Ferry Porsche’s front room provides the backdrop for this informal gathering one evening in March 1974
The homely setting of Ferry Porsche’s front room provides the backdrop for this informal gathering one evening in March 1974. This was a preliminary discussion on the possibility of cooperating with a car manufacturer in what was then the Soviet Union.
Engineering consultancy has always been a significant income source at Porsche, and gathered here are engine-build chief Paul Hensler (back to camera); Horst Marchart, who managed technical cooperation with major suppliers such as Bosch; Hans Mezger, chief engineer; Wolfgang Eyb; and styling Studio director Tony Lapine. Ferry’s wife Dorothea is on the right, while not in shot is Ernst Fuhrmann. The following month, Horst, Hans and Wolfgang flew to Moscow, with Ernst leading the group, for what Hans described as four days of informative, but inconclusive talks. The inclusion of Wolfgang is interesting. He was another Austrian engineer who joined Gmünd in 1947, working for Leopold Schmidt.
In the 1950s he worked at both Allgaier and Wolfsberg, and he would do much of the design work on the numerous prototypes Porsche built for VW, including the EA 1966, a ground-breaking rear-engine small car that VW ultimately rejected in favour of the four-wheel- drive Audi 50 design.
In 1966 Wolfgang became head of body construction and later designated chief planner for the forthcoming 928. He was involved in the body underpinnings of the 901 and in 1982, along with Gerhard Schröder, resolved the structural problem of the 91l Cabriolet that Porsche had been unable to build successfully 20 years earlier. When he retired in 1988, Porsche would file several patents under Wolfgang’s name. On a similar consultancy mission a year later, Tony would be despatched to Togliattigrad, deep in central Asia. This visit was also unfruitful, although Porsche’s intelligence was correct: two years later Fiat secured a contract with Togliatti that would see a 1960s Fiat saloon assembled by the Russians and exported to the West as the Lada.
Porsche’s persistence did eventually pay off. Helmuth Bott and Horst returned to Moscow and laid the groundwork for the Lada Samara, the Eastern Bloc’s first front-wheel-drive car. It had a Weissach-designed engine and transmission, as well as styling input from Tony’s studio.
The house at Feuerbacher Weg 48/50 was the Porsche family home until the 2000s. Newly appointed to the board of Daimler-Benz, Dr Porsche had built it in 1923 on what was then open countryside south west of Zuffenhausen.
The first KdF (Beetle) prototypes were assembled in the garage. An ordinary-looking house, it’s still there today although harder to spot, hedged in by greenery and more recent housing on what is now a busy suburban road. The family uses it as a residence for guests.