Porsche Touch Extended to Tractors

| 10/14/2010 2:53:59 PM

Tags: Porsche, German-built, Sam Moore,

Porsche Junior 1-cylinder

A circa-1960 Porsche Junior 1-cylinder diesel tractor owned and restored by Ed Brenner, Kensington, Ohio. Photo by Sam Moore.

When most people hear the name “Porsche,” the first thing they think of is a fast, sleek, German sports car. However, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche and his son Ferry designed and built electric cars and artillery tractors, airplane engines and battle tanks, as well as the lowly Volkswagen that became so popular in this country in the 1950s, besides fast sports cars. The Porsche firm also was involved in designing farm tractors, and briefly built its own line of diesel tractors.

The elder Porsche was born in Austria-Hungary in 1875. While working at an electric company in Vienna he sketched ideas for an electric car with a separate electric motor in each wheel hub. In 1898, Porsche went to work for a Viennese carriage builder, Jakob Lohner, and in 1900, the Porsche-Lohner Chaise won Grand Prize at the Paris Universal Exposition. The front-drive Chaise had Porsche's hub-drive motors and could go 30 to 50 miles, at 9 mph, without recharging. Porsche's next car combined a Daimler gas engine and a generator to drive the hub-mounted motors. This car was a success, but Porsche became restless and in 1905 accepted a job at the Austro-Daimler Motor Works.

There, Porsche developed a conventional car with a 4-cylinder engine and 4-speed transmission. He later built a streamlined version that he entered in endurance runs where he usually won. As war threatened in Europe, Porsche designed lightweight engines for military aircraft and in 1913, he built a large tractor for the Austrian army that was capable of pulling heavy artillery over most any kind of terrain. This vehicle had a gasoline engine that drove a generator, which fed power to electric motors in each wheel hub.

After the war, Porsche moved to Germany’s Daimler-Benz, where he designed the legendary S, SS, SSK and SSKL Mercedes-Benz sport-touring cars with their powerful super-charged engines. Porsche had long believed that the working classes of Europe were ripe for a cheap family car like the Ford Model T that had taken America by storm. His employers, however, felt that the peasants should be happy to walk or take the streetcar, and insisted on making large, expensive machines for the upper classes.