Porsche Military Vehicles: The Story of the Porsche 597

Porsche military vehicles are not as common as their speedy counterparts as many people don’t associate the company with military vehicles. However, once upon a time, the car manufacturing giant produced vehicles for the German military.

Porsche Military Vehicles

Unfortunately, the vehicles never went into mass production due to a few reasons. This article will discuss the story of the Porsche 597 Jagdwagen; Porsche’s first-ever and only military vehicle (VW Iltis is the ultimate light utility vehicle forged to cater to the military’s needs for a powerful all-terrain vehicle).

The History of the Porsche Military Vehicles

During the Second World War, the German army built over 50,000 Kubëlwagen and over 14,000 Schwimmwagen. The Kubëlwagen was a light open-top, two-wheel drive vehicle which was based on the Volkswagen beetle. The Schwimmwagen, on the other hand, was an amphibious four-wheel drive that could operate underwater.

These vehicles were bulky, heavy, and effective during the war, but once the war was over, the military decided to opt for lightweight vehicles that were cheaper but more robust. Thus, the military sent the word out to the various car manufacturing companies, and before long, three companies responded with their bids.

The three companies were Auto Union, the manufacturers of DKW, Porsche, and Goliath. Volkswagen did not submit any bid despite its status as the biggest car production company, with many speculating that it was busy satisfying the demand for the Beetle. The Porsche military vehicles were rejected in favor of DKW because they were expensive to produce and maintain.

The designer of Porsche Type 597, Ferdinand Porsche, worked on the Schwimmwagen and the Kubëlwagen during the Second World War. Thus, he used that experience to develop the Porsche 597, especially incorporating the 4-wheel drive feature of the Schwimmwagen.

Many years later, Porsche 597 influenced the design of the Porsche Cayenne and Macan, which became the company’s biggest-selling cars. Though the Porsche 597 didn’t make the cut, it influenced a generation of cars whose sales have sustained the Porsche company until now.

– Features of the Porsche Military Vehicles

The military vehicle featured a monocoque chassis made of stamped steel inspired by that of the Schwimmwagen. The hull of the body was watertight and some earlier versions of Type 597 had oars and propellers for when the vehicle waded into water. The engine was an air-cooled flat-four that was mounted at the back in the fashion of the Porsche 356. The prototypes used a 1.5L engine, but later ones were fitted with a 1.6L engine.

Features of the Porsche Military Vehicles

The engines could provide a power of up to 50 bhp, enabling the car to reach speeds of up to 100 km/h (62 mph) and a torque of 77 pounds-feet. With this engine power and speed, the Porsche 597 could climb slopes of up to 65 percent gradient. It featured a five-speed gearbox and its weight was between 1,918 and 2,183 pounds depending on the model.

The car had a folding soft top that was different from the open top of the military vehicles used during the war and it featured no doors except high sills, but later models were fitted with steel doors. There were drum brakes on all four wheels and an option for a four-wheel drive. The torsion spring suspension with the shock absorbers was located at the front and back of the vehicle.

The car was nicknamed Jagdwagen, meaning the hunting car, because the cars were advertised to hunters after Porsche failed to get the contract from the German military. It is believed that about 51 of the Porsche 597 are still around but are in the possession of car collectors.

– The Porsche 597 Jadgwagen

The Porsche military vehicle was first manufactured as a prototype for the German army after the events of World War II. The vehicle was robust, efficient, and extremely reliable even on rough terrains. However, the car remained a prototype as the German military preferred the DKW 4×4 Munga, which was lightweight and less costly to produce and maintain. The army had just lost the war and didn’t want to spend heavily on producing military vehicles.

The DKW Munga was a lighter weight all-purpose all-terrain vehicle with 10 gears that could reach speeds of up 98 km/h. The word “Munga” was an abbreviation for Mehrzweck Universal Geländewagen mit Allradantrieb, which in English means Multi-purpose Universal Off-road Car with All-Wheel-Drive.

Thus, only about 71 Porsche 597s were produced; the German military only took delivery of 22 vehicles while the rest of the 49 was designed for civilian use. Recently, the Porsche 597 price rose to around $300,000 due to its rarity and vintage design. An auction site recently put up the Porsche 597 Jagdwagen for sale at $450,000.

