80 years of Porsche designsPorsche Engineering - pioneering technology and trailblazing innovations
Stuttgart. Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, Stuttgart, has been the leading manufacturer of premium sports cars for more than six decades. However, the historic roots of the Porsche brand go back much further than that. When Ferry Porsche built the legendary Type 356 in 1948, he and his engineers were able to look back on a wealth of comprehensive technological experience. Back on 25th April 1931, Ferdinand Porsche founded and registered a design bureau named "Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung, Konstruktion und Beratung für Motoren- und Fahrzeugbau" in Stuttgart.
Since then, the Porsche company has experienced many highs and lows and has grown from a small design bureau to a world famous manufacturer of sports and racing cars. This success story is based on decades of development experience, stretching far beyond just building sports cars. Over an 80 year period, Porsche has built up a reputation as one of the best known and multi-faceted engineering service providers in the world. The tradition of customer development started by Ferdinand Porsche in 1931 is still successfully continued today by Porsche Engineering Group GmbH, based in Weissach. Porsche Engineering carries out development work on behalf of car manufacturers and suppliers, as well as companies from other sectors, combining the skills of Porsche as a series manufacturer, technology company and engineering service provider and making these available to third parties.
The 80th anniversary of the founding of the Porsche design bureau in 1931 is one of this year's central themes for the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. From 21st June to 11th September 2011 the special exhibition entitled "Porsche Engineering - 80 Years of Porsche Designs" will honour the most important and interesting customer developments from the last eight decades. It will display around 20 special examples ranging from whole vehicle developments, through engines and gearboxes to extraordinary industrial projects in the present. The ten vehicle customer developments on display include a Wanderer Limousine from 1931, the legendary Auto Union Grand Prix racing car and the Audi Sport Quattro S1 with Porsche dual clutch gearbox (PDK). The Porsche Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9 am to 6 pm. Further information is available on the internet from www.porsche.com/museum.
Note: Picture material for “80 years of Porsche designs“ and the Porsche Museum is available to accredited journalists from the Porsche Press Databank at the Internet address https://presse.porsche.de/.
80 years of Porsche designs
For more than six decades, Dr. Ing. h.c. V. Porsche AG, Stuttgart, has enjoyed a reputation as a leading manufacturer of sporty premium cars. But the Porsche brand has much deeper historical roots. When Ferry Porsche built the legendary Type 356 in 1948, he and his engineers were able to draw on a comprehensive trove of technical experience.As long ago as 25 April 1931, Ferdinand Porsche had established an engineering office in Stuttgart under the name “Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung, Konstruktion und Beratung für Motoren- und Fahrzeugbau“, (“Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche Ltd., Design and Consultancy Company for Engine and Vehicle Production”) and had it entered in the trade register.
Since then, the Porsche company has experienced many ups and downs and grown from a small engineering office into a manufacturer of sports and racing cars that is known throughout the world. This success story is based also on decades of development experience extending far beyond sports car construction. Over an eighty-year period, Porsche has acquired the reputation as one of the world’s most illustrious and versatile engineering service providers. The tradition begun by Ferdinand Porsche in 1931 of third-party client development has been successfully carried on to this very day by the Porsche Engineering Group GmbH with its headquarters in Weissach. Porsche Engineering develops on behalf of automotive manufacturers and suppliers but also for companies from other sectors, bundling the know-how of the manufacturer, technology company and engineering service provider that is Porsche and making this available to third parties.
Ferdinand Porsche the automotive designer
The name Porsche has been associated with pioneering innovations in automotive engineering since the beginning of the last century. Ferdinand Porsche had been busy designing and developing his first cars as far back as 1896. The first fruit of this endeavour was an electric vehicle known as the “Lohner-Porsche” driven by steered wheel hub motors that caused a sensation at the Paris World Exhibition in 1900. This was soon followed by ever more impressive proof of just how innovative Ferdinand Porsche was. A racing car boasting four wheel hub electric motors became the world’s first all-wheel drive passenger car, brilliant also for having four-wheel brakes. No less visionary was Ferdinand Porsche’s next idea: Again in 1900 he combined his battery-powered wheel hub drive with a petrol engine – the principle of the serial hybrid drive had been born.
