For the latest classic car news, features, buyer’s guides and classifieds, sign up to the C&SC newsletter here
Porsche’s greatest engine designer, Hans Mezger, died yesterday, 10 June, at the age of 90.
For more than three decades, Mezger was responsible for the marque’s most successful racing cars and engines, the 911, the 917 and Formula One glory highlights of an outstanding career.
Born on 18 November 1929 in a village near Stuttgart, he grew up in troubled times and came of age when Europe was ravaged by war, and narrowly avoided conscription into the army.
Fascinated by aeroplanes and racing cars, he attended his first race meeting at Hockenheim in 1946 before going on to study mechanical engineering at the Technical University in Stuttgart, now the University of Stuttgart.
After graduating in 1956, Mezger took a position at local firm Porsche, where he quickly helped develop the 1.5-litre eight-cylinder Type 753, and the 804 single-seater Formula One car that carried it.
The talented engineer’s first great achievement came in the early 1960s with the development of a new 2-litre six-cylinder powerplant for the 911 – the ‘Mezger engine’ – and by 1965 he was asked to lead a new competition department with a bold brief to build a car capable of winning at Le Mans.
Mezger and his team created the Porsche 917, a revolutionary sports car powered by a 4.5-litre 180-degree V12 which dominated both Le Mans and the World Sports Car Championship in 1970 and 1971.
The 917 proved just as devastating in the Can-Am series, with some turbocharged variants producing as much as 1200bhp.
Such power figures were only achievable thanks to Mezger’s taming of the technology using smaller turbos and bypass valves – techniques that proved instrumental in the development of the first turbocharged roadgoing 911, the 930.
Mezger’s crowning achievement came in 1984 when Niki Lauda claimed his third F1 World Championship.
The engine in his McLaren that powered the Austrian to victory was the TAG Turbo, a 1499cc 80-degree V6 of Mezger’s own design that was capable of producing an incredible 1000hp and remained his firm favourite.
That engine then took Alain Prost in his McLaren to the title in 1985 and ’86, the TAG-engined McLaren team also securing the constructors’ crown in 1984 and ’85.
The TAG Turbo won 25 grands prix.
Always loyal to Porsche, Mezger remained with the brand throughout his career and attended events until recently, including his 90th-birthday celebration at Porsche’s museum.
And he never sold his Grand Prix white 911 Carrera 3.0, powered by ‘his’ engine.
“The news of his death represents a very sad loss for us. Our thoughts are with his family,” said Porsche’s Michael Steiner, Member of the Executive Board, Research and Development.
“We thank Hans Mezger for his extraordinary engineering achievements, which he has done for motorsport in general and for Porsche in particular. His innovations for our series sports cars will remain unforgotten forever.”