THE EDITOR CONTEMPLATES
THE GENIUS OF Dr. PORSCHE
DR. Ing.h.c. Ferdinand Porsche, G.m.b.H., who died in his 76th year early in 1951, was an exceptionally versatile designer and engineer. Amongst the striking cars be designed can he numbered the 28/30 Austro-Daimler introduced in 1907, the 28/32 Maja developed from it, the classic ” Prince Henry ” o.h.c. Austro-Dainder, various successful aero engines, and, after the Armistice of 1918, the 1,100-c.e. Austro-Dainder ” Sascha ” sports model. Joining Daimler-Benz, it Was Porsche who offered Neubauer the position of racing manager, and he who developed the racing straight-eight supercharged Mercedes engine. From that, and the design of other Mercedes racing engines, Porsche produced the famous series of 5, SS and SSK Mercedes-Benz sports models, culminating in the 38/250 and its SSKL sports/racing version. Leaving Daimler-Benz, Porsche joined the Steyr Company and in 1929 designed for them the 2-litre six-cylinder Steyr Thirty and then the 5.3-litre straight-eight Steyr ” Austria,” with swing-axle rear suspension. Setting up as an independent consulting engineer he next designed for Wanderer a very popular 1.8-litre six-cylinder Wanderer with light-alloy cylinder block wet-liner engine, also with swing-axle i.r.s. I do not propose to deal here with all the designs for which Dr. Porsche was responsible, these being detailed in K. B. Hopfinger’s fascinating hook ” Beyond Expectation “
‘What is so dramatic, however, is the manner in which Porsche, then aged 61, conceived the Hitler ” People’s Car,” evolved from N.S.U. designs into that subsequent world-beater, the Volkswagen, and a Grand Prix racing car, both at the same time. The .small-car project was a very sticky technical problem, because Herr Hitler insisted that the product should sell for an absurdly low figure. The racing car, too, was hardly what you would expect an engineer of the old school, then over 60, to produce, for it is now well known that with the introduction of the Auto-Union and Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix teams motor racing entered a new era. Speeds rose sensationally and a new conception of suspension, employing :soft. springs and large wheel movements, had to he developed to produce the requisite road adhesion. All this Porsche took in his stride. It is believed that it was he who, in a personal interview with Hitler, convinced the German Chancellor that Mercedes-Benz alone could not make a convincing spectacle and that if German prestige was to be boosted through Grand Prix successes, two teams must battle genuinely for the subsidies Hitler had decided to offer.
AN EARLIER TRIUMPH OF DR. PORSCHE.—He was responsible for the design of the S, SS and SSK Mercedes-Benz sports ears of the late vintage era.
We have recently seen the immense resources behind the great Daimler-Benz concern, as they dominated first sports-car and then Grand Prix racing after the termination of World War 11 (in which conflict, perhaps I should add, Germany was beaten). What Porsche proposed to do was to pit the comparatively small Auto-Union combine, for which he had designed the Wanderer models, against the full strength of Mercedes-Benz, who had won the French G.P. in 1908 and again in 1914. Those who are concerned to have a picture of the relationship of Auto-Union resources with those of Daimler-Benz at this stage are referred to George Monkhouse’s excellent book ” Motor Racing With Mercedes-Benz’ (Foulis, 1948) and the British Intelligence Objectives Sob-Committee Report On Germany’s racing cars, compiled by the late Cameron C. Earl.
It is fascinating, at this stage, to see how Auto-Union’s P-wagen (or Porsche-Wagen) cars fared in competition with the new Formula I Mercedes-Benz ears laid down for the 1934 season.