With this first functional, full-hybrid car in the world, the “Semper Vivus” (“always alive”), Ferdinand Porsche had entered uncharted territory. In this vehicle, two generators twinned with petrol engines formed a single charging unit, simultaneously supplying electricity to wheel hub motors and batteries. As a full hybrid concept, the “Semper Vivus” was also able to cover longer distances purely on battery power until the combustion engine had to be engaged as a charging station. To save weight and create space for a petrol engine, Ferdinand Porsche used a comparatively small battery in the “Semper Vivus” with a mere 44 cells. In the middle of the vehicle he installed two water cooled 3.5 hp (2.6 kW) DeDion Bouton petrol engines for generating electricity, driving two generators, each producing 2.5 hp (1.84 kW). Both engines operated independently of one another, each delivering 20 amps with a voltage of 90 volts. The electricity generated by the dynamos initially flowed to the wheel hub motors, with the surplus power being forwarded to the batteries. An additional special side effect was that it was possible to use the generators as electric starter motors for the petrol engines by reversing the direction of rotation. Starting as far back as 1901 as the Lohner-Porsche “Mixte” and from 1906 onward as the “Mercedes Electrique”, Ferdinand Porsche brought his hybrid drive to the start of volume production.
This was followed in 1906 by the next step in Ferdinand Porsche’s career. At the tender age of only 31 he landed the position of Technical Director at Austro Daimler in Wiener Neustadt, giving him product responsibility for one of Europe’s leading automotive companies. One of the greatest successes of this era was the so-called "Prinz-Heinrich Car", in which the Austro-Daimler works team won the first three places in the 1910 running of the highly regarded Prinz-Heinrich Race. In the guise of the Austro-Daimler “Sascha”, he developed a small car which, thanks to its excellent power-to-weight ratio prevailed against its larger displacement competitors in the 1922 Targa Florio, notching up no fewer than 43 racing victories in total.
In 1923 Ferdinand Porsche moved to the Daimler engine company in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim as Technical Director. There, in addition to the Type 8/38 midsized model and the first eight cylinder engine Mercedes-Benz, the “Nürburg” Type 460, it was first and foremost the supercharged sports and racing cars that further consolidated his worldwide reputation as an automotive designer. The sports and racing cars developed under his guidance with the abbreviations “S” (Sport), “SS” (Super Sport) and “SSK” (Super Sport Kurz, or short) ranked among the most coveted cars of their time. In January 1929 he left Daimler-Benz AG. Following a short interlude at the Austrian Steyr works, at the end of 1930 he returned to Stuttgart and opened an engineering office.
The founding of the Porsche engineering office
The “Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung, Konstruktion und Beratung für Motoren- und Fahrzeugbau“ was entered in the Stuttgart trade register on 25 April 1921, at the height of the world economic crisis. In addition to Ferdinand Porsche, who contributed 24,000 Reichsmarks to the limited company’s share capital, his son-in-law Anton Piëch and Adolf Rosenberger also invested 3,000 Reichsmarks each as executive partners. From the outset, the work undertaken by the initial twelve strong team around Ferdinand Porsche spanned the entire gamut of motor vehicle technology. Legendary cars such as the Auto Union Grand Prix racing car or the Volkswagen “Beetle” were to emerge from this Stuttgart engineering office in the years that followed. Porsche’s workplace progressed to be one of the most important seedbeds of automotive technology, at the same time preparing the ground for mass car ownership in Germany.
As early as 1931, Porsche designed a six cylinder average mid-size saloon for the Chemnitz car manufacturer Wanderer as well as a new in-line eight cylinder engine. This was followed by a swing axle for the Horch-Werke in Zwickau and an air-cooled five-cylinder radial engine designed for the Phänomen-Werke in Zittau, intended for use in trucks. In addition, the engineering office developed a small car for Zündapp GmbH, which with its rear-engine, rigid tubular backbone chassis and transmission mounted forward of the rear axle was to prove to be decisive for the Volkswagen that came later. The torsion bar suspension patented on 10 August 1931 and used in international automotive manufacturing over many decades is also held to be a milestone in automotive history.
