The Truth About Cars » ferdinand porsche The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 14 Jul 2014 16:00:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » ferdinand porsche The Taurus X Is A Really Cool Idea Now That Porsche’s Copied It Wed, 26 Sep 2012 18:04:23 +0000

When TTAC’s reliability scribe Michael Karesh bought a used Taurus X a few years ago, he was able to get it as a nearly-new car for about half of the original retail price. It’s not hard to understand why; the Taurus X, which combined the high “hip point” from the vaguely-Volvo-based Ford Five Hundred with a rather humpbacked wagon profile, was showroom poison and widely derided by automotive journalists who were in the full flush of an industry-loved love affair with “crossovers”.

Those same journos are now competing to pile the greatest number of accolades on the “Panamera Sport Turismo” concept, presumably because there are going to be some awesome European press trips involved for the writers who can generate the most suction, er, traction on the topic.

As Porsche struggles mightily to fill up every possible market niche except that of “affordable sports car”, it’s putting the Cayenne/Panamera platform to the test. While the “Sport Turismo” is certainly a visual improvement on the hopelessly dumpy PanArabia Sportisch Sedan, it’s probably an answer to a question nobody in particular has asked. The brand’s apologists will cite Ferry Porsche’s one-off 928 Shooting Brake as “heritage”, but

  • that was directly based on a 928, not a vague evolution of the Touareg
  • it wasn’t a monstrous sedan which was developed at the same time as the company was claiming it couldn’t develop a proper small Porsche

Some sort of lip service is being paid to the Greens in Europe by the announcement that this new wagon is also a plug-in hybrid. This is important for that under-served market of German plutocrats who can drop $125K on a maintenance-intensive bauble-sedan but can’t afford to put gasoline in it. Look for Chris Harris, whose journalistic integrity regarding Ferrari and other supercar makers seems to have a Stuttgart-shaped blind spot, to pronounce it the “most mega plug-in hybrid luxury sedan in history” or something similar.

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Book Review: The Extraordinary Life of Josef Ganz: The Jewish Engineer Behind Hitler’s Volkswagen Wed, 04 Jan 2012 21:21:39 +0000

Have you heard the old joke about the three Jewish engineers and Henry Ford? This is the version at

It was a sweltering August day in 1937 when the 3 Cohen brothers entered the posh Dearborn, Michigan, offices of Henry Ford, the car maker.

“Mr. Ford”, announced Norman Cohen, the eldest of the three. “We have a remarkable invention that will revolutionize the automobile industry.”

Ford looked skeptical, but their threat to offer it to the competition kept his interest piqued. “We would like to demonstrate it to you in person”, said Norman.

After a little cajoling, they brought Mr. Ford outside and asked him to enter a black automobile parked in front of the building. Hyman Cohen, the middle brother, opened the door of the car. “Please step inside, Mr. Ford.”

“What!” shouted the tycoon, “Are you crazy? It’s over a hundred degrees in that car!”

“It is”, smiled the youngest brother, Max.; but sit down Mr. Ford, and push the white button.

Intrigued, Ford pushed the button. All of a sudden a whoosh of freezing air started blowing from vents all around the car, and within seconds the automobile was not only comfortable, it was quite cool.

“This is amazing!” exclaimed Ford. “How much do you want for the patent?’

One of the brothers spoke up: “The price is One Million Dollars.” Then he paused.

“And there is something else. The name ‘Cohen Brothers Air Conditioning’ must be stamped right next to the Ford logo on the dash board!”

“Money is no problem,” retorted Ford,” but there is no way I will have a Jewish name next to my logo on my cars!”

They haggled back and forth for a while and finally they settled. Five Million Dollars, and the Cohens’ name would be left off. However, the first names of the Cohen brothers would be forever emblazoned upon the console of every Ford air conditioning system.

And that is why even today, whenever you enter a Ford vehicle, you see those three names clearly printed on the air conditioning control panel……….NORM, HI and MAX

The story isn’t even apocryphal. Except for the part about Ford’s Jew-hatred it’s complete fiction. Willis Carrier invented refrigerant air conditioning and Packard, not Ford, was the first automaker to offer it in a car.

Now, though, did you hear the one about the Jewish engineer that invented the Volkswagen? Actually, that story isn’t a joke, and it’s not fiction, or at least a persuasive case can be made that it’s true.

