The Porsche 4-Cam Motor and the early years of Porsche Motorsport

It is hard to find a word that’s more connected to Porsche than CARRERA, the Spanish word for “Race” and nowadays used by Porsche to denote the extra sportive types of their model range.

Back in 1952 engineer Ernst Furhmann was tasked by Ferry Porsche to design and construct a ‘high-performance racing motor’ based on the 4 cylinder Volkswagen Boxer engine. The new engine should have 100HP per litre displacement. Extraordinary back in the time, but what made it even more extraordinary is that the new engine should be available for the 1953 racing season. Furhmann and his team only had about 6 months, to design, construct and test the engine. Impossible one would think? Not for Ernst Furhmann and his team as the first engine revved up April 2 1953 at the test stand in Zuffenhausen, the first weekend of August 1953 Hans Herrmann drove a Porsche 550 Spyder, powered by the new 4-cam engine for some test laps at the Nurburgring. One week later, Hans Stuck drove another Porsche 550 Spyder powered with the brand-new design engine in an official race : the Freiburg Schauinsland Hill Climb.

The Porsche 4-Cam Motor and the early years of Porsche Motorsport
“Carrera” by Steve Heinrichs & Rolf Sprenger

In the following years, the engines were not only used in race cars, but some of the Porsche streetcars received a 4-cam power plant too. The Fuhrmann engine or Carrera Engine was born, and would be part of Porsche History for many years. More, it would write it’s own chapter in Porsche history as power plant of the race cars Porsche 550 Spyder, 718 RSK, RS60 and RS61 ,the Porsche 904Carrera GTS or the less known Porsche 356 Carrera Abarth GTL or the Elva Porsches.

The both authors, well-known Porsche experts and historians studied the history of the engine in its broadest meaning. It took them over 7 years to study the thousands and thousands of pages, pictures, drawings both at the Porsche archives, or the personal archives of the folks that were involved in the history of the car, like Herbert Linge. Dozens of Porsche specialists helped the authors to compile the book, to check data in the book or provided them with pictures.

In 10 chapters, the authors bring you the complete story of this iconic engine. From the early years of Porsche Motorsport up to the development process of the 4-cam engine and further on to the races. For technicians, this book is a true candy box, as each of the components of the engine is described in detail, often with large images of the original blueprints. Restorers will like the book because of the detailed list of the cars, listed by chassis number, that left the factory equipped with a Furhmann Engine. For historians, this book is a treasure cove for the reasons described above and they have a surplus with the list of the over 7000 race results achieved by cars with a 4-cam engine. These lists are so detailed they name the chassis number of most of the cars. In just a few weeks this book allowed me to identify the cars, races, and pilots of at least 10 pictures in my collection. Finally, people like myself have a reliable source at hand to do research. Just love it.

This book isn’t a book like many others. Many books are stored on a bookshelf once they’re read, and they only collect dust. Not this one, this is a book you can read. But afterward, you’ll grab it to look something up on a particular car, or to find out more about what races a car drove. Next to the historical value of the book, you could consider it a tribute to Ernst Fuhrmann, the extraordinary man who was the brain after the extraordinary engine: the Furhmann engine.

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Porsche Carrera Book Cover Porsche Carrera
Steve Heinrichs, Rolf Sprenger,
Delius Klasing
January 17, 2015