In the spring of 1933, Ferdinand Porsche was commissioned by Auto Union in Saxony to develop the Grand Prix racing car. The moment the contract was signed, the Porsche team led by senior engineer Karl Rabe began work on the Auto Union P racing car (P for Porsche), configured as a mid-engined vehicle. The first test drives took place as early as November 1933 and in the very first racing season in 1934 this vehicle set three world records and won three international Grand Prix races in addition to several hill climb races. Between 1934 and 1939, with drivers such as Bernd Rosemeyer, Hans Stuck or Tazio Nuvolari, the constantly refined Auto Union racing car became one of the most successful pre-war era racing cars . Its technical mid-engine concept proved to be a trendsetter for all modern racing cars and is used to this very day in Formula One.
In addition to developing racing cars, the engineering office had been equally hard at work since 1933 on the design of a low-cost small car commissioned by the NSU works – an idea that was also exercising other car designers such as Belá Barényi or Hans Ledwinka against the backdrop of the world economic crisis. When Ferdinand Porsche began work on designing the Type 32 compact car, this was already the seventh small car design of his career. A number of prototypes of this vehicle type were built, which with the air-cooled, flat-four, rear-mounted engine and Porsche torsion bar suspension exhibited distinct similarities with the later Volkswagen Beetle. The “Memorandum on the construction of a German people’s car” (Volkswagen) that he presented to the Reich Transport Ministry on 17 January 1943 was to prove critical to the breakthrough of the small car concept. Shortly thereafter, on 22 June 1934, he received the official order from the RDA, the “Reichsverband der Deutschen Automobilindustrie” (German Reich Automobile Industry Association) to design and build Volkswagen prototypes that were assembled in the garage of his Porsche villa in the north of Stuttgart in 1935.
Contrary to the initial idea of having the Volkswagen built jointly by Germany’s car manufacturers, the Reich government decided in 1936 to build an independent Volkswagen plant, the planning of which was entrusted to Dr Ferdinand Porsche. Since the incorporation of the “Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH” (Gezuvor) in May 1937, a company established to pave the way for the construction of the German “people’s car”, Porsche, as one of three Managing Directors, was officially responsible for technology and the planning of the future Volkswagen plant and, accompanied by his son Ferry, travelled to the United States of America to find out about modern production methods.
In addition to the Volkswagen project, the Porsche engineering office, located in the Zuffenhausen district of Stuttgart since 1938, was working on numerous other development contracts from the automotive industry. For Daimler-Benz AG work included the development of technical engine components for the Mercedes “silver arrows” between 1937 and 1939 as well as the design of the Type 80 high-speed car for an attempt on the land speed record. The Type 110 compact agricultural tractor with an air-cooled two cylinder engine, developed for the “Deutsche Arbeitsfront” (German Labour Front) (DAF), was the model for the later “People’s Tractor” and the Porsche diesel tractor produced after the Second World War.
In 1938 the Volkswagen works awarded the Porsche engineering office the contract to develop a racing car based on the Volkswagen Type 60, which was to take its place on the grid for a planned long distance race from Berlin to Rome as a promotional stunt for the "KdF car” (“Strength through Joy” car). By the spring of 1939, the Porsche engineers had developed three sports car coupés under the in-house designation Type 64, for the “Non-stop speed endurance test” scheduled for September. As much of the more than 1500 kilometre long race was to be on the new motorways, particular attention was lavished on the vehicle’s aerodynamics. With a sleek streamlined aluminium body, shrouded wheel wells and a modified VW horizontally opposed engine, the would-be record-breaking car, weighing a mere 600 kg, topped 140 km/h (87 mph). When the outbreak of the Second World War prevented the race from being held, the Porsche engineering office used the completed sports cars as fast touring cars, achieving average speeds in excess of 130 km/h (81 mph) on long business trips.