That case has been made by Dutch engineer, VW Beetle enthusiast and writer Paul Schilperoord in his book, The True Story of The Beetle (Het Ware Verhaal Van De Kever). The book was first published in Dutch in 2009, selling out its first printing and was subsequently translated into Portuguese. Now, RVP Publishers has just released an English edition, The Extraordinary Life of Josef Ganz: The Jewish Engineer Behind Hitler’s Volkswagen.

Ganz, consigned to historical obscurity in part due to Nazi persecution of Jews, turns out to have been an important and influential figure in German and European automotive development. Schilperoord, more than any other person, has been responsible for restoring Ganz to his deserved role in automotive history, first publishing a series of magazine articles and finally this book. Beyond the book’s central thesis, that Ganz’s concepts and designs for a car he called a “volkswagen” were appropriated by Ferdinand Porsche and Adoph Hitler as the foundation for the design of what became the VW Beetle, Ganz was a respected engineer who was considered an equal by the creme de la creme of European automobile designers. He consulted for Mercedes Benz and BMW on the development of historically significant concept and production cars like M-B’s 170 and BMW’s first in house car design, the AM1. Ganz was regarded as perhaps the expert on swing axle suspensions at the time, and he traveled in circles that included Dr. Porsche and his son Ferry, Tatra chief engineer Hans Ledwinka, and pioneering aerodynamicists Paul Jaray and Edmund Rumpler. There are photographs of Ferry Porsche and Adolph Rosenberger, Dr. Porsche’s business partner and financial backer, test driving a Ganz prototype. Ganz had a long, mutually respectful working relationship with Hans Nibel, the head of Mercedes engineering, and Ganz maintained a lifetime correspondence with Heinrich Nordhoff, who ran Volkswagen from the end of WWII into the 1960s and apparently arranged for Ganz to receive at least some token compensation for his contributions to the Beetle.

On the left is Dr. Porsche's Zundapp 12 prototype. On the right is a CGI image of Ganz's Standard Superior. Ganz consulted with Zundapp before they hired Porsche.

Ganz’s consulting work grew out of his role as editor of Motor Kritik, a German auto enthusiast magazine, what we’d call a “buff book”. A trained engineer, Ganz felt that the German auto industry was making a mistake by only producing large, heavy, expensive cars for wealthy people. In the pages of Motor Kritik, Ganz became a passionate advocate for the development of an inexpensive car that was lightweight, streamlined for aerodynamics, independently suspended at all four wheels, using swing axles in the back, with a rear mounted horizontal engine, all mounted on a platform chassis with a tube backbone. That sounds remarkably like the design brief for the Volkwagen Type I, also known as the Beetle. Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that Ganz actually called his design a “volkswagen” and he referred to a prototype that he built as the Mai Kaefer, or May beetle.

Click here to view the embedded video.

A number of companies expressed interest in building Ganz’s volkswagen. He built prototypes for motorcycle companies looking to expand into automobiles like Adler, and Ardie. Actually Ganz had extensive discussions with motorcycle manufacturer Zundapp about them building a car on his designs but the talks broke down and Zundapp instead hired Porsche. The prototype Zundapp 12 is widely considered to be a precursor to Porsche’s Beetle design, but Zundapp had had full access to Ganz’s designs during their discussions so it’s impossible to say how much of that prototype was original to Dr. Porsche. Ganz was also a consultant on two air-cooled rear engined Mercedes-Benz concepts, the 120h and 130h, that are also considered to have influenced the Beetle.

Finally, in 1933, the Standard Fabrik company started producing and selling the Standard Superior Volkswagen. They displayed the car and its chassis at the 1933 Berlin auto show, and news of that car was significant enough to merit coverage in the Detroit News. Ganz was at the peak of his career, though he didn’t know it as he stood on Standard’s show booth. Another visitor to the auto show that year would soon change Ganz’s life. Newly installed as Germany’s chancellor, Adolph Hitler attended the show with considerable pomp, as the dictator would make building the autobahns and developing a “people’s car” an important part of Nazi policy.

