The Enduring Legacy of Dr. Ferdinand Porsche

To most people, the name Porsche is given to a bunch of cars they can’t buy, and which many people associate with 1980’s douchebags with mullets.

To be fair, Porsches often WERE driven by dudes with questionable looks in the 80s, but to be equally fair, almost everyone in that decade had hair problems.

 

Even with these caveats, the August 1974 issue of Road & Track might be an eye-opened to many. The cover photo indicated that the editors of the magazine thought that the two smaller models from Ford were the big news, but I see little evidence today that they were anything but a desperate attempt to grab market share. They might have sold well in the day (no clue, I’m not interested in that kind of car), but were completely irrelevant in the larger scheme of things.

Not so Porsche, and any knowledgeable person will immediately realize that this is a Porsche-dominated issue.

First, the obvious. There’s a celebration of 25 years of the Porsche company, speaking of the road and competition cars. Remember, in the early 1970s, Porsche was involved in all sorts of sports car racing, from Prototypes to GTs to Silhouettes to Can Am. The 917 was just behind them and the 935 and 936 were just around the corner. Glory years past and future.

But that’s just the obvious. The big news for everyone else, in fat the most important article in the magazine when it comes to the general public was the launch of a little car called the Volkswagen Golf (referred to as the Rabbit in the US for some unfathomable reason).

Though the editors of R&T wondered whether it would fail to replace the Beetle in the way that so many other VW cars already had, we now know that it not only replaced the beetle, but it set a foundation for a much more dominant VW company today… and the model, much evolved is still going strong nearly 50 years later.

But what about Porsche? Well, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche designed the original Volkswagen for the German government in the 1930s. It might not have been the greatest government to work for, but fortunately, engineering is not affected by ideology and the Beetle was produced all the way into the 21st century.

The company founded on that design is the Volkswagen we know and love today. We owe it to Porsche.

Finally, looking at the competition pages, you need to understand that every pure race car in the issue (interestingly, not the rear-engined Porshe 356 and 911 derivatives, though) is a mid-engined design.

The first significant mid-engine racers on the world stage were the Auto Union silver arrows from the 1930s. So who designed those?

Glad you asked: it was Dr. Ferdinand Porsche (not to be confused with his son Ferdinand (Ferry) or his grandson Ferdinand (Butzi) who also contributed greatly to automotive history, but whose stories will have to wait for another day).

So you can ignore the two pieces of Detroit iron on the cover. This was a Porsche tribute edition.

 

When not writing blog posts, Gustavo Bondoni is an author whose work spans the genres from serious literary fiction to action/adventure science fiction. For those who enjoy an action-packed romp in space, his novel Incursion is great fun. You can check it out here.

2 comments

  1. Aaaaaaand I’m caught up. Nice work!

    My first car was a 1979 Ford Fairmont, close cousin to these cars on the cover. Other than the Fox chasis it was not a memorable car either. Porshe is a fascinating character.

    Like

    1. Porsche was a genius who worked as an engineer for whoever could afford him… that got him into some trouble after the war, but fortunately, not enough trouble to keep him locked up.

      Liked by 1 person

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