I wasn’t expecting a dose of manual labour when I arrived at the Porsche Museum last month to interview Hans Mezger. And to deviate slightly, Mezger, if you haven’t read the feature in this month’s issue of CAR, is the man who designed the first 911’s flat-six engine. And the Le Mans-winning 917 racer (both its engine and the car itself). And the 1120bhp 5.4-litre twin-turbo engine that powered the Porsche 917-30 Can-Am racer in the early 1970s. And the TAG-badged 1.5-litre V6 that brought McLaren five F1 titles between 1984 and 1986. And… And…
In essence, Mezger’s an utter legend, so revered within Porsche that it’s his surname that’s the nickname for the Motorsport-derived engines that have powered recent GT3s and GT2s.
Manual labour at the Porsche Museum
Back to the museum, and once my time with Mezger was over (I was promised an hour, but he chose to stay for over three as we hadn’t even started talking about the ‘70s after the first 60 minutes) photographer Mark Bramley and I were invited back the next morning to partake in a little housekeeping.
The glass-fronted workshop that greets visitors in the foyer of the museum isn’t just for show, rather it’s constantly undertaking restoration projects and preparing cars before they're sent off across the world to various shows.
When we were there everything from a Porsche RS Spyder LMP2 racer to a one of only two 928 estates was present, plus the 917 that’s on CAR's March 2012 cover awaiting a puncture repair, and a silver version of each generation of 911 waiting to join the new 991 on some far flung motor show stand.
More historic Porsches than you can shake a memory stick at
Besides that little lot, Porsche was busy shipping off a whole host of historic race cars – which is where we came in. Before the good public turned up to wander the museum, we were pushing 961s, 935s, GT1-98s, 917s and RSRs around, delicately fitting one at a time into the lift that runs from rooftop to basement, then wheeling them all outside ready to be sent around the world.
I felt privileged to be pushing such royalty around with my bare hands.
All that was missing was the noise. There was the odd squeak of tyres, the whirring of the lift, but no burbling or barking engines. But as Porsche and its museum workshop keeps everything running, all these cars would soon be tearing around racetracks somewhere.
And as my interviewee designed, built or influenced three-quarters of the race cars in the museum – plus numerous road cars – all of them would very much be making Mezger’s music.
Click here to win a copy of Hans Mezger's autobiography