Press Release no.18
When Porsche was a tractor
A meeting for specialists in the history of agricultural mechanization enlivened the third day of the EIMA International review on stage in Bologna. The theme of the meeting was the adventurous life of Ferdinand Porsche, the genial engineer who played a leading role in motor vehicle design between World Wars I and II.
Porsche, the famous sports car name, is also closely linked to the world of agricultural machinery. Ferdinand Porsche, the Austrian-German automotive engineer, was born to German-speaking parents
1875 in a village north of Prague. The son of a mechanic and ironworker went on to become one of the greatest visionaries in the history of motor vehicle design, not only automotive but agricultural tractors as well. The story was told at a conference given the name, When Porsche Was a Tractor, held yesterday in the EIMA International setting of the agricultural mechanization review running in Bologna until tomorrow, the 11th. Attending the meeting were William Dozza, a journalist and mechanization historian, and Nello Salzapariglia, an industrialist and collector, as well as the president of GAMAE, an association of vintage agricultural machinery enthusiasts.
By 1914 Porsche was technical director of Austro-Daimler in Wiener Neustad at work on the design project Kraftprotze (Daimler Horse). William Dozza described a light vehicle weighing 1,700 kg powered by a four-cylinder air-cooled engine producing 14.5 hp with front-wheel drive suitable for replacing draft horses and performing farm tractor operations. The outbreak of World War I led to the transformation of the vehicle for towing artillery pieces but Porsche’s experience with tractors was taken to a new and fortunate stage in the inter-war period.
After designing the world famous Volkswagen Beetle, the peoples car, Porsche received a contract from Hitler to build a robust light-weight tractor capable of high performance, a machine for mass production aimed at keeping the price low and making it available to a vast array of end-users. The Volkswagen variation for work in the fields was designed under the names Volksschlepper, Volkspflug, or Volkstraktor to convey the purpose of the vehicle.
Mass production only arrived however, Dozza reported, for the 113 model, a traditional tractor with an in-line two-cylinder diesel engine. A government decree issued in 1940 established that production would come to 300,000 units annually in a huge plant to be built near Cologne for the purpose of cultivating the vast lands to the east Nazi Germany was planning to occupy in that phase of World War II.
The end of the war brought Ferdinand Porsche a series of judiciary vicissitudes. Dozza explained that he was acquitted of war crimes by American and British military authorities but was arrested by French authorities in December 1945 on war crimes charges and held in a Dijon prison for 20 months without trial. In July 1947 Porsche was released on payment of a bail bond set at one million francs paid thanks to the intervention of Italian industrialist Pietro Dusio who signed a contract with Porsche for the completion of a Grand Prix motor racing car, the Type 360 Cisitalia, a generator turbine and, once again, a tractor. Porsche Diesel, the manufacturing industry specialized in tractors, went out of business in 1963 and with it, the Porsche trademark disappeared from agriculture after half-a-century of production. Components and spare parts were taken over by the French company Renault.
Bologna, November 10, 2012