Up to this time Grand Prix racing cars had been comparatively hard-sprung and power had taken precedence over good roadholding. All that was new to undergo a significant change, notwithstanding a maximum weight stipulation in the new formula which, resulting in light cars of enormous power, presented very tricky suspension problems, especially as speeds rose fantastically to the order of 170-200 m.p.h. Dr. Nihel produced a 3.7-litre straight-eight car for MercedesBenz, using a box-section frame with coil-spring and wishbone i.f.s., and independent rear suspension by transverse leaf-springs and swing-axles. and Neubauer gathered about him von Brauchitsch, Caracciola, the Italian Fagioli and a few lesser men as drivers,
The ” freelance” design of Dr. Porsche which Auto-Union had adopted turned out to be a rear-coined machine with a 45-deg. V16 engine of 4.36 litres, using a single camshaft to operate the inlet valves direct and cross-push-rods to prod the exhaust valves, a tubular ladder chassis through which Coolant was conveyedfrom cylinder blocks to radiator (when it didn’t leak from the welded )oints), and independent suspension by Porsche trailing-link, torsionbar i.f.s. and torsion-bar swing-axle independent rear suspension. For drivers Auto-Union mustered Stuck. l’rinee Leirtingen and Momberger. What prornised was indicated when it was murmured that the Mercedes-Benz developed 430 b.h.p. at 5,800 r.p.m., the Auto-Union 295 b.h.p. at 4,500 r.p,m., both cars being required to -weigh not More than 750 kg. (Subsequently. Mercedes-Benz peaked to 6-l5 b.h.p. from 5.6 litres, Auto-Union to 520 b.h.p. from six litres, ere war stopped play.)
How did Auto-Union stand up to Mercedes-Benz in this new epoch of Grand Prix raeing,–serious racing with national prestige at stake while the war clouds formed in the background ? The answer is unt in any way to the shame of Dr. Porsche.
Indeed, making its initial appearance in March, 1934. Stuck drove a P-wagon at Avus and lifted the world’s hour record to 134.608 m.p.h. in spite of having to slow for the bends at each end of this oval track. Neither Auto-Union nor Mercedes-Benz essayed the Monaco G.P. with which the 1934 season opened, Mercedes being unready and Auto-Union regarding their cars (wheelbase 9 ft. fl in.) as rather too long to negotiate. the Monte Carlo hairpins. Incidentally, Porsche proved he was no fool, when he fitted maximum-recording rev.-counters to his V16 engines, concealed beneath a flap in the side of the body, hr which he alone held the key
The German teams failed to get to grips at Avus, where Caracciola set up a very fast lap in practice but where all the Mercedes-Benz were withdrawn due to fuel pump trouble. Ferrari had produced a specially streamlined 3.2-litre version of Alfa-Romeo to combat the German menace, and as Varzi refused to handle it Moll was nominated as its driver. This enabled Alfa-Romeo to win at 127.56 m.p.h., Varzi finishing second at 125.43 M.p.h., the only Auto-Union to get home being third in the hands ofthe comparatively inexperienced Montherger. However, this wasn’t as had as it seemed, for although Leiningen retired early, Stuck’s Auto-Union had a comfortable lead wintil the replenishment stop, after which it retired with clutch slip. The rival marques did get together in the Eifel raceis at the Nur
burgring, and here Mercedes-lienic were faster than Auto-Union. They would have finished firSt and second, had not Neubauer been shoivn the disadvantage of employing an Italian driver, for Fagioli, told to keep behind von Brauchitsch, signalled his displeasure by stopping his Mercedes out on the circuit and walking off—not, one imagines, towards Neubaner ! Bram-last+ won at 76.12 m.p.h. and Stuck was second for Auto-Union, 80 Sec. behind.
However, at the Kessleburg Hill-Climb Stuck was 5 sec faster than Brauchitseh when setting .a new course record. The French G.P. was the scene of great excitement. Hrauchitsch making a record practice tap of the Montlhery road circuit at 92 m.p.h. Auto-I:Ilion had experienced fuel-pump trouble in training and Leinitigert’s non-started. Stuck lea from the third lap, hilt retired with a defective water pump after his engine had been difficult to start, as did Alomberger’s AutoUnionWith suspension trouble. however, this didn’t mean a Mercedes victory, for the wily Chiron haul caused region to overdo it at it corner, his ” plough
ing damaging a brake-pipe, Brauchitsch went out with supercharger trouble and even Caracciola retired, with a cracked gearease.