After the outbreak of the Second World War, other types of vehicle were spun off from the Volkswagen for military use. In addition to the Type 81 “VW Kastenwagen” the company, trading as Porsche KG since the end of 1937, developed the Type 62 “KdF off-road vehicle”, the Type 82, known as the “VW Kübelwagen” and the all-wheel drive Type 87 and Type 166 “VW Schwimmwagen” amphibious vehicle, among others. At the end of 1939, the Army’s Armaments Office also awarded the Porsche engineering office the development contract for a medium tank, the design of which however was temporarily shelved owing to the need for heavier types of tank. Initially employed by the Armaments Ministry as a consultant, Ferdinand Porsche headed the Tank Commission from 1941 to 1943. In 1942 Ferdinand Porsche received the contract to design a super heavy tank, the Type 205 “Maus” (Mouse), of which only two prototypes were ever built, however, and never saw action. During the war, development of the military derivatives of the Volkswagen as well as various tank prototypes – including the involvement of prisoners of war employed as forced labourers - took place predominantly in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. With the intensification in bombing raids, the Porsche KG engineering office, classified as important to the war effort, was relocated in autumn 1944 from Stuttgart to Gmünd in Carinthia, Austria.
New beginning with third-party client development and sports car construction
With the war over, the Porsche engineering office in its new home in Austria strove to attract new contracts from the automotive sector. But initially it was water turbines, cable winches, ski lifts, mowing bars and various types of tractor based on the "People’s Tractor" that were developed and for the first time also sold under the Porsche name. The most important customer in the early post-war years was the Italian company Cisitalia, whose car enthusiast owner Piero Dusio awarded numerous design contracts at the end of 1946. In addition to a tractor and water turbine, Dusio ordered a mid-engine sports car with hydraulic torque converter and a Grand Prix racing car. The upshot was the Type 360 “Cisitalia” completed in 1948, which technically was far ahead of its time on many counts. Unlike the front-engine Formula One racing cars of the post war year, which for the most part still featured rigid axles, the Type 360 was designed with a mid-engine layout. The suspension featured double trailing arms on the front axle, the rear axle being configured as a double-joint swing axle with torsion bar suspension. In terms of drive train, the single-seater featured a 385 hp (283 kW) 12-cylinder engine with compressor, achieving a maximum engine speed of 10,600 rpm. The 1.5 litre boxer engine’s four camshafts were driven by bevel shafts. The synchronised five-speed transmission – as with the gear change on a motorbike – could be operated with just two gearshift levels via a dog clutch. Thanks to the experience with the Auto Union P-racing car, there was an awareness of the traction problems with the narrow racing tyres that were customary at the time. Power transmission was therefore by means of all-wheel drive that could be activated by the driver if required. But financial difficulties affecting the client Cisitalia prevented the Type 360 from taking part in Grand Prix races.
In July 1947, independent design work began on the Type 356 “VW sports car”. The design concepts became reality in the first half of 1948 under the in-house design number 356 based on earlier designs such as the Volkswagen or Type 64 “Berlin-Rome car”. Once the chassis had completed its maiden drive in February, the finished prototype with the chassis number 356-001 received one-off approval by the State Government of Carinthia. The Porsche sports car brand had been born. Production of the rear-engined coupé and convertible versions of the Porsche Type 356/2 started in the second half of 1948. Series production of this sports car began after the return to Stuttgart in 1950, approximately 78,000 vehicles being built by 1965. The successor model, the Porsche 911, finally helped the company to make the breakthrough as one of the technically and stylistically leading sports car manufacturers in the world.
From the Weissach Engineering Office to the Weissach Development Centre
Despite the successful entry into vehicle manufacturing, third-party client development commissions remained a firm fixture in the then Porsche KG’s service portfolio. The most important client right into the 1970s was Volkswagen AG, with whom there had been an extensive cooperation agreement. Numerous detailed improvements were devised for the VW “Beetle”, which was produced in Wolfsburg in exchange for payment to Porsche of a licence fee of approximately DM 5 per vehicle. Porsche was also involved in developing the successor models for the successful Beetle. The Stuttgart-based company developed numerous prototypes on behalf of the Volkswagen Group, which were to prove groundbreaking for the Wolfsburg Group’s passenger vehicle programme. The best-known contract developments were the VW Porsche 914 unveiled in the autumn of 1969 and the Porsche 924 built in response to Volkswagen development contract EA 425.
