The very first Porsche

In my column last week I showed a picture of a 1948 Porsche 356 with the caption stating is was the first Porsche.

Most petrolheads will give you the same answer if you ask them, but we are all actually out by some 50 years.

Fedinand Porsche as a young man

Fedinand Porsche as a young man

Last week the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen marked its fifth anniversary with the unveiling of the rediscovered and unrestored very first Porsche, the P1 built in 1898.

A diagram of the P1

A diagram of the P1

But don’t blame the petrolheads for getting it wrong. Many regard the 356 as the first because it was the first model to bear the name Porsche. Previous cars built by Ferdinand Porsche did not carry his name.

On June 26, 1898, Ferdinand Porsche’s Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2 Phaeton model better known as the P1, rolled onto the streets of Vienna for the first time.

A year later Porsche scored his first racing victory when the P1 won the gold medal in a race against a field of other electric vehicles in Berlin.

With three passengers on board, Porsche steered his P1 across the finishing line 18 minutes ahead of the next competitor. More than half the participants failed to finish due to technical difficulties.

Porsche also came out on top in the efficiency test, as the P1 recorded the lowest energy consumption in urban traffic.

Built in 1898, the P1 was the very first Porsche

Built in 1898, the P1 was the very first Porsche

In 1902, as Porsche put his first all-wheel drive passenger car into production, the P-1 was parked in a warehouse. And there it gathered dust for the next 116 years.

But now it’s the centerpiece in the museum of a new, permanent exhibit detailing the early history of Porsche and its founder.

Porsche stamped P1, standing for ‘Porsche 1’, on all the major components. It’s important historically, not only because it was the first car to be built by the founder of the Porsche company, but also because it contains a number of remarkable technological features.

A quick look under its wooden frame reveals a novel octagon-shaped compact electric motor weighing only 286 pounds and capable of 3-horsepower output. However, the P1 ran off more than 1,100 pounds of lead-acid batteries, giving it an impressive range of 49 miles or three to six operational hours

The P1 had a 12-speed controller with six forward gears, two reverse gears and four braking gears. There was also a mechanical hand brake and an electrical short circuit brake activated by pressing on the steering wheel rim.

The company could have spent a fortune restoring the P1, but decided to keep it was it was. Little remains apart from the chassis and the heavy, wooden dashboard.

The tires, seats, body and floor are all gone, and what’s left looks more like a hay cart than a car, but the museum has fitted what remains with a translucent blue plastic body to give some idea of what the P1 looked like in its glory days.

Built in 1898, the P1 was the very first Porsche

Built in 1898, the P1 was the very first Porsche

The P1 was unveiled last week by Wolfgang Porsche, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Porsche to a gathering of invited guests and goes on public exhibition from Saturday.


Something to complain about?

I never cease to be amazed at how tolerant Filipinos are. While they’re usually quick to moan about corrupt politicians, the government or the ‘Gates of Hell’ traffic, most Filipinos seem reluctant to complain if they’ve had a bad meal or poor service in a shop or restaurant.

Maybe it’s because Filipinos are non-confrontational. They don’t want to embarrass someone in public. So if they get served a steak which is as tough as a doormat, many locals will just leave it and never come back to that restaurant.

A bad meal? Call the manager

A bad meal? Call the manager

We picky foreigners are less tolerant. But there are ways to complain here that usually get results without having to be confrontational.

What do you if you have a bad meal in a restaurant? Most of us will complain to the wait staff, but, as we all know, better to ask for the manager. No need to raise your voice or be confrontational. If you are in a decent restaurant, the manager will know what do.

But if the manager does not resolve the issue and you feel strongly about your complaint, you can always write to the owner. These days a letter is more likely to be noticed than a phone call or email.

Of course this doesn’t always work.

Several months ago I took my family to Shakey’s in Bonifacio Global City. I had my usual order of cheese and anchovies. I counted just five specs of anchovy, valued at perhaps two pesos, but my bill for the ‘extra anchovies’ was Php42. Wow, that’s quite a profit.

The waitress was not terribly interested, so I decided to put pen to paper and write a light-hearted letter to Shakey’s CEO. I’m still awaiting a response. Some hope.

On the other hand, I had an issue with the French Baker in Makati because the multi-grain bread I was buying had gaping holes when sliced. I dropped the boss a line. Almost by return a hand-written letter arrived saying the fault would be rectified. And it was.

When I feel I have a genuine complaint, I like to have it sorted.

At one of Manila’s airports recently, I felt I was ripped-off when offered a taxi which turned out to be an expensive ‘luxury’ van. I accepted the ride as it was hot and my young son was not well, but I did feel I’d be conned so I complained to the hire car company. No response.

No need to raise your voice

No need to raise your voice

Next was a letter to the airport’s management. Almost instant results. Shortly thereafter an apologetic letter from the car-hire company and a promise this would not happen again.

And I’ve just started what I hope will be a constructive dialogue with a computer maker. I had the misfortune to buy three of their laptops. Two have conked out and the third is on the blink. So far no response from the company’s local president.

Large companies may seem powerful and faceless, but that doesn’t mean we have to settle for what we’re given. We all have a voice, and if we’re not happy, we can use it to complain to get what we want.

But if your complaint falls on deaf ears, you can always try something more creative. United Airlines told Canadian singer Dave Carroll, whose expensive guitar was broken by baggage handlers, to bog-off. So he wrote a protest song and posted it on You Tube.

United passenger Dave Carroll fighting back

United passenger Dave Carroll fighting back

So far, the song – “United Breaks Guitars” – has had 14 million hits and has been a public relations nightmare for United.