What does the word "Porsche" conjurer up in your head? Power? Speed? Elegance? Performance? Class? All of those define the Porsche automobile. How did one of the most-high-toned and well-respected automobile manufacturers on the planet come into existence?
Porsche is named after its founder, an engineer and test driver back from the turn of the last century, named Ferdinand Porsche. The first Porsche influenced vehicle, the System Lohner-Porsche electric carriage, debuted at the World's Fair in 1900. This vehicle set several Austrian land speed records, and could do over 35 miles per hour. The Porsche need for speed was evident from its very first design.
In 1906 Porsche went to work for Austro-Daimler as their chief designer. Over the next decade Porsche worked for the company designing many different kinds of vehicles, until 1916, when he was named the Managing Partner. In 1930 he launched the Porsche Consulting firm and started grooming his son to work in the family business.
At that time they undertook making a small car which would be the predecessor to the Volkswagen. It struggled to get financed and produced, until Adolph Hitler decided every German family needed a small car, and placed a large order with Porsche for the Volkswagen prototypes.
After World War II, Ferdinand and his son Ferry Porsche were arrested in France as war criminals. They eventually paid a bond and were released. After the war they began work on the foundation of cars that would lead up to what we know as the Porsche today. The first car to actually bear the Porsche badge was the 356, and they produced 49 of them in that first year. This would lead to more than 78,000 type-356 Porsches being built over the next 17 years.
In 1951, Professor Ferdinand Porsche died from a stroke at the age of 75. His legacy and his family continued on in his tradition. His son Ferry took over the helm of the company and continued on in his father's footsteps. It was in the early-to-mid 1950s where Porsche really established itself on the international race circuit, dominating with its prototype vehicles, including the 550. They carried on throughout the 50s, when the first Carrera was introduced in 1964, the Carrera Abarth. This would lead to the 901, 904 and eventually the 911, street car lines that really solidified Porsche as a true performance vehicle available worldwide.
In 1972 the Porsche family turned over the day-to-day operations of the company to professional business managers. Once the family left the management of the business, the company ebbed and flowed over the next 20 plus years, seeing periods of great success and some strong downturns. The company kept pressing with the 900 series, with the 911 selling over 17,000 units in 1971, but later models in the line, the 914 and 924, both turned out to be failures.