In addition to the numerous orders for the Volkswagen Group, Porsche’s third party client development engineers developed numerous other innovations for domestic and foreign clients in the 1950s and 1960s. Porsche developed the amphibious all-wheel-drive Type 597 Jagdwagen vehicle in response to a Bundeswehr invitation to tender. Although the Jagdwagen proved to be technically superior, the contract was awarded to car and motorcycle manufacturer DKW for labour market reasons. Overseas customers as well, such as the Studebaker Corporation, put their faith in Porsche KG’s experience. Between 1952 and 1954, the Stuttgart-based sports car manufacturer developed a four-door saloon with self-supporting body and modern ponton design for the American carmaker.
In 1971, Porsche’s Development Division with its Construction, Testing and Design Departments relocated to the newly constructed Development Centre in Weissach, 25 kilometres to the north-west of Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. Ferry Porsche had already had a so-called “skid pad” built there 10 years earlier, which had been used ever since for conducting suspension tests. In addition to a large test track, the 1970s and 1980s saw the building of high-spec installations such as wind tunnel, crash facility, emissions testing centre and a wealth of engine test rigs that are available for third-party contracts and in-house developments alike. The Development Centre spanned virtually all areas of civil and military engine technology. Large orders from the German Army were also handled as were future automotive studies for the Federal Ministry of Research and Technology. The client portfolio was recruited from virtually the whole of the world’s automotive industry, which drew on Porsche’s know-how for its own vehicle programmes, from detailed technical solutions to entire vehicles.
Industrial projects and series development
Breaking new ground is a tradition with Porsche’s third-party client development. For example, in the early 80s, Weissach engineers and aircraft manufacturer Airbus joined forces to design a cockpit layout for wide-bodied aircraft, setting a trend by using displays in place of the conventional analog instruments. The project sought to achieve discernible improvements for the pilots’ working environment through optimised styling.
Another major project was the “TAG Turbo made by Porsche” engine developed for the British McLaren International racing team, with the aim of causing a sensation at the very pinnacle of motor sport. Unveiled in the summer of 1983, the 1.5 litre, six-cylinder turbocharged engine dominated Formula One, with 25 Grand Prix victories and three world championship titles between 1984 and 1986. The secret of the Formula One high-performance engine’s success lay in marrying the turbocharger technology with an electronic engine management system. As a consequence, the racing car’s fuel consumption was particularly economical, which critically influenced the racing strategy
A milestone in the development of vehicles for industry was the beginning of the tie-in with Linde Material Handling, which continues successfully to this very day. Having already designed slewing gears and chain drives for Linde, in the 1980s the sports car manufacturer Porsche was retained to design a new generation of forklift trucks. In addition to the functional design of the machine, the Porsche engineers paid particular attention to developing a new ergonomically designed driver workstation concept. The symbiosis of technology and aesthetics also proved beneficial to sales: Sales of the stylistically distinctive Linde forklift trucks increased by approximately 15 per cent in the mid-1980s. In addition to steering axles and lifting masts for every conceivable forklift truck weight class, an electric forklift truck model line was also jointly developed with Porsche to the point of market launch. The Porsche styling of Linde’s conveyor systems has since become an award-winning trademark. For example, the Linde T20 pallet truck received the coveted “Red Dot Award for Product Design” from the prestigious North Rhine Westphalia design centre.