Auto-Union gained a considerable march on Mercedes when Stuck won the German Grand Prix after causing Caracciola to overstress his engine in trying to catch the rear-engined car. Using only the two upper ratios of the five-speed gearbox Stuck won at 75.14 m,p.h., 127 sec. ahead of Fagioli’s Mercedes. Momberger’s Auto-Union retired, as had Burggaller’s, with gearbox trouble. Geier’s Mercedes was sixth.
Then, as compensation, like Kesselburg reversed, Caracciola beat Stuck by 3.2 sec at the Klausen Hill-Climb. Both teams gave the Belgian Grand Prix a miss and at Pescara Fagioli won, at 80.26 m.p.h., the highest-placed Auto-Union being fifth, driven by Sebastian. Caracciola crashed badly without injury, and Stuck also retired. Yet still Auto-Union could claim to be able to outrun Mercedes, for Stuck won the Swiss Grand Prix at 87.21 m.p.h., leading from start to finish. And Momberger was second. Leiningen’s Auto-Union retired with ignition defects. Not, a single Mercedes finished anywhere worthwhile. Geier coming
in last in Caracciola’s car, ‘after ” ” had become tired of fuel starvation, Fagioli being sixth after brake inadequacies which also troubled Brauchitsch.
It was a close thing at Monza, for although the Fagioli/Caracciola Mercedes-Benz won at 65.37 m.p.h., Stuck’s Auto-Union had led for much of the race, until troubled by fading brakes and an engine which disliked starting after the refuelling stop. prince Leiningen then took it over, to finish second, 98.2 sec. behind the winner. Leiningen’s own car had run out of fuel, but Henne had crashed one Mercedes and Fagioli’s had gone out with engine maladies. Whereas Alomberger, aided by Sebastian, got an Auto-Union home in seventh place. Stuck’s Auto-Union Made fastest time at both Mont Ventoux and Friberg hill-climbs. Both makes proved well matched on the fast Lasarte circuit, where the Spanish Grand Prix was run. Stuck led until an oil-pipe broke, then took over Leiningen’s Auto-Union when that. driver wry.% about to collapse over the wheel. Nuvolari
was ” having a ” for Auto-Union and actually led Fagiolimomentarily. In the end Fagioli won at 97.13 m.p.h., Caracciola second, and Nuvolari third on his first appearance with an AutoUnion. Stuck set a lap record, to finish fourth.
The end of this dramatic 1934 season came at Masaryk. where Stuck, after sampling a Mercedes-Benz in practice. led for a while in his Auto-Union until displaced by the great Fagioli. Caracciola broke a wheel and retired. When Fagioli paused to replenish Stuck again led, was passed by the Mercedes, but regained the lead when Fagioli made another pit-stop, to win at 79 m.p.h., in spite of Fagieli setting a new lap record of over 83 m.p.h. Leiningen’s Auto-Union was fourth. Berme’s sixth. So it ended—until 1935. The ” freelance ” design of Dr. Porche’s was vindicated, the season’s score being :
Auto-Union … Three lets; three 2nds; one 3rd.
