In 1900, the ‘System Lohner-Porsche’ electric carriage made its debut at the World’s Fair in Paris. This automobile, made by the young engineer Ferdinand Porsche, set several Austrian land speed records. Porsche then harnessed Daimler’s and Panhard’s internal combustion engines to power wheel-mounted electric motors in the new “System Mixt.” This vehicle broke land speed records and this helped Porsche win the Poetting Prize as Austria’s outstanding automotive designer in 1905. Austro-Daimler could liked what they could see in Ferdinand Porsche and quickly recruited Porsche in 1906 to be its chief designer.
While Austro-Daimler pursued large luxury sedans in the ’20s, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche moved toward light cars and racing. Porsche had an illustrious background in racing and loved to compete in hillclimbs, speed trials and rallies since his first days in the industry. He not only enjoyed the thrill of racing, but used racing as a way to improve his cars and the resultant Sascha won races throughout Europe with 43 wins in 51 starts.
Eventually, Porsche and Austro-Daimler’s board differed way ahead for the company and so an angry Dr. Porsche left Austro-Daimler in 1923. Within several months, he was in Stuttgart, this time as Daimler’s Technical Director. While Porsche’s racing activities were successful, his drive for small, light Daimler-Benz cars was not. With a temper as explosive as petrol, Porsche left them and went elsewhere. Eventually, he began his own design consultancy.
One particular client came to him with a brief to design a “people’s car”. The client was Adolf Hitler; the resulting car was the Volkswagen Beetle. However, after World War Two, Porsche, who was based in France, was arrested and imprisoned for collaboration with the Nazis.
While the Professor was in prison, the little Porsche firm did whatever it could to stay in business. It repaired cars, built and sold water pumps and winches, and designed its own sports car, the first car to carry the name Porsche. Its engine was a 1086cc 30kW VW engine, and the car was known as the classic Porsche 356 model. Upon his release, Professor Porsche reviewed the designs his son and his team had produced. He approved of them, including that of the 356, commenting regularly to the workers that he would have designed both the Cisitalia Grand Prix car and the Porsche 356 prototype the same way his son Ferry did.
In 1951, an entrepreneur from Melbourne named Norman Hamilton was visiting Austria. Upon spotting a very sleek vehicle, this man (eventually!) managed to catch up with it and began asking the driver questions. The driver was Dr Porsche, and as a result of this conversation, Norman Hamilton became the first Australian Porsche dealer.
When one thinks of Porsche today, most people would think of the Porsche 911 In 1963, the Porsche 911 was born, being shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and in 1964 Porsche started making the 911 for the public, and the 911 model still exists today albeit a tad quicker with the recent model capable of 0-62 mph in just over four seconds.
One last thing: the correct pronunciation of this marque is “Por-shah” rather than “Porch” or “Pawsh”.
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