Porsche And Me: The Autobiography Of Hans Mezger

£45

Hans Mezger joined Porsche straight from university. Like Ferdinand Piëch, he had wanted to work in aviation, but this was not feasible in post-war Germany. Automotive was a second choice, and Porsche was both local and looked more interesting than the big manufacturers. Mezger never looked back: set to work on the complex Fuhrmann four-cam flat-four, he rapidly became indispensable, and after the 911’s flat-six he moved to Porsche’s racing division, where his air-cooled creations became the stuff of legend.

He goes into great detail, as befits an engineer, and this can be quite fascinating, like when he describes how the drive on the 917’s flat-12 was taken from the middle of the crankshaft (rather than the end) to help the torsional stiffness of the block and avoid the tendency towards vibration and failure. He also explains why the 964/993 crankcase was carried over to the 996 GT3 – because oil starvation was evident when the new integrated sump design M96 engine was tried in competition. By that stage, Mezger had retired from Porsche, but reading between the lines, some of the engineering developments for the water-cooled engine were not what he would have chosen.

It is edifying to see which personalities impressed him: Ferry Porsche, whose modesty and business sense made Mezger think of him as a role model, and Ron Dennis of McLaren, whose perfectionism reminded him of Piëch, and who was always “100 per cent reliable”. He also admired Niki Lauda and Alain Prost for their professionalism and the way they would never publicly criticise their teams. Porsche’s success with the TAG formula 1 engine had much to do with the rapport between him and Dennis, and Mezger was clearly saddened when Porsche’s interests diverged and the partnership ended.

This is a fine history, heavy on engineering detail (as you would hope) and Peter Morgan has done well to let Mezger tell his own story without obtrusive interruption. Copiously illustrated with many previously unseen photographs, Porsche And Me is both engrossing and unpretentious, and one of the best books on the marque for a long time.

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