guard, Karl Rabe and Erwin Komenda, Ferry Porsche probed the revolution in race-car technology. The opportunity for this came through a contract from Italian industrialist Piero Dusio. This Cisitalia Grand Prix car ran decades ahead of Formula 1 technology with a twelve-cylinder, mid-mounted engine and all-wheel drive. Even though Tazio Nuvolari never drove a race in the Cisitalia, never mind winning one, project 360 went into history as confirmation of Ferry Porsche's role as a designer.

That first sketch for the 356 on 17 July, 1947, initiated the transformation of Ferry Porsche from engaged designer to focused entrepreneur of a new founding era. He built his factory as a life's work and others continued to build his automobiles, along his lines.

Factory history doesn't have a lot to say about the cars of Ferry Porsche from the first twenty years of his company's rise to fame. He drove the maturing 356 with growing enthusiasm, he loved its Carrera versions. He was a convinced 911 promoter from the first. Still, neither he nor anybody else saw much reason for something special, although he never said no when somebody might ask if there couldn't be a little more power.

For the 60th birthday of Ferry Porsche the boss received a compliment to his continuing youth in the form of a car which discretely but definitely raised him above the masses. A three-liter, eight- cylinder boxer from the successful type 908 race sports car rumbled in an optically almost unchanged Porsche 914, in a somewhat tamer version with air filters and mufflers. 260 HP at 7700 rpm are listed in the onetime approval for this car with official license number S-R 3000.

Technicians not only built their boss a very special autormobile in 1969, they had colleagues in Customer service write a very personal owners manual whose introduction notes: "You will certainly understand that even a birthday car wont be completely free of bad habits." He could read more about these in the chapter on engine operation: When started, the 908 engine tends to produce lesser or greater amounts of smoke. In cold weather this smoke disappears completely in two to three minutes, in warm weather after only half a minute. The proper time to drive off has come when the engine no longer smokes." Or, even more impressively: "Drive the car preferably at engine revolutions of 3500 to 7500 rpm. Please remember that we are dealing with a tamed version of a racing engine. To avoid oiling the spark plugs in city use, it is recommended that the engine be rewed occasionally."

Ferry Porsche drove a good 10,000 kilometers with the 914/8 and was entirely happy in the end that he had chosen the tamer and quieter version and not the louder, 300 HP model which his nephew and head engineer Ferdinand Piech used for business trips, posting fastest times of the day.

From this point on, an individual birthday car for the grand old man on the Supervisory Board became (virtually) a tradition. In 1979, for his 70th, there was a very fine, quite powerful Porsche 928 S, quite close to production standards. But technicians really rolled up their sieeves for Ferry Porsche's 75th birthday. Bodywork technicians built their boss a unique car in the truest sense of the word: a fourseat Porsche. This synthesis of coupé and station wagon, with ample space for four people in a long wheelbase, was Ferry Porsche's personal one-off and travel machine.

A styling study named Panamericana was the gift for his 80th birthday. This is a car evoking memories. All-wheel drive looks back from 1989 to 1934, when Karl Rabe drew such a concept for the first time for the Beetle. The fresh toplessness ties this study to the first Porsche prototype in 1948, that Roadster which still had a mid-mounted engine. Panamericana stands for former, great international successes of Porsche's 550 Spyder in the Mexican road marathons at the beginning of the fifties. Ferry Porsche is happy to look back upon the many automobiles which moved briskly through his long life but when you ask which is his favorite among them all, he gives a young answer at 85: The next one, naturally."

GO/September 1994

"Volevamo scrivere qui in motto intelligente ma al momento non ci viene in mente nulla"