“Porsche—The Man and His Cars,” by Richard von Frankenberg (translated by Charles Meisl). 223 pp., 5 1/2 in. x 8 3/4 in. (G.T. Foulis & Co. Ltd., 1-5, Portpool Lane, London, E.C.1. 30s.)
Ferdinand Porsche was one of the World’s most talented and versatile automobile designers, as is evident when but two of the outstanding technical accomplishments for. which he was responsible are quoted, namely, the pre-war Auto-Union racing cars and the Volkswagen. He ranks with Lanchester, Pomeroy and Bugatti as one of the World’s great automobile engineers, but until now his career has been neglected by automobile historians, and we have had to be content with fleeting glimpses of his life and the cars for which he was responsible. When the ” Prince Henry ” Austro-Daimler, which many people regard as the first sports car of all, comes up in conversation Dr. Porsche receives due recognition and the book about the Volkswagen (” Beyond Expectations “) covers some aspects of the great designer’s early career.
But only now, in this translation from ” Die ungewohnliche Geschichte des Hauses Porsche,” by Richard von Frankenberg, well-known and popular Editor of the Porsche magazine Christoporus, has the complete story been told.
Naturally, there are gaps, but von Frankenberg has done his best to fill them, so that in this intriguing book, ably translated by Charles Meisl, we learn of Porsche’s early days when he was a racing driver, of his pioneer design work for Austro-Daimler, Steyr, Skoda, Daimler-Motoren A.G.—later Daimler-Benz, for whom Porsche designed several successful racing cars and those immortal S, SS, SSK and SSKL Mercedes-Benz sports cars— and Steyr.
Porsche then set up on his own and designed small cars for N.S.U. and Zundapp from which, subsequently, sprang the Volkswagen and sports Porsche cars.
Enthusiasts for the present-day Porsche cars will be glad to know that rather less than half the book is devoted to this earlier history and that the evolution and racing exploits of Dr. Porsche’s later cars, the G.P. and record-breaking Auto-Unions, the ill-fated Cisitalia, all the sports and racing Porsches, right up to the 1959/60 Type 356B, are covered by von Frankenberg’s book, the first proper tribute that has been paid to this brilliant designer, whose products serve so well, give joy to so many, today. Dr. Porsche was born in 1875 and died in 1952 but his name will he carried ably in this year’s races by the new F.1 Porsches and their participation in the Grand Prix field makes this a topical book, as well as a useful, if not particularly detailed, book of historic reference. It is particularly interesting that after writing of the 1,100-c.c. o.h.c. ” Sascha ” Austro-Daimlers, von Frankenberg states that two larger racing cars were built, one of which was a 2-litre. Both 1,100 c.c. and 2-litre racing Austro-Daimlers featured in the Brooklands-entry lists and surely the second of the larger ears was the very handsome red 3-litre which Clive Dunfee so often drove into second place at Weybridge ? I cannot go along with the author when he says that no-one had built atorsionbar suspension until Porsche Made the N.S.U. Type 32 small-car —Parry Thomas had done so at Leyland some 15 years earlier. Nor is he correct in saying that the Mercedes which Salzer drove in the 1925 Targo Florio was ” a 1914 G.P. car fitted with a 4 1/2-litre engine “—apart from the fact that you don’t ” fit ” an engine, you ” install ” it. these Mercedes always were 4 1/2-litre cars. However, we all make mistakes and these two criticisms in no way condemn this interesting history.—W. B.