Porsche - The beginning 1931 - next ››
1949 : Father and son posing next to a 356 Pre-A prototype
A rare picture of a 356 assembly line (below)
Who was Dr. Ferdinand Porsche? Obviously a genius of engineering
and a unique automotive designer. He would come to build an
automobile that was dependable, simple, fast and technoligically
ahead of its time.
Porsche was born in 1875 in Mafferdorf in Bohemia. Ferdinand
Porsche designed all types of machines and cars. He designed
the first plans for the Volkswagen Beetle, the largest selling
car in history and still in production in Mexico. As well, Porsche
designed for other auto manufactures such as Austo Daimler,
Mercedes-Benz, Zûndapp, and Auto Union (Audi). During
the war not only did he design the Beetle but also designed
other war machines. In France, after the war, Ferdinand, his
son Ferry and his daughter Louise Piech's husband Anton were
arrested for having assisted the German war effort. Their capture
was aided by the French auto maker Renault. It took Louise Piech
six month to free Ferry and two years to free Ferdinand and
Anton. Louise and Anton had a son, Ferdinand. Ferdinand Piech
is now the president of Volkswagen. Yet another Porsche and
Volkswagen connection. Louise Piech led the establishment of
the Porsche design company in Austria in 1946.
They started with a fee-paying design for the Cisitalia grand
prix car (above picture). While working on this car, the team
started sketching it's own car in July 1947, based on the Volkswagen
Beetle. This car had the code-name Type 356. He wouldn't see
the Beetle in mass production until he visited Wolfsburg near
the end of his life. When Porsche witnessed the large number
of Beetles driving about the Autobahn, he begun to cry tears
of joy. His dream was a reality.
Porsche died on January 30th 1951, at the age of 75. The Beetle
would live on as well as his own company. Porsche was a true
automotive legend of a supreme level.
In conclusion, Ferdinand Porsche's son, Ferdinand "Ferry"
Porsche Jr. became chairman of the Porsche company's supervisory
board in 1972 when the firm became a publicly traded company.
He died on March 27th, 1998 at the age of 88. Also Dr. Porsche's
grandson, Dr. Ferdinand Piech, became chairman of Volkswagen
AG. The 356 was replaced in 1963 by the still successful Porsche
911 and other models. Most of Porsche operations are directed
out of Stuttgart, Germany.
1948: Gmünd, Austria. The Porsche Firm, having located
to Austria just after the war to be closer to parts suppliers,
turns out a variety of automotive, farm and industrial motors
and tools for the war-ravaged western europe. Ferry Porsche
(son of the famous Dr. Ing Ferdinand Porsche, founder of Porsche
motors) designed and fabricates the first Project #356 car,
model 356-001. The car utilized a tubular chassis, an 1100cc
engine and was very light and so quick for the time. Karl Frolich
was the gearbox and suspension specialist contributing to the
handling of the prototype. Ferry Porsche often took the prototype--sometimes
just the rolling chassis without body--up the steep mountain
roads surrounding Gmünd and found the car a spright handler
and good climber.
The first Project #356 car, model 356-001
The body of the car was designed by Irwin Komenda. Kommenda,
an Austrian born in 1904, contributed substantially to the Volkswagen,
Cistalia, Auto Union racers and other cars of the day. Though
the car changed from mid-engine to rear, the tubular chassis
gave way to a unitized pan and body construction, and a myriad
of details evolved over the 22 year run of the model, the overall
design and instantly recognizeable shape of the car remained
the same, a timeless classic. Komenda joined Porsche's design
bureau in 1931 after positions at Steyr and Daimler-Benz and
other coach shops in Austria and Germany. Komenda contributed
to many other designs in Porsche's history and was the chief
engineer and head of Porsche's coach werk from 1955 until his
death in 1966.
Karl Peter-Rabe was the "confidential clerk" for
Porsche, and became the chief business manager, after Prizing,
until 1965. Dr. Ing Albert Prizing was a business manager who
brought 37 orders back to the factory after one importer's conference
in Wolfsberg in 1950.
The original 356-001 car is raced at the Innsbruck city race,
achieiving a victory in the 1100cc class in its first outing.
Porsche was homologated by the state government of Kärnten
in Austria on the 8th of June 1948. Above photos courtesy of
the Porsche archives. The original Porsche "001" car
is in the Factory Meuseum and frequently tours the world for
special car shows and historic events.