- Scientists want to save the honor of the original Porsche
- The "P1" mark on the wheel hub
- Icon from the early days of "German engineering"
- "FP" more than an assistant
- Measurement curves thanks to infrared spectroscopy
Scientists want to save the honor of the original Porsche
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At the beginning of 2014, Porsche proudly announced that Ferdinand Porsche’s first vehicle from 1898 had been rediscovered in a barn in Austria.
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Wolfgang Porsche, chairman of the supervisory board of the sports car manufacturer, presented the vehicle in the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen.
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But now there are doubts about the authenticity. The supposed one "First Porsche" is apparently said to have been manipulated in essential points.
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The abbreviation P1 can be seen on the wheel hub of the museum piece. Allegedly Ferdinand Porsche attached it himself in 1898. However, there are supposed evidence photos from a…A report from 2009 showed that there is no P1 on the wheel hub.
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It is also alleged that the vehicle was not found accidentally in a private barn, as claimed, after many decades.
No sooner had the sensational discovery of the Porsche "P1" been announced than doubts grew about what was presumably the very first design by Ferdinand Porsche. Now the Zuffenhausen-based company is stepping up in the style of a “CSI” team.
E.Maybe the history of Porsche doesn’t have to be rewritten after all. At least that’s what the two reports that the sports car company recently commissioned after the fuss about the authenticity of the so-called “P1” suggest.
The carriage-like vehicle from the late 19th century has only had a place of honor in the company museum as the progenitor, because a young technician named Ferdinand Porsche played a key role in the development and construction of the octagonal electric motor of this Egger-Lohner C.2 Phaeton.
Then there were doubts about the authenticity from the professional world. “Autobild Klassik” even suspected subsequent manipulation. Professor Kurt Moser, one of the most renowned technical historians in the country, as well as the restorer and monument expert Gundula Tutt have put the supposedly first Porsche through its paces over the past few weeks and have come to the conclusion that the vehicle certainly bears the signature of the brand founder and is in its place the history of the house may claim.
Like a “CSI Zuffenhausen” team, the scientist and the restorer searched for evidence of the innocence – in other words: the authenticity – of the P1. To do this, they sifted through archive documents such as technical drawings, notes and letters and, for example, carried out various examinations of the materials used and the components of the vehicle.
The "P1" mark on the wheel hub
The heated debate was sparked by the marking "P1" stamped on the components of the electric carriage, which was supposed to come from Ferdinand Porsche himself. This electric car from the Austrian carriage manufacturer Egger-Lohner had been in the possession of the Technisches Museum Wien (TMW) for the longest time and was stored in the depot. According to an expert opinion by the Austrian automobile historian Karl Eder from 2009, the carriage from the nineties of the 19th century neither had the Porsche mark on the wheel hub nor the badge “Lohner-System Porsche”. The scandal, which the Austrian “crown” first brought up, was finished.
Wolfgang Porsche, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Porsche AG and grandson of the company’s founder, had acquired the vehicle from a collector. It was unveiled on the museum’s fifth anniversary at the end of January. With its rear-mounted 3 HP electric motor (a light weight of 130 kilograms) it opens up a glimpse of the legendary descendants, including the new Hybrid 918 Spyder.
Of course, Porsche couldn’t let the allegations sit on them. Especially since the TMW, as one of the leading technical collections, raised an eyebrow regarding the authenticity of the Porsche information. So, parallel to the investigations by Moser / Tutt, one of the heaviest guns that modern natural science has to offer was deployed: the scanning electron microscope.
On the basis of the crater landscape made of patinated metal, scratches and impacts that the lay eye can see, the two experts were able to prove through measurements that the incriminated marking must very well date from around 1898.
Icon from the early days of "German engineering"
Representatives of the Technical Museum were also invited to present the reports in the Porsche Museum, but they did not accept. For Kurt Moser, the "P1" debate is "a secondary theater of war" anyway. The historian rates this self-propelled carriage as an icon from the early days of "German engineering". He is enthusiastic about the collage process with which inventors from the bicycle, carriage and tram construction industry at the time would have used.
For him, the C.2 Phaeton is a pure and extremely rare – because it has been preserved – test vehicle that was already in use in 1898. The TMW had questioned this dating. But a plaque with this year has been preserved – these stamps were, according to his report, in the k. U.K. monarchy based on the year of use.
The critics criticized not only the authenticity of the impacts, but, what is even more important, Ferdinand Porsche’s role in the development of the specific octagon electric motor. Here the professor from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology successfully searched the archives of Porsche and TMW. He found construction drawings and notes signed with the abbreviation FP.
"FP" more than an assistant
Together with a picture showing the proud young technician with his octagonal engine, this is evidence that the young Porsche was more than an assistant. He also hid a drawing with visible traces of the erasure, which shows that the designer had experimented with placing the drive on either the front or rear axle.
Incidentally, the TMW had exchanged the C.2 for other historic vehicles from a collector. Porsche had bought the electric carriage from him for the company museum. Moser made suspicious that the two cars have a significantly higher value than the C.2, which was valued by experts like Eder at around 35,000 euros. Proof of the actual value as a flawless first Porsche?
Even in the early days of the company, theft of ideas was not entirely unknown. One of the many documents submitted by the experts was an explosive Porsche note from 1940. Ferdinand Porsche, who died in 1951, remembered that the son-in-law of the carriage manufacturer Egger applied for a patent for his development under his own name. After that, the manufacturer would never have submitted a design to the office again. FP left the company after disputes among the pioneers.
As a restorer, Gundula Tutt smiles at the “fetish of impacts”. She examined the materials and surfaces of the Porsche Phaeton, in part with spectral analysis. The peeling yellowish varnish could not have been applied later than 1898. Not least because Emperor Franz Josef celebrated his 50th anniversary this year and the carriage company wanted to honor the yellow of the Habsburgs as purveyor to the court.
Measurement curves thanks to infrared spectroscopy
The components of the order also come from this time, as well as the remains of mica in the upper front end of the vehicle. This mineral substance was used as an electrical insulating medium around the turn of the century. The first drawings of the test vehicle show that the battery was originally installed here. The extensive report shows, among other things, measurement curves that were created with infrared spectroscopy.
When you experience the tools available to automobile detectives to determine age, authorship and provenance, you ask yourself why some of the world’s most famous museums could fall for the famous art fraudster Wolfgang Beltracchi?
Ferdinand Porsche was not inspired by the young Picasso. That much is certain. But with the P1 you stabbed a wasp’s nest. It remains to be seen whether the hornets will be released in return according to the latest reports. But: When has a dusty vehicle triggered such a controversy??
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