1934 Standard Superior. A few hundred were made. One survives in a private German collection.

Within a year, Ganz would find himself hounded by the Gestapo, removed from his job as Motor Kritik editor due to Nazi pressure on the publishers (who kept him on as a ghost writer) and thrown into prison on blackmail charges trumped up out of his legitimate attempt to get compensated for patents of his that were infringed upon by Tatra, the Czech company then under control of Volksdeutsch (ethnic Germans) said to have ties to the German secret police. Statements on his behalf by Han Nibel helped get him released and Ganz, now certain that there was no future for him in Germany, fled to Switzerland.

While in Switzerland, Ganz again tried to get his volkswagen made and the Rapid company indeed made a short production run of an open two seater based on his designs. Ganz later had trouble with Swiss authorities appropriating his intellectual property (a not uncommon event around the time of World War II – American Bantam got screwed out of the Jeep and the Canadian government stole Bombardier’s tracked vehicle technology) and after the war he emigrated to Australia where he worked for General Motors’ Holden subsidiary.

Only a handful of his coworkers knew of his role in the history of the Volkswagen and Ganz died in obscurity in 1967. He most likely would have stayed obscure had Paul Schilperoord, in 2004, not read a 1980 issue of Automobile Quarterly, which had a short article about Ganz. Intrigued by the story, he began a quest to document Ganz’s life story. That quest involved visiting archives and museums in Germany, tracking down a complete set of the issues of Motor Kritik, establishing contact with Ganz’s surviving relatives and associates, and finally getting access to Ganz’s personal archive in the possession of Ganz’s former attorney. The result is an important contribution to automotive history. The Extraordinary Life of Josef Ganz is meticulously researched, with hundreds of footnotes citing original documents. Because he was a working journalist in addition to his engineering consulting work, the Ganz archive included hundreds of photographs of Ganz, his cars, and other contemporary German cars and automotive events. The original Dutch edition integrated those photos with the text of the book. RVP Publishers, for the English edition, has instead decided to highlight those photographs, facsimiles of Motor Kritik, and Ganz’s patents, printing them separately on 128 insert pages of special paper, with extensive new captions contributed by the author. Schilperoord writes in an engaging and mostly entertaining style. He’s a fine storyteller and it’s a heck of a story to tell.

Schilperoord’s claims are, ain’t no bout a doubt it, controversial. Dr. Porsche has a large body of acolytes that protect his history. Hans Ledwinka has his defenders as well. It’s a controversial story and when you add in the issue of Nazis and Jews, it only gets more controversial. I’ve known about Paul’s work for a few years now and I sometimes exchange bits of historical information with him so this review is not the first time that I’ve published about the Ganz story. Whenever I bring up the topic of Ganz online there will usually be someone who will pooh pooh Schilperoord’s case for Ganz and argue in favor of Porsche. Others will take up the cause of Hans Ledwinka’s role in VW history. Nothing wrong with debating history. I prefer to assume that those who disagree with Paul do so out of a regard for historical accuracy and not because of less savory motives. Some, though, seem to have an “anyone but the Jew” approach. Almost invariably, when I write about Ganz there will also be those who say that this is a non-story and that there must be some bias on my part because of my own Jewish faith. I suppose that’s possible, though nobody has ever complained when I’ve written about Ab Jenkins and his Mormon Meteors.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks – RJS

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An Illustrated History Of Automotive Aerodynamics – In Three Parts Sun, 14 Feb 2010 20:29:41 +0000

[Note: A significantly expanded and updated version of this article can be found here]

That air presented the greatest obstacle to automotive speed and economy was understood intuitively, if not scientifically since the dawn of the automobile. Putting it into practice was quite another story. Engineers, racers and entrepreneurs were lured by the potential for the profound gains aerodynamics offered. The efforts to do so yielded some of the more remarkable cars ever made, even if they challenged the aesthetic assumptions of their times. We’ve finally arrived at the place where a highly aerodynamic car like the Prius is mainstream. But getting there was not without turbulence.


Racers, particularly those chasing the coveted Land Speed Record (LSR), were generally the first to employ aerodynamic aids. The La Jamais Contente (The Never Satisfied) was the first automobile to break the 100kmh (62 mph) record, in 1899. Like all the first batch of LSR holders, it was an EV. The driver’s position seems to negate the aerodynamic aids, or maybe he was just posing, and more likely crouched down for the actual run.

