Legendary Porsche 917 creator dies

Hans Mezger

Hans Mezger, who led the development of the Le Mans-winning Porsche 917, has died at the age of 90.

Also responsible for the 911 boxer engine and McLaren’s triple world title-winning TAG V6 turbo, the German was key to forging Porsche’s reputation. As chief engineer of the 917, Mazger oversaw the development of the chassis and its 12-cylinder engine, which formed an unbeatable combination at Le Mans in 1970 and ’71, as well as in World Sportscar racing. That work led to success in Can-Am, and the road-going 911 Turbo in ’74. The 1980s brought Formula 1 success, with the Mezger- developed TAG turbocharged engine which later produced 1000bhp and took titles for Niki Lauda and then Alain Prost in ’85 and ’86.

Porsche 917 in the 1969 Le Mans 24 Hours

Mezger spearheaded the Le Mans-winning 917’s engine and chassis design

Emmanuel Zurini / DPPI

Mezger was born on November 18, 1929, on the outskirts of Stuttgart. He was initially interested in aviation but studied mechanical engineering because designing and building aeroplanes was banned in post-war Germany.

Mezger joined Porsche after graduating in 1956 and became part of the F1 project in ’60, developing the flat-eight engine for the Porsche 804 that won the 1962 French GP.

He moved on to the air-cooled, six-cylinder boxer unit for the 901 and 911 and then, in ’65, to leading the racing development department.
With a dedicated team, he created the 12-cylinder engine and chassis of the 917 in under a year, before it began its dominance.