Today in History: Ferdinand Porsche was born in in 1875

Today in History: Ferdinand Porsche was born in in 1875

143 years ago today, the Austrian-German automotive engineer and founder of the Porsche car company was born in Maffersdorf in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Porsche originally introduced the concept for the German Volkswagen with the intent to create a small, easy to build and affordable family car. Here is a link to a short blog about the VW Beetle: http://wp.me/p6cafs-N

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Today in History: One million Beetles in 1955

Today in History: One million Beetles in 1955

63 years ago today, the one millionth VW Beetle came off its assembly line in Wolfsburg, Germany, where it is still on display at the Volkswagen Auto Museum.

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Today in History: First Automobile Grand Prix in France in 1906

Today in History: First Automobile Grand Prix in France in 1906

112 years ago today, the Automobile Club of France hosted the first “Grand Prix” motor race. 32 drivers took to the public roads outside of Le Mans, on June 26, 1906. The race winner was awarded the “Great Prize” (Grand Prix) of 45,000 French francs which at the time was the equivalent of 13 kilos of gold.

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Today in History: Mercedes becomes a registered brand name in 1902

Today in History: Mercedes becomes a registered brand name in 1902

116 years ago today, German automobile manufacturer Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) registered “Mercedes” as a brand name (gaining full legal protection in September). The name was born out of a partnership between DMG founder, Gottlieb Daimler, and Austrian diplomat, Emil Jellinek, who ran a profitable business selling luxury cars. Jellinek had ordered cars from Daimler in the late 1890s and sold them to high society customers. But he also used them in racing events, entering them using the pseudonym “Mercedes,” the name of his elder daughter. In 1900, Jellinek entered an agreement with DMG to sell a new line of 4-cylinder automobiles suggesting they be called Mercedes. The first Mercedes was delivered in December of 1900: it had 35 hp, featured a steel chassis with a long wheelbase, an electric ignition system and a speed of 53 mph/85 kmh – the birth of the first modern automobile. The new car amazed the automobile world. Sales went through the roof and the Mercedes era had begun.

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Today in History: The World’s First Auto Race in 1895

Today in History: The World’s First Auto Race in 1895

123 years ago today, Emile Levassor became the winner of arguably the world’s first official automobile race from Paris to Bordeaux and back. After 732-miles, Levassor crossed the finish line in Paris in his Panhard et Levassor car in just under 49 hours with an average speed of 15 miles per hour – an impressive achievement at the time. Other motor events had taken place prior to 1895 but they were not considered “official races” but “motoring exhibitions” that included limited competitions. Panhard et Levassor became a major force in the developing French auto industry. The success of the Paris-Bordeau-Paris race prompted the creation of the Automobile Club de France. The organization promoted future motor sports events that would eventually grow into the Grand Prix motor racing and Formula One.

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Today in History: First Porsche in 1948

Today in History: First Porsche in 1948

70 year ago today, a hand-built aluminum prototype labeled “No. 1″ becomes the first vehicle to bear the name of one of the world’s leading luxury car manufacturers: Porsche. The Austrian automotive engineer Ferdinand Porsche debuted his first design at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1900. The electric vehicle set several Austrian land-speed records, reaching more than 35 mph and earning international acclaim for the young engineer. He became general director of the Austro-Daimler Company (an outpost of the German automaker) in 1916 and later moved to Daimler headquarters in Stuttgart. Daimler merged with the Benz firm in the 1920s, and Porsche was chiefly responsible for designing some of the great Mercedes racing cars of that decade.

Porsche left Daimler in 1931 and formed his own company. A few years later, Adolf Hitler called on the engineer to aid in the production of a small “people’s car” for the German masses. With his son, also named Ferdinand (known as Ferry), Porsche designed the prototype for the original Volkswagen (known as the KdF: “Kraft durch Freude,” or “strength through joy”) in 1936. During World War II, the Porsches also designed military vehicles, most notably the powerful Tiger tank.

At war’s end, the French accused the elder Porsche of war crimes and imprisoned him for more than a year. Ferry struggled to keep the family firm afloat. He built a Grand Prix race car, the Type 360 Cisitalia, for a wealthy Italian industrialist, and used the money to pay his father’s bail. When Porsche was released from prison, he approved of another project Ferry had undertaken: a new sports car that would be the first to actually bear the name Porsche. Dubbed the Type 356, the new car was in the tradition of earlier Porsche-designed race cars such as the Cisitalia. The engine was placed mid-chassis, ahead of the transaxle, with modified Volkswagen drive train components.

The 356 went into production during the winter of 1947-48, and the aluminum prototype, built entirely by hand, was completed on June 8, 1948. The Germans subsequently hired Porsche to consult on further development of the Volkswagen. With the proceeds, Porsche opened new offices in Stuttgart, with plans to build up to 500 of his company’s own cars per year. Over the next two decades, the company would build more than 78,000 vehicles. Source: history.com.

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Today in History: Volkswagen is founded in 1937

Today in History: Volkswagen is founded in 1937
81 years ago today, the German automobile manufacturer Volkswagen was established. The idea for a small, affordable family car was introduced years earlier by engineer, Ferdinand Porsche, who wanted to create an automobile that was easy to build and inexpensive to buy. In 1933, Adolf Hitler got involved and contracted Porsche to design and build the Volkswagen (“People’s Car”) that could fit 2 adults and 3 children, drive 100 km/h (62 mph) and would cost no more than 1,000 Reichsmark (approx. $396). Hitler quickly funded the building of a brand-new Volkswagen factory to create Ferdinand Porsche’s design. Construction began on May 26, 1937. Volkswagen was founded two days later on May 28.

The People’s Car was to be made available to all German citizens through a state sponsored savings plan at a price of 990 Reichsmark (comparable to the price of a small motorcycle at the time). The car was initially called a KdF-Wagen (Kraft durch Freude / Strength through Joy). But by the time the first cars had been produced – the KdF-Wagen was displayed for the first time at the Berlin Motor Show in 1939 – World War II started. All production was halted and re-focused on military vehicles. No cars were ever delivered through the savings plan. One early Type 1 convertible model was given to Hitler on his 50th birthday.

At the end of the war, with the factory plant in ruins, the Allies used Volkswagen to help revive the German auto industry and thus the success story of the VW Beetle began. In 1950, the “beetle”-shaped car sold for approx. 4000 Deutsche Mark (approx. $2000). In 1955, VW had produced its one millionth car. In 1972, the Beetle broke the long-standing worldwide production record of Ford’s legendary Model T with 15 million vehicles. By 2003, when the last original Beetle rolled off the production lines in Puebla, Mexico, almost 22 million Beetles had been sold in over 150 countries – a true world record.

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