“If one does not fail at times, then one has not challenged himself.”
Ferdinand Porsche’s name is synonymous with sports cars, but his true legacy is the “people’s car” he created; the Volkswagen Beetle. Porsche was born in 1875 in what is now Vratislavice nad Nisou, Czech Republic. Growing up, Porsche was fascinated with electricity and mechanics. He attended the Imperial Technical School in Liberec, while also serving as an apprentice in his father’s metalworking shop.
Porsche soon became interested in automobiles after observing a vehicle that Gottlieb Daimler had built. In 1898, Porsche found employment in Vienna, Austria with Jakob Lohner & Company, which built coaches for European monarchs and aristocrats. Porsche began designing engines for Lohner & Company as well as vehicles. By the turn of the century, he had developed the Porsche-Lohner Chaise, an electric vehicle that was displayed at the 1900 Paris Exposition. The car established Porsche’s reputation as an engineer. Over the next 25 years, Porsche would work with the top automobile manufacturers throughout Austria and Germany designing innovative, streamlined high-performance vehicles for marques like Austro-Daimler, Mercedes-Benz, and Auto-Union.
In 1934, Porsche established his own business. He was then asked by the German government to design a practical, economical “people’s car” and supplied with a factory to produce it. The result was the Volkswagen Beetle, which later became one of the world’s best-selling vehicles. Ferdinand Porsche passed his love of cars on to his son, Ferry Porsche, who made the family name a legend in 1948 with the introduction of the Porsche 356, the first vehicle to be built using the Porsche name. Ferdinand would visit the Wolfsburg Volkswagen factory for the first time since the end of World War II in November of 1950. He spent much of his visit with Volkswagen president Heinrich Nordhoff discussing the future of the Beetle. A few weeks later, Porsche suffered a stroke from which he would never fully recover, passing away in January of 1951.
In addition to his induction into the Automotive Hall of Fame, Porsche was named Car Engineer of the Century in 1999 by the Global Automotive Elections Foundation. Even today, Ferdinand Porsche is regarded as one of the greatest engineering minds in automotive history.