The evolution of aerodynamics for LSR cars was remarkably rapid, as this Stanley Steamer Rocket of 1906 evidently shows. And the increase in speed was even more dramatic: the Rocket broke the 200km barrier, with a run of 205.44 kmh (127.66  mph). That would not be bettered until 1924, and not until 2009 for steam powered vehicles.

The first known attempt at streamlining a passenger car is this Alfa Romeo from 1914, built by the coach builder Castagna for the Italian Count Ricotti. Due to the very heavy bodywork, it turned out to not improve on the top speed of the open Alfa it was based on.

Undoubtedly, the real breakthrough aerodynamic passenger car was the German Rumpler “Tropfenwagen” (teardrop car) of 1921. Unlike the impractical and heavy Castagna Alfa, the Rumpler was as dramatically different (and influential) for its completely integrated and original design and engineering. It had a mid-engined W6 engine, and four wheel independent suspension using swing axles which Rumpler patented. The Tropfenwagen was tested in VW’s wind tunnel in 1979, and achieved a remarkable Coefficient of drag (Cd) of .28; a degree of slipperiness that VW’s Passat wouldn’t equal until 1988.

It’s important to remember that the Cd is a coefficient, and denotes the relative aerodynamic slipperiness of a body, regardless of its overall size. A brick of any size has a Cd of 1.0; a bullet about .295.  To arrive at the critical total aerodynamic drag that determines power required and efficiency, the frontal area (cross section of the vehicle looking straight on) is multiplied by the Cd. The Rumpler was relatively very aerodynamic, but it was also quite tall and boxy, which resulted in the one hundred or so production cars being used primarily as taxis. An ironic ending for Rumpler, but his ideas spawned imitations and extensions world-wide, and opened the whole field.

To put the nascent field of automotive aerodynamics in perspective, the typical two-box car of the twenties was more aerodynamic going backwards than forwards, as this ass-backwards car showed. That brings back memories of Bob Lutz stating that the Volt concept would have had better aerodynamics if they put it in the wind tunnel backwards.

Hungarian-born Paul Jaray used his experience working int the aeronautical field, and especially designing Zeppelins, to develop a specific formula for automotive aerodynamic design principles that lead to a patent, applied for in 1922 and issued in 1927.  His approach was influential, and numerous companies used Jaray licensed bodies during the streamliner craze that unfolded in the early thirties. His early designs tended to be very tall, and with questionable proportions and space utilization (below).

His designs eventually became more mainstream, and Mercedes, Opel, Maybach, and numerous other makes, primarily German, built special streamliner versions using Jaray bodies, like this Mercedes below:

The limitation of these cars is like the Castagna Alfa, they were re-bodied conventional cars with frames, front engines and RWD. Jaray only addressed the aerodynamics, not the complete vehicle like Rumpler had. It was a start, but others were taking up where Rumpler left off, like the English Burney, below:

Obviously more Rumpler influenced and less by Jaray, the 1930 English Burney featured a then-radical rear engine and also four wheel independent suspension.

One of the most influential and lasting designers of the whole era was Austrian Hans Ledwinka. After he took over as chief design engineer at the Czech firm Tatra in 1921, he developed the basis of a series of remarkable Tatra cars and eventually streamliners with platform frames, independent suspensions and rear air-cooled engines that Ferdinand Porsche cribbed from heavily in his design of the Volkswagen (VW made a substantial payment to Tatra in the 1960s to compensate them for this theft of IP).

The compact Tatra v570 of 1933 (above) is the forerunner of both the larger Tatras soon to come, and obviously of the Volkswagen. We’ll come back to Tatra later.

This Volkswagen prototype from 1934 (above) shows a very strong resemblance to the cribbed Tatra v570, with the benefit of some further refinement. Although the visual cues are not really as significant as they might appear to us now, because these were the leading-edge design elements of the time, and widely imitated or shared, on both side of the Atlantic.

As this 1934 prototype for an American rear-engined sedan by John Tjaarda shows, the Europeans weren’t working alone. This fairly radical design became tamed-down for the production 1936 front-engined Lincoln Zephyr, of which the less common but handsome coupe version is shown below:

Of course, Americans’ introduction to streamlining had come two years earlier  in 1934, with the stunning Chrysler Airflow (below). An essentially pragmatic approach, the Airflow also kept the traditional Body On Frame (BOF) front-engine RWD standard, but made some significant advances in terms vehicle design by pushing the engine further forward over the front wheels. This, combined with a wider body, dramatically improved interior space and accommodations. The Airflow had the same basic configuration as American cars from the late forties and early fifties. Progress is not always linear.

