Hans Ledwinka

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Hans Ledwinka (born February 14, 1878 in Klosterneuburg , † March 2, 1967 in Munich ) was an Austrian automobile designer. Together with Siegfried Marcus and Ferdinand Porsche, he is one of Austria's major automobile pioneers.

Hans Ledwinka in 1942

Live and act

Hans Ledwinka studied at the "kk Bau- und Maschinengewerbeschule" in Vienna and from 1897 worked for the Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriks-Gesellschaft (renamed Tatra in 1923 ). As early as 1905 he was chief designer of the company in Nesselsdorf ( Kopřivnice ), where between 1911 and 1914, among other things, he brought the four-wheel brake to series production.

In 1917 he switched to the Oesterreichische Waffenfabriks-Gesellschaft (renamed Steyr-Werke in 1926 , merged with Austro-Daimler-Puchwerke to Steyr Daimler Puch in 1934 ) where he worked as chief designer for automobile production. In 1920 Ledwinka was granted the right to use the title of "engineer" because of his work at the Austrian Arms Factory , although he had only attended the lower Viennese " kk Staats-Gewerbeschule ".

In 1921 Ledwinka accepted an offer from the Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriks-Gesellschaft and was mainly responsible for development as technical director until 1945. During this time Ledwinka built a four-cylinder engine with eight overhead camshafts for a production car, in 1921 he designed the Tatra 11 with the then new type of central tube frame , pendulum axle and air-cooled two-cylinder boxer engine . In 1944 the Vienna University of Technology awarded him an honorary doctorate.

Adolf Hitler and Hans Ledwinka at the engine of the Tatra 77

Based on the Tatra 12, he designed the 57 , which, together with the Tatra V 570, was the model for the Tatra 77 luxury car , and later also the KdF car (VW Beetle). The later VW Beetles and Porsche 356s are similar to Ledwinka's designs.

Tatra 87 (developed by Hans Ledwinka)

The Tatra 77, which was over five meters long, still had a mixed construction (sheet metal panels nailed to a wooden frame), but at 1800 kg it was clearly too heavy and also too expensive. That is why Ledwinka (together with Erich Übelacker ) developed a new type from 1936, which went into production in 1937. The Tatra 87 had a self-supporting steel body developed with the help of tests in the wind tunnel, which was much cheaper. The newly designed V8 engine had a crankshaft with five bearings, the displacement was reduced to 2968 cm³, and, in contrast to its predecessor, it received two overhead camshafts. The engine was around 100 kg lighter than that of its predecessor, and the Tatra 87 weighed only 1390 kg; With its 55 kW / 75 PS it reached a top speed of 160 km / h with an average consumption of 12 liters of fuel and 0.25 liters of oil per 100 km. Such a speed, coupled with low fuel consumption, was considered revolutionary in those days. Two side fans driven by V-belts cooled the cylinders, and the thermal problems of the predecessor were also solved by moving the cooling air inlets to the side (which produced an unmistakable engine noise only typical of Tatra cars). By 1950, 3,023 Tatra 87s had been built.

After the liberation of Czechoslovakia in 1945, Ledwinka was expropriated due to the Beneš decrees , but decided not to flee. He was sentenced to six years imprisonment by the re-established rulers of the newly founded Czechoslovakia in September 1948 in a show trial by an “extraordinary” People's Court for collaboration with the Third Reich . He was accused of having supported the Nazi regime as the “director of the Tatra works and thereby provided Germany with war aid”. Even when he was already in prison, the Tatra works could not do without his expertise; during his imprisonment he helped to develop the Tatra 600 .

Shortly before the end of his term of imprisonment, Ledwinka was visited in prison by a senior official from the Ministry of Industry of the re-established Czechoslovakia, who offered Ledwinka the position of a special advisor with "special privileges" ( VIP status ) if he stayed in Czechoslovakia. Ledwinka refused. After serving his imprisonment, Ledwinka moved in 1954, first to his children in Austria and later to Munich .

From 1955, at the age of 77, he worked for the machine builder Harald Friedrich in his company Alzmetall on the small car " Spatz ".

In 1992 the Supreme Court of the ČSFR fully rehabilitated Ledwinka. However, he was long denied a special honor in the Czech Republic. Nesselsdorf only made him an honorary citizen in 2020.

Ledwinka married Mizzi Graffe-Fabig in New Titschein (Nový Jičín) in 1901 ; The sons Fritz and Erich (also an automobile designer) emerged from the marriage. His wife died in 1926. In 1953 he married Ludwiga Kopka, born in the same place. Neusser.




  • Hans Christoph Graf von Seherr-Thoß:  Ledwinka, Hans. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 14, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1985, ISBN 3-428-00195-8 , pp. 48-50 ( digitized version ).
  • Ferdinand Hediger, Hans-Heinrich von Fersen, Michael Sedgwick: Classic Cars 1919–1939. Taschen, Cologne 1994, ISBN 3-8228-8944-X .
  • Erich Ledwinka : Sudeten German pioneering achievements in automotive engineering. In: Richard W. Eichler (ed.): Sudeten German contributions to natural science and technology. Writings of the Sudeten German Academy of Sciences and Arts, Volume 2, Verlagshaus Sudetenland, Munich 1981, ISBN 3-922423-11-6 .
  • Ivan Margolius & John G Henry: Tatra - The Legacy of Hans Ledwinka. Veloce, Dorchester 2015, ISBN 978-1-845847-99-9 .
  • Hans Seper, Martin Pfundner, Hans Peter Lenz: Austrian automobile history. 2nd, extended edition, Eurotax , Pfäffikon SZ 1999, ISBN 3-905566-01-X .
  • Wolfgang Schmarbeck: Hans Ledwinka. His cars - his life. Weishaupt, Graz 1990, ISBN 3-900310-56-4 .
  • Wolfgang Schmarbeck: The history of the Tatra automobiles. Uhle and Kleimann, Lübbecke, NW 1990, ISBN 3-922657-83-4 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ https://www.mein Bezirk.at/steyr-steyr-land/c-folk/hans-ledwinka-ist-ehrenbuerger-von-nesselsdorf_a3601845 , accessed on July 13, 2020.
  2. Honorary doctorates ( Memento of the original from February 21, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , accessed on September 23, 2015. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.tuwien.ac.at