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Ferdinand Porsche Named 'Car Engineer of the Century'

20 December 1999

Ferdinand Porsche was born on Sept. 3, 1875, in Maffersdorf, Bohemia. As a teenager he designed his community's first residential electric lighting system for the Porsche household. This helped earn him a student employee position at Bela Egger & Co., the Vienna, Austria-based electrical equipment and machinery manufacturer that later became Brown Boveri.

At Bela Egger & Co., Porsche designed an electric wheel hub motor that was used in 1899 to power the first electric car built by Vienna-based Lohner & Co. Over the next 18 years, Porsche also coupled the design with a petrol engine for cars and created a design hybrid for the Austrian army's Landwehr train and C train vehicles to move heavy equipment and supplies.

In 1906, Porsche was named technical director of Austro-Daimler, where he designed pioneering aircraft engines; a 90-horsepower, four-cylinder car that won the Prince Henry Trials with a top speed of 87 mph; and his first small car - the in-line four-cylinder Sascha. In 1922, the Sascha cars won 51 of the 52 races they entered.

In 1923 Porsche became technical director and a member of the board at what became Daimler-Benz and created the famous Mercedes S, SS, and SSK compressor models. In 1929, Porsche was named technical director of Steyr- Werke AG, Steyr, Austria, where he designed both the Type XXX with rear swing axles and a 5.3-liter, 100-horsepower, eight-cylinder overhead-valve engine. In 1931, he founded Dr. Ing.h.c.F. Porsche GmbH, an engine and vehicle design and consulting firm that designed the 16-cylinder compressor engine for Auto- Union. Auto-Union Type P rear-engine grand prix racecars dominated Formula races during the 1930s, and rear-engine designs remain a Porsche trademark today.

In 1934, Porsche began work on the Volkswagen, another Auto-Union project that eventually surpassed the Ford Model T in 1972 as history's production leader. The Volkswagen platform also formed the basis for the rear-engine amphibious all-wheel drive Kubelwagen military vehicle, and all-wheel drive has carried over to today's 911 Carrera 4.

Ferdinand Porsche died in Stuttgart on Jan. 30, 1951. Soon after World War II his only son Ferry Porsche designed the Type 356, a rear-engine, air- cooled, four-cylinder 40-horsepower sports car that was greatly influenced by Ferdinand's innovations. His achievements lived on in the 356 - the first car bearing the Porsche marque - and are still evident in today's Porsche models.

Porsche 911 nominated for "Car of the Century" Award

The legendary Porsche 911 also was honored this evening as one of five finalists for the Car of the Century Award. The sports car was designed by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, son of Ferry Porsche, and introduced in September 1963 at the International Auto Show in Frankfurt as the successor to the Porsche 356. Many memorable 911 versions make up its 36-year history, including the original 148-horsepower 911, the 1967 911 Targa, the 1973 2.7- liter 911 Carrera RS, the 1976 911 Turbo Carrera, the 1983 911 Cabriolet, the 1989 911 Carrera 4, and the 1995 twin-turbo, 400-horsepower 911 Turbo Carrera 4.

The latest and greatest 911 platform debuted in 1998 as a 1999 model year car. The new 911 plays off the highly recognized 911 shape, but underneath is all-new technology such as a water-cooled, horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine producing 300 horsepower, Tiptronic S or manual transmission, all-wheel drive, and the Porsche Stability Management system. An all-new 911 Turbo, based on this new platform, will arrive in early 2000.