The failure of the practical Airflow can probably comes down to one thing: that overly flat waterfall grille. That was too much of  a break for the symbolism still engendered in the remnants of the classic car prow. The Zephyr had one, and it was a success, despite not being nearly as a good a car as the Airflow.

An even less pragmatic but remarkably practical and effective American vehicle was the Stout Scarab (above). Aviation engineer William B. Stout designed this extremely roomy mini-van precursor using  a unitized body structure and a rear Ford V8 engine. The first was built in 1932, and several more variations, a total of nine, were built in the mid thirties, but series production never got off the ground, due to an asking price almost four times higher than a Chrysler Imperial Airflow of the times, and even those weren’t selling so well just then.

A much more radical approaches to streamlining was Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion. The first of several prototypes also saw the light of day in 1933, in the midst of this fertile period on both side of the Atlantic. The Dymaxion also had a rear Ford V8, but with a tricycle carriage and rear wheel steering, which allowed it to turn on the length of its body.

Another lesser-know variation of the popular Ford V8 engined aerodynamic vehicles was this Dubonnet Ford of 1936, whose very slippery body allowed it to reach 108 mph. I appears to have  Isetta-type front doors for the front seat passengers. About as much crumple zone too.

Let’s jump back to Czechoslovakia and the fertile Tatra design studios. Here are some clays from about 1933 or so, showing the development of both the smaller VW-like v570 on the right, and the larger streamliners in the rear. The first of these, the T77, arrived in 1934 (below):

The T77 was measured to have a Cd of .212, a number that was not broken by a production car until GM’s EV-1 of 1995, which measured at .195.  A remarkable achievement, the long-tailed T77 was powered by a rear air-cooled V8, and began a long series of Tatras until the 1980′s along similar lines. My retrospective of Tatra is here.

Tatra became synonymous with the advanced streamliner of the pre-war era, enabling remarkably fast travel (100 mph) on the fledgling Autobahns of the Third Reich. Favored especially by Luftwaffe brass, they had a nasty habit of killing them, due to its wickedly-abrupt oversteer, thanks to the combination of rear V8 and swing axles. That earned it the nick name of “the Czech secret weapon”.  So many died at its hands, that supposedly Hitler forbade his best men to drive them. In many (other) ways, the Tatra 87 was the Porsche Panamera of its time.

To demonstrate just how far the aerodynamic envelope was pushed in this golden decade of streamlining, this 1939 Schlörwagen prototype was tested originally at Cd .186, and a model of it was retested by VW in the seventies with a Cd of .15. Either of these values put the “pillbug” at or near the top of the list of the most aerodynamic concept cars ever built, like the Ford Probe V of 1985, with a Cd of .137. Built on the chassis of the rear-engine Mercedes 170H, it was substantially faster as well as 20% to 40% more fuel efficient than its donor car. The Russians took the Schlörwagen as war booty and conducted tests as a propeller driven vehicle. It represents a state of aerodynamic efficiency in league with the most aerodynamic cars being considered today, such as the Aptera.

Its important to note that the rise of interest in aerodynamics in the 1930s arose out of the desire to reinvent the automobile from its horse and wagon origins and the assumptions that average driving speeds would be on the rise with modern roads. This made it a forward looking undertaking, as most drivers were plodding along at 35-45 mph outside of cities. But the first freeways were being built in Germany, and improvements in US roads, including the first parkways and freeways were taking place. It also explains the particularly strong interest and adoption of streamlining in Germany.

Note that I have not attempted to survey the influence of aerodynamics on the styling of cars in the latter thirties and up to WW II. Needless to say the influence was utterly profound, and gave us some of the most remarkable cars of the late classic era. But this had relatively more to do with style (and even affectation) than a genuine effort to push the envelope in terms of leading edge aerodynamics. Nevertheless, the benefits and beauty that resulted, like in this Bugatti Atlantique coupe are undeniable, but beyond our scope here.

Part 2: 1939 to 1955

Part 3: 1955 to the Present

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