Say the name “Porsche” to anyone, and the 911 is guaranteed to be the first image that comes to mind. For the more devout Porsche enthusiasts, it’ll bring to mind 356s or any number of Porsches triumphant race cars.
What the name “Porsche” will almost certainly not bring to mind are farm tractors. It’s indeed a far cry from the 356s that were being produced around the same time, but look below the surface and you’ll discover some similarities in styling cues and most importantly, the ingenuity that Dr. Ferdinand Porsche incorporated into all of his work.
Dr. Ferdinand Porsche began his work on a tractor for the people in the 1930s, right alongside his work on the “people’s car”. Naturally, the first design of the Volk-Schlepper prototypes shared a number of similarities to the Volkswagen. His first three prototypes were produced in 1934, each equipped with a hydraulic coupling between the engine and transmission, and gasoline engines while his unique air-cooled diesel engine designs were undergoing further development. As early as 1946, he had a design for a 4-wheel-drive tractor on the drawing board.
It was clear to Dr. Porsche that there would need to be at least four different engine sizes to accommodate the different jobs tractors were to perform. The difficulty he faced was to develop engines that were cheap to build and maintain. The solution was to create an engine that was entirely modular, with each cylinder and cylinder head individually detachable and replaceable. This allowed engines to be made up of one, two, three, and four cylinders depending on the crankcase.
The onset of World War II ceased development on the Porsche tractor, and following Germany’s defeat only companies that had already been producing agricultural equipment were allowed to resume production. This, in conjunction with financial difficulties facing the company at the time meant the only means to put the Porsche-Diesel into production was to license it. The German production was licensed to Allgaier GmbH, and the Austrian license was sold to Hofherr Schrantz. In 1956, Mannesmann AG purchased the license to build the tractors and made a hefty investment into re-purposing the former Zeppelin factory in Friedrichs-hafen-Manzell, Germany. There, they produced over 125,000 Porsche tractors that were sold and shipped throughout the world until production ceased in 1963.
In this video, Tim Kuhn and Aaron Cress share the story of the Porsche-Diesel tractors from the Maple View Farm in Hillsborough, NC, where the Porsche-Diesel Junior 108 Tractor would have felt right at home.