But Porsche Engineering also regularly worked for other carmakers. From 1990 onwards, Porsche’s third-party client development team worked for Daimler-Benz AG on the design and test aspects of a W 124 production saloon fitted with the 5 litre, V8 four-valve M 119 engine. The result was impressive performance. With the four-speed automatic transmission fitted as standard, the Mercedes-Benz 500 E reached the 100 km/h mark (62 mph) in only 5.9 seconds with the top speed electronically limited to 250 km/h (156 mph). In the process, the contract far exceeded the usual development activities. Series production together with the assembly of the body shell and final assembly took place at Porsche’s Zuffenhausen works. The Daimler-Benz works in Sindelfingen were responsible for the paint finish and delivery. Production of the Mercedes-Benz 500 E kicked off in the spring of 1990. The sales success of the speedy GT saloon testified to the successful outcome of the collaboration: 10,479 units had been built by April 1995.
In the early 1990s, Porsche’s third-party client development department entered into a joint venture with Audi to develop a high-performance sport estate car, which caused a sensation. The Audi Avant RS2 unveiled in the autumn of 1993 came into being in Weissach based on the 315 hp (232 kW) variant of the all-wheel drive Audi Avant S2. This borrowed numerous Porsche components, such as for example wheel hubs, high-performance brakes and rims. Exterior parts such as fog lights and indicators as well as the exterior mirrors also came from the Porsche 911 of the then current 993 model series. The Audi Avant RS2 was built at Porsche’s Zuffenhausen works between October 1993 and July 1994. The “Porsche estate car in Audi clothing” – as “Auto Bild” magazine put it – enjoyed keen customer interest. The planned production run of 2000 vehicles was exceeded by 895 units.
In 2001, under the development name “Revolution Engine”, Porsche Engineering started work as a development partner on developing a new V2 engine for the American motorbike manufacturer Harley-Davidson’s “V-Rod” model. Against the backdrop of a collaborative relationship stretching back to the 1970s, Porsche engineers designed a water-cooled, 1131 cc power unit based on a racing engine which delighted discerning Harley-Davidson customers with its performance and engine sound in equal measure.
Into the future with tradition and innovation
Today, as in the past, Porsche Engineering is grappling with the engineering challenges of the future. Be it the conspicuous expertise in the electromobility arena that Porsche Engineering displayed in the Boxster E research project in 2011 or in the development of the Seabob production water sport sled, experience in the lightweight construction and downsizing arenas but also thinking outside the box with the development of a premium outdoor grill in 2008 – Porsche Engineering’s engineers dedicate themselves to each project with the same commitment to ultimate quality, innovative concepts and customised solutions.
Nowadays, all development projects for clients worldwide are controlled by the Porsche Engineering Group GmbH (PEG) founded in 2001 and headquartered in Weissach. Thanks to Porsche’s own distinctive development network, PEG is able to call on the services of its subsidiaries Porsche Engineering Services GmbH in Bietigheim and Porsche Engineering Services s.r.o. in Prague. By networking all its locations and sharing information closely between project teams, PEG offers interface competency and lateral thinking, ensuring that client projects are delivered consistently and productively and without a hitch.
The combined expertise of Porsche Engineering’s engineers and the comprehensive resources at the Weissach Development Centre’s disposal are behind innovative services to the highest quality standards.But the public only gets to see the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to draconian confidentiality, Porsche Engineering protects its clients' product strategies and brand identities with the greatest care at all times. Only very few projects are known of, and only with the clients' explicit consent. Because Porsche’s third-party client development will only succeed if a customer returns. This maxim prevails to this day – as it has for more than 80 years.
Porsche Museum special exhibition
“Porsche Engineering – 80 years of Porsche design”
For the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, the 80th anniversary of the Porsche engineering office founded in 1931 is one of the central themes of 2011. From 7 July to 28 August 2011, the special exhibition “Porsche Engineering – 80 years of Porsche design” will be paying tribute to the most important and interesting third-party client developments of the past eight decades. On display will be approximately 20 special exhibits extending from the development of entire vehicles via engines and gearboxes to remarkable industrial projects of the present day. The ten third-party client vehicle developments include a 1931 vintage Wanderer saloon, the legendary Auto Union Grand Prix racing car and the Audi Sport Quattro S1 with the Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) driven by Walter Röhrl. The Porsche Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. For further information please visit www.porsche.com/museum.