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2002 Robert Bentley, Inc. We encourage visitors to link to this page if you’d like to share this information with others. Please do not copy this excerpt to other web sites. It is protected by copyright and represents significant resource investment by Bentley Publishers.

(3 page excerpt)


A Plot Fails

The year 1934 was drawing to a close and Porsche had now devoted almost six months to the development of the Volkswagen, but things were still going far from well. The designs of certain components were completed, some of the components required for the prototype were well in hand. The firms producing the necessary castings and forgings for Porsche were all adhering to their delivery schedule. But the problem as to what power unit to use was yet still far from settled. Such a vital decision affecting the ultimate performance of the car cannot just be reached by examining drawings. The designs of those various engines which he thought could be considered were not just general arrangement drawings. No, he went much further than that, he had all the important detail drawings completed, but even then it was impossible to come to a decision. The only thing to do was to build some of those engines and see how they would perform. Of course, there were the usual problems associated with building a prototype engine, but there was no way of overcoming this, irrespective of the abilities of the designer or the facilities available for prototype production. Any trouble with prototypes can only be removed by a careful process of investigation and gradual elimination of some of the faults experienced. Porsche did not fail to point out these matters in his periodic reports to Herr Allmers, who apart from acknowledging their receipt only phoned him occasionally on some administrative matter.

Herr Werlin, however, seemed to take a keen interest in the matter; he called frequently on Porsche and even told him that Hitler did not seem very disturbed about what he learned from the reports. Hitler read each personally and from time to time asked Werlin for certain explanations, but otherwise no queries had arisen. During one of his visits Werlin told Porsche that Herr von Opel had an audience with Hitler and offered him, on the instructions of Mr. Mooney, the president of General Motors, who had a controlling interest in the Opel plant, a new cheap Opel car for a price of 1,800 Marks-a sort of Volkswagen, perhaps, but not quite at the right price of 1,000 Marks. Hitler nearly lost his temper with Herr von Opel, he was prepared to listen to offers from private industry if it involved German capital, but he was not willing to snap at a bait coming from a foreign country.

Herr Allmers, of course, learned every little detail about this interview from his friend Herr von Opel, and three weeks later, on February 14, 1935, the day Hitler opened the 25th International Berlin Automobile and Motor-Cycle Show, they were even more anxious than before.

The opening of this show followed the same pattern as the one of the previous year. There were again the Stormtroop officers and Nazi Party leaders in the front rows, the flower-decorated dais was once more bedecked with Swastika banners. Hitler’s speech was again very much political, but there was this part : " ... I am very pleased to tell you that, thanks to the abilities of a brilliant designer and his team of engineers, it has been possible to complete the initial designs of the German Volkswagen and from the middle of this year onwards prototype tests will start. There is no reason now why the German people should not be able to have a car which will cost no more than a medium-sized motor-cycle a few years ago. . . ." This was followed by prolonged cheers, in particular from the Nazi party dignitaries seated in the front rows.

Herr Allmers and Herr von Opel could hardly trust their ears, Hitler had mentioned for the first time in public the word " Volkswagen." It was well known to the two men, that once Hitler mentioned something in public, it was not just talk, but a definite sign that action would be taken. Only one thing gave them some comfort, that all Hitler’s promises so far applied only to political matters-but a car was an entirely different proposition, something which could not be created by political ideologies.

Porsche also listened to Hitler’s speech and did not fail to hear that the " Volkswagen " was mentioned for the first time, but this was not such a surprise to him. Werlin had told him about this the evening before the show opened, also that on Hitler’s instructions he should, through his contacts in industry, assist Porsche with the prototypes if it became necessary. All this was sufficient for Porsche to know that this time his idea of a small car was to reach a further stage than on previous occasions.

But as far as Porsche was concerned the problem "Volkswagen" was still a complex one; during 1935 he already employed 35 people. He divided his time between the Volkswagen project and the Auto-Union racing-car development, giving far more of his time to the Volkswagen project, but progress was still slow. He was not prepared just to hand the first prototype over to the Society of German Automobile Manufacturers and even if it took longer than ten months, the prototypes which he was going to hand over were to be as near perfect as they could possibly be. He now knew only too well the attitude Herr Allmers and the rest of the German automobile industry had towards him and the Volkswagen -no, there was to be no mistake.

He continued in his own way to test and develop these prototypes, irrespective of what Herr Allmers had to say. Werlin told him Hitler was at times anxious to see some more rapid development, but on the other hand he was not unduly disturbed about matters as they were. The year 1935 drew to an end-the Volkswagen proto types were still far from complete. The thing which pleased Porsche more than anything else in that year was that Stuck, driving an Auto-Union racing car, won the coveted Italian Grand Prix. Porsche had at last succeeded in beating the powerful Italian racing teams in their own country.


End of excerpt

2002 Robert Bentley, Inc. We encourage visitors to link to this page if you’d like to share this information with others. Please do not copy this excerpt to other web sites. It is protected by copyright and represents significant resource investment by Bentley Publishers.