Porsche, Ferdinand

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b. 3 September 1875 Maffersdorf, Austria
d. 30 January 1952 Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
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Austrian automobile engineer, designer of the Volkswagen car.
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At the age of fifteen, Porsche built a complete electrical installation for his home. In 1894 he went to technical school in Vienna. Four years later he became Manager of the test department of the Bela Egger concern, which later became part of the Brown Boveri organization where he became the first Assistant in the calculating section. In 1899 he joined the long-established coachbuilders Jacob Lohner, and in 1902 a car of his design with mixed drive won the 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) class in the Exelberg races. In 1905 he joined the Austro-Daimler Company as Technical Director; his subsequent designs included an 85 hp mixed-drive racing car in 1907 and in 1912 an air-cooled aircraft engine which came to be known in later years as the "great-grandfather" of the Volkswagen engine. In 1916, he became Managing Director of Austro-Daimler.
In 1921 he designed his first small car, which, appearing under the name of Sasch, won its class in the 1922 Targa Florio, a gruelling road-race in Italy. In 1923 Porsche left Austro-Daimler and joined the Daimler Company in Untertürk-heim, near Stuttgart, Germany. In 1929 he joined the firm of Steyr in Austria as a director and chief engineer, and in 1930 he set up his own independent design office in Stuttgart. In 1932 he visited Russia, and in the same year completed the design calculations for the Auto-Union racing car.
In 1934, with his son Ferry (b. 1909), he prepared a plan for the construction of the German "people's car", a project initiated by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime; in June of that year he signed a contract for the design work on the Volkswagen. Racing cars of his design were also successful in 1934: the rear-engined Auto-Union won the German Grand Prix, and another Au to-Union car took the Flying Kilometre speed record at 327 km/h (203.2 mph). In 1935 Daimler-Benz started preproduction on the Volkswagen. The first trials of the cars took place in the autumn of 1936, and the following year thirty experimental cars were built by Daimler-Benz. In that year, Porsche visited the United States, where he met Henry Ford; in October an Auto-Union took the Flying Five Kilometre record at 404.3 km/h (251.2 mph). On 26 May 1938, the foundation stone of the Volkswagen factory was laid in Wolfsburg, near Braunschweig, Germany.
In October 1945 Ferdinand Porsche was arrested by a unit of the United States Army and taken to Hessen; the French army removed him to Baden-Baden, then to Paris and later to Dijon. During this time he was consulted by Renault engineers regarding the design of their 4CV and designed a diesel-engined tractor. He was finally released on 5 August 1947. His last major work before his death was the approval of the design for the Cisitalia Grand Prix car.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Poetting Medal 1905. Officer's Cross of Franz Josef 1916. Honorary PhD, Vienna Technical University 1916. Honorary PhD, University of Stuttgart 1924.
Further Reading
K.Ludvigsen, 1983, Porsche: Excellence Was Expected: The Complete History of the Sports and Racing Cars, London: Frederick Muller.
T.Shuler and G.Borgeson, 1985, "Origin and Evolution of the VW Beetle", Automobile
Quarterly (May).
M.Toogood, 1991, Porsche—Germany's Legend, London: Apple Press.
IMcN

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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