With the wealth of knowledge on internet forums these days one would think that given the number of times we hear the phrase ‘Mezger’ (often twinned with ‘bullet proof‘) we ought to have some vague knowledge of the history of this terminology used to describe the engine used in various GT and Turbo 911 derivatives. Of course we know the name, but who is Hans Mezger, and probably more importantly why is his name so synonymous with these Porsche engines?
Born in November 1929 in Besigheim, Swabia, and after narrowly missing being called up to fight in the dying days of Germany’s war effort Mezger went on to graduate from Stuttgart Technical University with an engineering degree. Upon graduating Mezger had a number of opportunities to work with various large automotive companies however the first stepping stone on his chosen employment path was for a then rather small company known as Porsche which was to be his employer for the next nearly 40 years. After a few years with Porsche he moved into the design department and worked on the 804 flat-8 Formula 1 engine. This led eventually to his most notable works on the 917, here Mezger led Porsche’s development of turbocharging with the 1100 hp 917/30.
Mezger’s involvement with the 917 in 1968 was to be a definitive moment in his career as 2 years later in 1970 Porsche won their first victory at Le Mans and various other endurance events that same year. Porsche were the team to beat, and indeed Ferrari desperate to compete and develop an engine worthy of doing so had sold half of their stock to Fiat to finance it.
So Mezger, having developed the flat-four from the 356 into the flat six for the 901 and 911 back in 1963 an engine he managed to develop from 1.4 to 3.6 liters then found himself back in Formula 1. Ron Dennis, a director of McLaren Racing International, approached Porsche to design a Grand Prix engine which would replace the DFV in his John Barnard designed cars. Two months later on October 12th design work for the new McLaren power plant was handed over to Hans Merger, now Porsche’s deputy head of engine research and development. Mezger was responsible for the TAG V6 engine which dominated Formula One in the late ’80s nestled in the middle of the McLaren F1 cars and went on to be responsible for 3 consecutive drivers championships.
So what of the ‘Mezger Engine’, where did it really begin. Many refer to the original being developed for the Porsche 911 GT1 car, but this wasn’t unveiled until 1996 and we know that Mezger retired from Porsche in 1994, so the roots surely are further back and looking at the GT1 power plant we know it was a creation of the alloy casings derived from the 930 turbo and the 962/4 partly water cooled motor that was then coupled with a full dry sump. So a more fitting description for Mezger’s touch in the later GT and Turbo cars must go back a long way and then taking in aspects of the early 901/911 engines and elements of the TAG F1 engines derived from the Porsche Group-C cars. Confusing isn’t it?
This year Mezger celebrates his 89th birthday and apparently still retains close relations with his former employer. Hans Mezger was responsible for many great creations and motorsport achievements during his career with Porsche. His name is synonymous with some of the greatest engines in Porsches history including the 911 GT/Turbo engines which have become colloquially known by his very name whether slightly misleading of their immediate heritage or otherwise.
For a more in-depth look into the life and career of Hans Mezger we would recommend reading the autobiographical title ‘Porsche and Me: Hans Mezger’ by Peter Morgan.
For now he earns a place in our Porsche Heroes Hall of Fame.