Ferdinand Porsche was born on the 3rd
of September, 1875. Born as an Austro-Hungarian
national, when independent Czechoslovakia
was created in 1918, Ferdinand Porsche accepted
Czechoslovak citizenship which he maintained
even during his years in Vienna.
It was only towards the end of the 1930s that
he received Austrian citizenship. His interest
in all things technical can be traced back
to his childhood. Obtaining his first technical
education in Liberec, from an early age he
showed excellent technical and mechanical
skills and was fascinated by electricity.
When he was only fifteen years old he constructed
a power distribution system in his parents'
house. At the age of eighteen, Ferdinand Porsche
was recommended for a job in Vienna.
he sneaked into night classes at the Technical
University, to obtain some engineering education.
His first success came when he designed an
electric carriage for the Austrian coachbuilder
In 1900, the Lohner-Porsche Electric Car made
its debut at the Paris Exposition. Its wheel
hub motors devised by Ferdinand Porsche, only
25-years old at that time, made the name Porsche
famous worldwide. In the meantime, Ferdinand Porsche's two children
were born, first his daughter Louisa, and
five years later, in 1909, his son Ferdinand,
later known as Ferry. Austro-Daimler (a licensee
of the Stuttgart-based Daimler firm) hired
Porsche in 1906 to be its chief designer,
and in 1916, in the middle of the First World
War, Porsche became the company's managing
A year later, Ferdinand Porsche received an
honorary doctorate from the Vienna Technical
University, the same institution where two
decades earlier he had sneaked into night
classes. However, the brilliant constructor
disagreed with the Austro-Daimler's board
on the future direction of its car production
and he left for Stuttgart in 1923 to work
for Daimler Motoren Gesellshaft as technical
His early work at Daimler earned him a second
honorary degree, this time from the Stuttgart
Technical University. In 1928, as Daimler
technical director, Ferdinand Porsche developed
the now legendary Mercedes SS and SSK supercharged
sports car - the most powerful sports car
of the time.
After Daimler merged with Benz in 1926, Porsche
could not cope with the new company culture.
Disappointed at the conservative nature of
his employer, Porsche quit. In 1930 he decided
to go independent and in 1931, Ferdinand Porsche
launched his consulting office in Stuttgart,
with his talented and hardworking son Ferry
among the employees.
The 1930s, the years of the Great Depression,
brought ups and downs for the Porsche family:
times of near bankruptcy mixed with significant
engineering successes. Also, the Second World
War was looming and with it the destruction
of the European economy. In the early part
of the decade Porsche was preparing projects
for an affordable people's car which would
evolve into the world's most successful mass-produced
model, the Volkswagen.
The project lay fallow until Germany's newly
elected chancellor, Adolf Hitler, decided
the country should produce a small car which
every German could afford. In June 1934, the
Third Reich signed a contract to build prototype
Volkswagens. By the winter of 1936, three
prototypes, the VW3, had been built in the
backyard garages of the Porsches' villa. But
the Second World War got in the way.
A jeep-like car was created on the basis
of the type 60 instead. In 1944, allied bombing
destroyed over half of the newly built plant.
It was not until 1946 that the Volkswagen
went into series production. While Ferdinand
Porsche co-directed the plant together with
a Nazi administrator, his son stayed in Stuttgart
and ran the design business. Although Ferdinand
Porsche is believed to have been politically
naive, consumed with engineering, he was
arrested after the war and charged with collaboration.
He was freed in 1947 after almost twenty months
in prison. His health was poor. In the meantime,
the Porsche firm did whatever it could to
stay in business. It designed its own sports
car, the first car to carry the name Porsche.
Type 356 was the project number. One year
after Ferdinand Porsche was released from
prison, he witnessed the birth of the Porsche
sports car. The very first Porsche, a hand-built
aluminium prototype, was completed on June
8, 1948. Ferdinand Porsche died on January
30, 1952, from the effects of a stroke he
had suffered earlier. He died after seeing
his dream of a Porsche sports car become a
Recommended Reading: The House Of Porsche
| The House of Porsche - A Pictorial History
| Porsche Heritage
| Porsche Car Reviews