|Ferdinand Porsche in 1898 – Two World Wars Awaiting Him|
Probably most readers know that during the Second World War, automotive genius Ferdinand Porsche – creator of the the first front-wheel-drive car, the Volkswagen, and innumerable fine racing and road vehicles — designed tanks for the German Army. Little is written, however, about the Austrian-Czech designer's work during the First World War.
Like any good subject at the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he made his contribution to the war effort. An interesting prequel to his work during the war is that — during his national military service in 1902, he served as a chauffeur for Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose preferred transport was an early design of Porsche, know as the Lohner-Porsche.
|Replica of Porsche's First Hybrid Automobile, 1900|
Anyway, as the war drew near, Porsche was technical director at Austro-Daimler, the Austrian branch of Daimler motor works. For the Skoda works he designed the transporter for the huge 305mm siege mortars. In 1912 he designed a mixed-drive system in which petrol-engine-driven generators produced electric current that could be conveyed to multiple cars. The system could be applied to such military uses as supply trains and artillery tractors. Known as Landwehrzug or "C-Trains", they were adaptable to both roadways and rail lines. As a spin-off he also designed mobile generators.
|Tractor for 305mm Skoda Artillery Piece|
Before the war, Porsche's attention had also been drawn to aircraft and airship engines. As early as 1911, the Lohner-Daimler Pleilflieger, with an engine designed by Porsche, won the Vienna-Budapest-Vienna air race. By the outbreak of the war, some experts considered the 120-hp engine produce by Austro-Daimler to be the most reliable in the world. By 1917 Porsche had produced a 225-hp engine used in a number of aircraft by the Central Powers. His team was working on even more powerful engines when the war ended.
The Armistice, of course, would remove all demand for military products. Porsche would concentrate in other areas, such as sports cars, until Germany and its new Fuhrer drew him back to weapons of war.