In the early 1930’s Prof. Dr. F. Porsche started design work on the “people tractor” right along with the design work of the “people car”. Eventually, both designs materialized into historical products that are still enjoyed by thousands of people 60 years later.
Porsche-Diesel Tractor – History
Interestingly enough (and no surprise, if you knew “Ferdi”), the first design of the Volk-Schlepper had many similarities to the Volkswagen. It certainly did not look like a tractor of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Yes, it had 4 wheels, but that is where it ended. This very early and unbelievable unique design from day one (1934) already included a hydraulic coupling between engine and transmission. This was a distinctive design criteria and requirement of all Porsche-Diesel engines used in tractors until the last model produced in 1963. There was a special reason for this requirement. Engineers in the 1930’s believed that farmers in those days were not able to handle a clutch properly when shifting gears. Interesting!
Prof. Dr. F. Porsche produced three prototype tractors in 1934, all equipped with gasoline engines. The Porsche diesel engine design with its unique air-cooled feature was just not quite ready for production at that time. Through numerous tests this design let to a fully developed air-cooled diesel engine with a power range from 14 hp to 55 hp. By the early 1950’s Prof. Dr. F. Porsche had designed 4 basic models, 1 cyl., 2 cyl., 3 cyl., and 4 cyl. versions, all have individual and interchangeable cylinders and heads. Another interesting fact is, that Prof. Dr. F. Porsche also had a 4-wheel drive tractor on the drawing board as early as 1946. Obviously, way ahead of everyone else.
After WWII only companies in Germany who were producing farm tractors during and prior to WWII were allowed to continue producing those tractors. Since Porsche was not one of these companies, but had a very modern and unique design, it signed licensing agreements with the German company Allgaier GmbH and the Austrian company Hofherr Schrantz. These two companies used the Porsche engine design and called their tractor: Allgaier – System Porsche and Hofherr Schrantz – System Porsche.
By 1956 Mannesmann AG decided to get into the tractor business and bought the license for the Porsche diesel engine design and the Allgaier tractor design. They rebuilt and expanded the old Zeppelin factory just west of Friedrichshafen on Lake Konstanz to a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility with the most modern machine tool and assembly complex available at that time. Porsche-Diesel tractors were produced in this facility until the end of 1963 by a division of Mannesmann AG, called Porsche-Diesel Motorenbau GmbH. At the end of 1963 an international “arrangement” was made with Renault to service the Porsche-Diesel tractors worldwide.
The Friedrichshafen factory was needed by MTU-Daimler to produce large diesel engines for NATO tanks.
Between 1956 and 1963 over 125,000 Porsche-Diesel tractors were produced, many of them still in daily operation on farms and ranches all over the world.
In this time frame American Porsche-Diesel Corporation, 808 Packer Street, Easton, PA, sold approximately 1,000 Porsche-Diesel tractors in North America. Most of the tractors were sold at that time on the East Coast of the USA and Canada. A brand new Junior could be bought for about $1,750 and a Super for about $3,600. Very few Standards and Masters were sold due to a problem of being price competitive with U.S. made tractors.
Today, the number of Porsche-Diesel tractors in North America has increased drastically due to the fact that collecting and restoring Porsche-Diesel tractors is becoming a unique and affordable hobby. Fully concourse restored Porsche-Diesel tractors are being traded in the $30,000 – $50,000 range, however, un-restored examples in good running condition usually sell between $15,000 and $25,000.
Here are some interesting dates that high-lite the history of the Porsche-Diesel tractors:
- 1934 Initial design stage and production of 3 test vehicles with gasoline engine
- 1937 Official order by the German government to develop the “Volks-Tractor”
- 1950 Allgaier starts production of the famous AP17 aluminum tractor with the Porsche designed 2-cylinder, air-cooled, diesel engine developing 18 hp.
- 1951 Death of Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche
- 1953 Start of the now green Allgaier – System Porsche tractors. Product offering of 11hp, 22 hp, 33 hp, and 44 hp. Allgaier discontinues the manufacturing of their
old, water-cooled engine design.
- 1954 High sales volume requires larger manufacturing facilities. Registration of Porsche-Diesel Motorenbau GmbH, wholly owned division of Mannesmann AG.
- 1956 New facilities are being built in Friedrichshafen-Manzell at the old Donier/Zeppelin factory.
- 1956 Start of the production of the new line of PORSCHE-DIESEL tractors in red. The new product offering consisted of 4 models: JUNIOR, STANDARD, SUPER, and MASTER., (14 hp, 25 hp, 38 hp, 50 hp).
- 1957 Domestic sales were about 11,000 units and export about 6,000 units. Agreement with Deutz to share technology and purchasing of specific parts.
- 1958 Production of approx. 20,000 tractors.
- 1959 Introduction of newly design product line with 15-20-26-30-35-55 hp.
- 1960 Domestic sales about 10,000 units and export about 6,000 units. Introduction of the newly developed Bosch-Hydraulic lifting and regulating system.
- 1962 By the end of 1962 Mannesmann AG decided to discontinue the manufacturing of Porsche-Diesel tractors in the near future.
- 1963 The last Porsche-Diesel tractors were produced at the end of 1963, however, a large number of units were still assembled in early 1964. They had to be assembled out in the open since the manufacturing facilities were now used by MTU producing high-speed, light-weight diesel engines for the NATO tanks.