Hans Mezger, the revered Porsche engineer, has died aged 90. He leaves behind an incredible legacy of road and race car engines designed over several decades.
Born near Stuttgart on 18 November 1929, Mezger’s first car was a tatty Porsche 356. Inspired by the thing, he applied to work for the company that built it, despite having 28 job offers waiting for him thanks to the German economic boom in the mid-to-late 1950s.
Initially offered a job in the diesel engine department (this was back when Porsche still made tractors), his urge to work on sports cars was recognised by the company. Joining Porsche in 1956, his first task was calculating cam profiles for Dr Ernst Fuhrmann’s ‘Type 547’ inline-four.
Mezger’s first taste of the motorsport world came in 1960, with a two-year stint working in Porsche’s Formula 1 division. In 1963 he designed the first-generation 911’s flat-six, an engine which would live on right up until the introduction of the water-cooled 996-generation 911 in 1996.
The man was responsible not just for the flat-12 in the 917, but also the racer’s overall development. The 907, 908, and 910 were his work too, and in the 1970s, he was involved in the development of the 935.
The next decade, Mezger devised the TAG 1.5-litre turbo V6 F1 engine, which powered McLaren to the Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles in 1984 and 1985. His next F1 powerplant, the troubled Type 3512 V12, unfortunately, couldn’t emulate this success - it was used for a handful of races by Footwork before being dropped.
Ironically, the engines many Porsche fans will know Hans Mezger for primarily came after the man’s retirement in 1993. The ‘Mezger Engine’ you may have heard about refers to the units used in the 996 and 997 Turbo, GT2 and GT3 models, which have roots that can be traced back to Hans’ racing engines from many years earlier.
The zenith of the ‘Mezger Engine’ is arguably the 496bhp monster used to power the 997 GT3 4.0, related to a design originally intended for the 911 GT1 prototype racer. Perhaps the best way we can honour Mezger, then, is by having a good listen to the ultimate legacy of his work. Rest in peace, Hans.