– Other Important Facts About the Porsche Military Vehicles

The car was launched at the 1955 Geneva Motorshow to great reviews, but its maintenance costs meant that few people patronized it. It was tested and the suspension was found to be faulty, but that was not all.

Other Important Facts About the Porsche Military Vehicles

Its small interior space and compact space were criticized as well as its compact storage space and low pulling power. However, the car was praised for its simple design, efficiency and durability.

– Comparing the Porsche Military Vehicles to Its Competitors

The Porsche 597 was superior to the DKW Munga and the Goliath in many respects. For instance, Type 597 had a better engine with 50 horsepower than the DKW Munga, which had three-stroke and two-stroke engines that produced 38 horsepower and 44 horsepower, respectively.

On the other hand, the Goliath featured a two-stroke 886 cc engine with 38 horsepower. To match Porsche 597, Goliath launched its 1,100 cc four-cylinder four-stroke engine with 50 horsepower in 1958.

Porsche could climb a slope of up to 65 percent gradient compared to the DKW and Goliath. Also, Porsche had a top speed of 100 kilometers per hour, which was better than DKW’s 98 kilometers per hour and Goliath’s 60 kilometers per hour. Porsche also beat its competition in the torque department with its 77 pounds-feet torque better than the Goliath’s 55 pounds-feet torque and the 52.4 pounds-feet torque of the DKW Munga. Interestingly, Porsche consumed less fuel than its competition and had better traction on slippery roads.

The only factor that aided the DKW Munga was its simpler mechanical construction, which meant quick and cheaper production and maintenance costs. Take out the excessive mechanical design and the Porsche 597 was a class above its competitors. 

– Why the Porsche Military Vehicles Were Not Mass-Produced

As earlier suggested, the main reason the Type 597 wasn’t mass-produced was because of its excessive production and maintenance cost. However, there appear to be other reasons why the German military rejected the Porsche for the DKW Munga. According to experts, the vehicle had the name “Ferdinand Technical Studio Porsche” stamped on the vehicle instead of the parent company (Porsche). Thus, it was thought that the parent company could not produce the vehicle on a large scale. 

Why the Porsche Military Vehicles Were Not Mass Produced

Therefore, Porsche was planning to sell the design to Volkswagen, the biggest car manufacturing company, once it had the contract. However, Volkswagen wasn’t in the position to mass produce the Type 597 because it had channeled most of its resources to producing the Volkswagen Beetle. This is why the German military contracted DKW Munga, the second-best option, since it had the resources to manufacture 55,000 vehicles in three years.

Other car companies that produced vehicles for the military but didn’t go into mass production include the Audi military vehicles and the FMC corporation military vehicles

Frequently Asked Question

1. Did Porsche Ever Produce Military Tanks?

Yes, Porsche did produce military tanks. They manufactured the VK 45.01 (P), referred to as the Porsche Tiger, for the German military but just like the Type 597, it wasn’t mass-produced. The Porsche tanks lost the competition to Henschel & Son, which produced the Tiger I.

Did Porsche Ever Produce Military Tanks

What is the History of Porsche Military Vehicles?

The sleek luxury coupe overview of Porsche military vehicles reveals a fascinating history. Porsche produced a range of military vehicles during World War II, including the amphibious Kübelwagen and the iconic Tiger tank. After the war, Porsche shifted its focus to sports cars, leaving its military vehicle legacy behind. However, the engineering expertise gained from this period continues to influence their high-performance automobiles.

Conclusion

The first military vehicle produced by Porsche was the Porsche 597, also known as Type 597, in 1955 for the German army. This article sought to uncover the story of the first military vehicle produced by Porsche — a company known for producing fast cars and luxury vehicles.

Here is a recap of all that we’ve read so far:

  • The Germans had just lost the Second World War and were looking for lightweight military vehicles that’ll replace the ones they had broken down.
  • The military, therefore, invited bids from different car manufacturing companies of which only three responded: Porsche, DKW, and Goliath.
  • The three companies produced prototypes that were tried with the DKW Munga winning the bid over Porsche and Goliath.
  • Though the Porsche 597 was the obvious best of the lot, the military chose the DKW due to its simpler mechanical design and cheaper production cost.
  • About 55,000 DKW Mungas were ordered to be produced while the parent company of Porsche 597 only produced 71 of its kind.

Porsche then marketed the Type 597 to civilian customers as the Jadgwagen, which means the hunter.

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