Porsche and the 90th anniversary of the Type 32: The story of two Austrian families!
Tuesday, January 24, 2023 by Marc Cantin
90 years ago almost to the day, Ferdinand Porsche revealed the prototype of the Type 32 (pictured below), which a few years later would inspire the creation of two of the most legendary cars in the automotive world , the Volkswagen Beetle then the Porsche 911 .
The name is catchy, like the cars, shining examples of German technology and quality. The house was not brought to this level by a miracle, but rather thanks to the work of four genius engineers who worked there since the founding in 1931 of “Dr. Ing. hc F, Porsche GmbH”, a company in design and technology consulting. , especially in automotive. It is the core of car manufacturers Porsche and Volkswagen, both founded in 1938.
Then Dr. participated. Porsche in the creation of Auto Union in 1932, which would lead after the Second World War to the VW Group, today the largest manufacturer of cars and small trucks in the world (turnover of $363 billion Canadian), producing 8,230,000 vehicles in its 100 plants in 27 countries in 2021. For its part, the Porsche division produced 301,915 vehicles and generated sales of C$48 billion in 2021.
The eponymous technical consulting firm was founded in 1931 by the creator Ferdinand Porsche father (1875-1951), the engineer, Adolf Rosenberger, the financial specialist and amateur pilot, Anton Piëch, an Austrian engineer and businessman. Ferdinand “Ferry” Porsche Jr. (pictured above with his father), also a doctor of mechanical engineering, was part of the founding quartet, and Austrian Robert Eberan von Eberhorst, another Austrian and mechanical engineer, joined the house in 1933.
Dr. Ferdinand Porsche (1875-1951), born in the Republic of Bohemia (connected to Austria at the time and now part of the Czech Republic) headed the consulting office in the 1930s working on various important projects, some demanded the regime of the newcomer to power in Germany, Adolf Hitler. The Volkswagen (VW – the people’s auto), Auto Union Grand Prix cars and war material (the light American Jeep-style Iltis, a heavy attack tank and a petrol/electric hybrid anti-tank vehicle and the Panzerjäger Tiger called “Ferdinand”) are prime examples.
We have already met the superb VW prototype created by Porsche, the Type 60 of the early 1930s designed by Erwin Kowenda (technical stylist for the Porsche consulting firm from 1931 to 1966). We can recognize the main lines of the first VW to enter pre-production in 1938 and full production in 1947. The latter was also the designer of all Porsche racing and road cars from the beginning to the first 911. The Auto Union project , designed by the same Kowenda, for its part delivered the Types A (1935), B (1936) and C (1937) with the V16 engine, and the Type D (1938 and 1939) with its V12.
After the war, Dr. Porsche was imprisoned by the French government along with his son Ferry and Anton Piëch. Released after 6 months, Ferry relaunched the Porsche house, helped by his father who was released after 20 months for paying the French government a ransom by Piero Dusio, the owner of the sports car manufacturer Cisitalia , who wanted to build a Grand Prix car.
Porsche delivered the Porsche 360 to Cisitalia in 1949, a car designed mainly by Robert Eberan von Eberhorst, the former technical director at Auto Union, assisted by Erwin Kowenda, the creator of the first Beetle. Thus they built an evolved version of the pre-war Auto Union Type A, B, C and D Grand Prix cars. The specifications of the Porsche 360 Cisitalia are impressive: central 12-cylinder flat engine (called boxer) 2 liters compressed, 385 horsepower at 10,500 rpm on the dynamometer, four-wheel drive, -sequential gear change, gearbox placed behind the rear differential and driveshaft from the box to the front differential, a strong and easy to use 4130 chrome-moly alloy chassis, and bodywork with exposed wheels for tight tracks or packed for fast tracks (à la Mercedes W196R of the Grand Prix we lived in 1954 and 1955).
Anton Piëch (1894-1952) was an Austrian-German lawyer and son-in-law of Ferdinand Porsche. He headed Volkswagen from 1941 to 1945, which produced Volkswagen (KdF-Wagen) military vehicles at the Wolfsburg plant. In 1932 he created his own house of design and mechanical consultation, together with Dr. Porsche for whom he worked on both large and smaller projects.
Anton’s son and grandson of Porsche’s father, Ferdinand Karl Piëch (1937 – 2019), born in Austria, is an engineer and successful businessman. He first had a career at Porsche from 1963 to 1971, notably creating the 911’s 6-cylinder flat engine and the 906 that would lead to the racing 917. He left Porsche in 1971 after realizing he did not have the right surname to lead Porsche. Returning to Audi in 1972, he held the position of technical director for the growth period of the small house, in addition to creating a 5-cylinder diesel engine for Mercedes-Benz through his own consulting house. The little group of geniuses held everything at that time.
In 1993, Karl Piëch returned to VW as chairman of the group’s board of directors, then on the brink of bankruptcy. He left in 2002 but remained attached to VW as a consultant until 2019. Recognized for his business aggressiveness, Piëch managed to create the VW Group, the world’s largest car manufacturer, with VW, Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini , Bentley, Bugatti, SEAT and Skoda, and worked there until his death in 2019. The global automotive industry will call him “Auto Industry Man for the 20th Century”.
Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche, known as “Ferry”, the son of Ferdinand senior, was born and died in Austria (1909 – 1998). He participated in the creation of his father’s company in 1931, climbing the ladder in addition to launching his own mechanical consulting office from where he worked during the 1939-45 war on the Tiger tank and the V1 and V2 rockets. .
In 1945, Ferry took over the management of his father’s business during the latter’s 20-month imprisonment (1945 to 1947). Ferry then decided to continue development on a sports car already under construction before the war, the Porsche now known by the family name. Then came a series of cars based on the 356 and then another series based on the 911, and racing successes around the world.
Another great player at Porsche was Ferdinand Karl Piëch (1937-2019). This engineer worked there from 1963 to 1971, mainly on the competition models 906 and the sequel that led to the 917. He created a consulting office and then moved to Audi. In 1993, he moved to the VW Group as Chairman of the Board, and put the company back on track. He remained the group’s big boss until 2015.
Four talented engineers and designers created, from 1931 to today, the VW group, the most important car manufacturer in the world. It should be noted that the group was actually German, but none of the four creators except the financier was, mainly coming from what is now Czechia and Austria, which did not always make coexistence easy and prompted at least a vengeful anecdote, which we’ll tell you about tomorrow on poleposition.ca…