Everyman’s Car Rounding up backing from a group of investors, Dr. Porsche went into business for himself, and the Porsche Konstruktionburo fur Motoren-Fahrzeug-Luftfahrzeug und Wasserfahrzeug- bau came into being on March 6,1931. The Stuttgart-based firm readily found work for the design of car, aircraft, and ship engines from Germany’s reawakening military sector, which had already coalesced around the deadly charisma of Adolf Hitler. Hitler himself became an enthusiastic backer for Porsche’s pet project, the car for Everyman, and soon Porsche and his designers were creating sketches for the car that would ultimately become known as the Volkswagen. Prototypes emerged through the mid-1930s—proto- types that reflected the creator’s philosophy of starting with a radical design, and then slowly, through painstaking evolution, affirming the engineering integrity underlying each component. The engine for what would later be known as the “Bug” is an example of this. Porsche’s original vision saw a 4-cylinder, horizontally opposed, air-cooled engine, mounted in the rear, powering the people’s car, an engine that was sturdy and simple to maintain. Still, Porsche designed, built and tested twenty different engines before returning to his original concept. The integrity of this process can be seen in the overwhelming popularity the Volkswagen achieved in the 1950s and 1960s, a popularity largely attributed to the car’s sturdiness. Sixty years later, “Bugs” are still being manufactured in Volkswagen’s Latin America facilities. And it was in the Volkswagen that the seed for the idea of today’s Porsche sports cars grew. Aerodynamic coupes of the cars, three of them, were built to compete in the Berlin-Rome rallies of the 1930s, and the visual similarities between these vehicles and today’s Porsches are so striking that some historians consider them prototypes. World War II and Beyond The year 1938 saw Porsche relocate his company to new facilities in Zuffenhausen, just outside of Stuttgart. As the war broke out, the company moved from designing tractors to engines for the feared “Tiger” tanks that filled the Panzer divisions. At war’s end, Porsche was finally freed of distractions from his central dreams. Work on the “people’s car” continued under a separate company, largely directed by British personnel; as for Porsche’s own company, his son, Ferry, and daughter, Louise Piech, were, by now, involved with his plans for a sports car based on the Volkswagen design.
The Porsche Type 32, shown here in a 1934 photo, was a prototype for a “people’s car” that would ultimately evolve into the beloved Volkswagen.
The Porsche Speedster, introduced in 1954, ignited America’s love affair with the marque. A 1956 edition in the rear is shown with a Speedster of 1990 vintage—an ele- gant illustration of how the company is constantly building on tradition.
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