All translations for this page: Other translations for this page:

Piëch at Porsche: The milestones

»I couldn't pronounce this strange name, but the man had a clear view,« Formula 1 World Champion Graham Hill once said about Ferdinand Karl Piëch. The man who had a decisive influence on Porsche in the late 1960s and early 1970s died last Sunday at the age of 82. An obituary in five Porsche milestones.

Text: Alexander Morath & Marko Knab Photo: Porsche 27.08.2019 4 min

On April 1, 1963, a 26 year old engineer begins his professional career in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. His name is Ferdinand Karl Piëch and he is the grandson of Prof. Ferdinand Porsche. Initially employed as a clerk in engine testing, the Porsche grandson quickly made his career and took over as head of testing in 1966.

Finally, in 1968, he was promoted to head of the testing department and responsible for racing activities. It is this position that will shape his reputation beyond his death. Ferdinand Piëch brought motorsport legends such as the Porsche 917 to the world. Under his leadership, Porsche won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time in 1970 alongside other major endurance races.

Engine of the first 911 (1963)

Just 26 years old and freshly entered the company, Piëch taught the Porsche 911 to walk in 1963: when he developed a racing derivative based on the six-cylinder boxer in just three months, the problems with the production engine of the 911 are still great: The drives don't last (yet). Quickly commissioned with the development, the Porsche grandson, together with Hans Mezger, takes the lead and makes the 130 hp engine for the first 911 fast - and reliable. And he also contributes to one of the greatest success stories in the automotive industry.

909 Bergspyder (1968)

Piëch never takes work lightly - not even with the 909 Bergspyder. But that doesn't prevent him from building that car in a particularly weight-saving way: Thanks to its aluminum frame, titanium suspension, plastic body and innovative brake discs made of beryllium metal, the 909 is still the lightest Porsche of all time today - weighing in at just 384 kilograms. With an output of 275 hp from an eight-cylinder boxer, the 909 is one of the most uncompromising cars ever to leave the Porsche Halls. The planned victory in the European Mountain Championship was achieved - but with the predecessor, the 910.

917 (1969)

Piëch delivers his masterpiece with the 917 - but not alone, because he is responsible for the racing car of the century together with his companion Hans Mezger. In retrospect, Piëch describes the 917 as »the most risky car of his life«. But the financial and technical risk surrounding »the ultimate animal among racing cars« pays off, the experiment with twelve cylinders and 4.5 liters of displacement succeeds. In 1970 the 917, after slight start difficulties, clinched the long-awaited first overall victory at Le Mans. In further expansion stages, the 917 wins the big race at the Sarthe for a second time, dominates the CanAm series and in 1972 also produces the most powerful engine ever driven on a circuit - with 1100 hp. On the test bench, the incredible 917/30 engine delivers 1570 hp at 2.24 bar boost pressure.

914/8 (1969)

Small car, big engine: Piëch applies this simple formula to the 914, which is the result of a cooperation between Volkswagen and Porsche. Because his own red »Volksporsche« isn't mean enough for him. The result is a frontier crosser doing its mischief between the racetrack and the motorway and who is able to compete with the super sports cars of his time in terms of performance technology. In Piëch's own 914, the eight-cylinder boxer beats the heart of the world champion and racing car Porsche 908 after the conversion. 300 hp catapults the mid-engine sports car into previously unknown performance. Ferry Porsche, on the other hand, has to get by with »only« 260 hp - for his 60th birthday he receives the second Über-914 seen here in a much calmer silver.

V16-Engine (1971)

When 16 cylinders run in the family: In search of more power for the Porsche 917, Piëch had three engines with 16 combustion chambers manufactured in 1971. With 750 hp and 735 Nm of torque, these engines showed encouraging performance values, but were internally inferior to the smaller engines, which were supercharged or turbocharged. The inspiration for the sixteen cylinder among Porsche's engines may have been the drive system with the same number of cylinders from the Auto Union Type C - designed by Piëch's grandfather Ferdinand Porsche. But Piëch's idea lives on and celebrates a comeback in a W-construction - in the Bugatti Veyron.