Porsche is acclaimed across the globe as one of the world’s highest quality car brands, but this hugely successful business emerged from the humble beginnings of just one extraordinary man. Born in 1875, Ferdinand Porsche was the company’s founder and responsible for singlehandedly turning the Porsche name into one we associate with class, speed and style today.
Looking as if he was set to follow in his father’s footsteps, Ferdinand Porsche began his professional life as an apprentice plumber at the age of fourteen. However, the gifted young man soon discovered that he had a talent for invention, and was just twenty five years old when he presented the Lohner-Porsche electric car at Paris’s World Fair. Porsche marked himself out as an innovator as soon as he burst onto the automotive scene, attracting worldwide attention with his unique wheel hub engines and an all-wheel-drive racing vehicle. Porsche, in fact, proved himself to be decades ahead of his time – it was he who made the world’s first petrol/electric hybrid vehicle.
Ferdinand’s precocious talents were noticed by Austro-Daimler, for whom he became Technical Director when still in his early thirties. By the time he was thirty five in 1910, Porsche had even achieved success as a race driver himself, winning a triple victory in the Prince Henry Trials. There was a good reason why Porsche was able to get the very best out of the Austro-Daimler touring car he was driving, however – he designed it!
As well as Daimler, the father of Porsche later also worked with several other famous automotive companies, designing some of the most successful vehicles Mercedes ever produced – the S-Type model went on to dominate international motorsport. Porsche fans may be more surprised to know that Ferdinand also played a significant part in the development of the legendary Volkswagen Beetle, having designed the rear-engine concept for which it became famous.
Despite all the success he achieved in the preceding years, the crowning moment of Ferdinand’s career came in 1948, with the release of the 356, the first sports car to bear the Porsche name. By this time, Porsche’s son Ferry was displaying the engineering talent he had picked up from his father, playing a chief role in designing the new cars himself. By the time Ferdinand Porsche died in 1951, he had left an indelible mark on the automotive world. A monument to all the hard work and progress he achieved during his life, it is fitting that Porsche lived to see the 365 win its first class victory at the Innsbruck Stadtrenne, which set the tone for the great things that were to follow.