Mercedes-Bens … Four lots; three hid,,; no 3rd. In 1.935 the battle continued. For this season Mercedes-Benz used the 3.9.9-litre 430 h.h.p. engine introduced at the end of the previous season and Auto-Union went up from 4.36 to 4.95-litres. obtaining 375 b.h.p., while torsion-bars within the chassis frame were linked to the rear suspension. in place of the former transverse leaf
springs, while stub exhaust-pipes—oh joy, the noise 1—replaced the earlier tail-pipes. By the end of the year the score between Auto-Union and Mercedes-Benz could be written :- Race FirsiSecond Third Remarks Monaco Mercedes-Benz Alfa-Romeo Alfa-Romeo No Auto-Unions
(Fagioli) (Dreyfus) (Brivio) started. Tunis Auto-Union Bugatti Mascrati No Mercedes
(Varzi) (Wimille) (Etaocelin) started. Tripoli Mercedes-Benz Auto-Union Mercedes-Benz — (Caracciola) (Varzi) (Fusion) Avusrennen Mercedes-Benz Alfa-Romeo Auto-Union (region) (Chiron) (Varzi) Eifeirennen Mereedes-Renz Auto-Union Alfa-Romeo (Caracciola) (Roserneyer) (Chiron) Penya-Rhin Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-Benz Alfa-Romeo (Fagioli) (Caracciola) (Nuvolari) French G.P. Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-Benz Maserati (Caracciola) (Brauthitsch) (Zehender) Belgian G.P. Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-Benz Alfa-Romeo No Auto-Unions (Caracciola) (Brauchitschl (Chiron) started. Fagioli) German G.P. All’s-Romeo Auto-Union Mercedes-Druz (Nuvolari) (Stuck) (Carneciola) Pescara Auto-Union Auto-Union AlfaRomco No Mercedes
(Varzi) (Rosemoyer) (Brivio) started. Swiss G.P. Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-Benz Auto-Union — (Caraceiola) (Fagioli) (Rosemeyer) Italian G.P. Auto-Union Alfa-Romeo Auto-Union (Stuck) (Nuvolari/ (Rosemeyer/ Dreyfus) Pietsch) Swiss G.P. Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-Benz (Caracciola) (Fagioli) (Brattchitseh) Masaryk Auto-Unton Alfa-Romeo ( Rosetneyer) (Nuvolari) Alfa-Romeo No Mercedes
Score t Auto-Union … Four lets; four hods; three 3r&.
Mercedes-Benz … Nine lsts; five 2nd.; three 3rde.
Mercedes-Benz were gaining advantage by reason of their vast resources and better drivers, but 1936 was a season of distinct Auto-Union triumph. Apart from space precluding detailed reference to how the Auto-Unionpdereedes-Benz battle developed, there is less point in so describing subsequent seasons; because Auto-Union began to benefit from State aids to the racing teams, although remaining a small racing factory in comparison with that operated by Daimler-Benz, and found Rosemeyer and Nuvolari who really could drive their cars. Those who are interested are referred to a series of articles I wrote on the subject in the issues of Moron SPORT for September 1940, October 1940, january 1941, and September 1941, and will find excellent stutimaries in ” Grand Prix Facts and Figures,” by George Alonkhouse (Foulis, 1950). and, of course, in Volume One of Laurence Pomeroy’s Grand Prix Car,” in which the ears are also described and illustrated in detail.
But Porsche’s real genius lay in doing so well against the might of Mercedes-Benz in that first season with his untried, highly unconventional car. Subsequently he left Auto-Union to concentrate on the Volkswagen project and the car was considerably re-designed, while Mercedes-Benz, too, changed to a tubular chassis with wishbone i.f.s. and a de Dion rear axle, etc.
After the war Dr. Porsche brought out the Porsche sports car which his son, Ferry Porsche, has continued to develop and which needs absolutely no introduction.
The late Dr. Ferdinand Porsche was an engineering genius. It is pleasant to feel that if you are ” pecunions ” you can enjoy the fruits of his talents by buying a Porsche, and if you are impecunious there is the Volkswagen, both designed by the man who persuaded Hitler he needed the Auto-Union and then made this unusual rearengined V16 racing car succeed against the host Stuttgart could field.—W. B. *its7 ^
Veteran-Edwardian-Vintage, May 1957
A Section Devoted to Old-Car Matters. THE Veteran Car Club has now lifted its ban on events for veteran cars using "basic" petrol and will open the season on May…
Rumblings, December 1953
FUN AND GAMES AT GOODWOOD The Guild of Motoring Writers held its annual Test Day at Goodwood on October 25th. It is to be congratulated on the excellent organisation, aided…
FILM REVIEW - TO PLEASE A LADY
FILM REVIEW TO PLEASE A LADY M.G.M. Pilot featuring Clark (;able, Barbara Mann:gel; mut Adolphe Menjou. We referred briefly last month to the M.G.M. film " To Please a Lady."…