Welcome to Thursday Trivia where we offer up a historical automotive trivia question and you try and solve it before seeing the answer after the jump. It’s like a history test, with cars!
This week’s question: What car got Ferdinand Porsche out of prison?
If you think you know the answer, make the jump and see if you are right!
Like Henry Ford, Ferdinand Porsche’s name belongs in the pantheon of automotive legends. Also like Ford, Porsche led a complicated life filled with both enviable achievements and questionable decisions.
Both of them created automotive legends- Ford’s being the Model T and Porsche’s the German People’s car, the Volkswagen. Both men supported the war effort, just from different sides, and interestingly they both met Hitler!
Porsche’s WWII efforts included being ordered by Hitler to design a heavy tank. Ferdinand’s resulting design proved unreliable in action, and the Porsche Tiger lost out to the Henschel & Sohn Panzer. The Tigers were re-fitted as Panzerjägers (tank destroyers) embarrassingly nicknamed Ferdinands.
It was this sort of support of the Nazi war machine that got the senior Porsche arrested in 1945 by French troops and sentenced to 22 months in prison. During this sentence Porsche’s son – Ferry Porsche – began developing a Formula 1 race car that was based on the advanced designs of the pre-war Auto Union Silver Arrows.
Dr. Porsche’s engineers built upon his design for the Auto Union after the war, working with Cisitalia in 1947 to build a mid-engined Formula 1 car borrowing largely from the basic construction of the Silver Arrows. Their were, of course, some changes. The engine was more powerful, for one…
…mid-engine, independent suspension all around, 500 horsepower, and this was 1949… Shouldn’t this have made the mid-engine revolution come a decade earlier? Why wasn’t the Cisitalia-Porsche a massive success and powerhouse on the track? I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that it all came down to finances.
The project wasn’t a total loss. It did raise enough funds to spring Dr. Porsche from French prison in what was basically a simple ransom. Although Dr. Porsche was held as a war criminal, no charges were ever brought against him and no trial was ever scheduled; there was just the simple matter of his 500,000 Franc bail.
When he saw the Cisitalia-Porsche upon his release, the senior Porsche is reported to have said to his son that he “would have built it exactly the same, right down to the last screw.” The Cisitalia-Porsche 360 now resides in the Porsche Museum.