At the beginning of this year, a former Porsche colleague Hans Clausecker asked me if he could bring a group of retired Porsche workers to visit the new MANN+HUMMEL filter museum. I was more than happy to accept his request and also offered him a tour of our new testing centre. A few weeks before the visit, I phoned Hans Mezger, who hired me as a Porsche engine tester back in 1979 and who I’m still in touch with. I explained the upcoming visit by the retired Porsche employees and Mr Mezger was really interested to come along too. He was reminded of his contact with MANN+HUMMEL in the 60s and told me the following story about that time.
Mr Mezger had the task of designing the 6-cylinder Porsche engine which was installed in the Porsche 911, originally launched at IAA 1963 as the 901. Series production of the 901 was scheduled to start in September 1964. Just five months prior to that, in April 1964, it became clear that the new engine needed a modern air filter and Mr Mezger came up with the idea of contacting his former school friend Eckhard Muehleisen who was now working in Technical Sales at MANN+HUMMEL. He quickly tracked him down and Mr Mezger visited factory 1 with the young Ferdinand Piëch who was head of testing at Porsche at the time.
Together they looked at the MANN air filters that were already on the market. They quickly discovered a filter that was ideal – a sheet metal round filter that was being used for the new Mercedes 230SL. This filter fitted perfectly in a central position above the engine block, between the two triple carburettors. ‘All’ that MANN+HUMMEL Prototype Construction now had to do was to connect the filter to the two carburettors using a suitable air duct, which they achieved with the utmost professionalism right in time for the start of the series. Porsche was impressed that MANN+HUMMEL could leap into action here as the sole supplier. Mr Mezger’s recollections led me to wonder whether there might be one of these old Porsche 911 air filters in the museum. I’m sure I would have noticed it as I have perused the museum’s inventory on various occasions. Mr Hack, Mr Muehleisen’s former colleague who had kindly agreed to act as a tour guide at the museum, couldn’t remember ever seeing such an article either.
A few days before the planned visit of the Porsche employees, I happened to visit the Porsche Museum in Zuffenhausen. And what did I see but a Porsche 901 with the chassis number 57, which was found lurking in a garage two years ago and had now been fully restored – surely this would have the original MAN air filter! I was fortunate enough to borrow this valuable museum piece for my meeting with Mr Mezger and Mr Hack, the pioneering designers involved.
The day finally came and on 27 April 2017 the former Porsche employees met promptly at 3 pm. After I had given a brief introduction to our new building, Mr Mezger took over and acted like an experienced tour guide for their visit of the museum. Mr Mezger again recounted his memories of 1964 and showed the visitors how he came up with the idea of placing the Mercedes air filter above the 901 engine block. “It fits!” was his comment at the time. Mr Hack, who could also well remember the project, contributed a few further details. According to him, the complexity of the sheet metal construction meant that MANN+HUMMEL was not initially able to manufacture the filter housing in series production. This meant that, to begin with, several hundred air filters had to be produced using sample manufacturing.
The rest of the museum tour received just as enthusiastic a response from the visitors as Mr Mezger’s stories. Many were surprised by the broad range of products offered by MANN+HUMMEL and most were unaware that our portfolio also includes highly functional active intake manifolds and plastic oil filter modules.
The subsequent tour of the test bench area gave me the opportunity to show the visitors the most important aspects of the new technology centre, which they also found very interesting. Nearly all the visitors said the same thing after spending nearly three hours visiting the museum and the technology centre: “We never realised how much work goes into developing MANN+HUMMEL filters!”