Last year we reviewed the Porsche 911 flat-six boxer engine scale model by Franzis, but this year, we have the grandfather of all Porsche racing engines…the Porsche Carrera race engine model. The Type 547 4-cam, 4-cylinder engine was the engine that set Porsche on the road to motor sport fame around the world, when the model 550 race car, the first car to be fitted with this engine, set about embarrassing some of the world’s biggest names in the sport.
To understand the significance and importance of this engine, we need to take a step back to examine the reason why this engine was developed, and when it first appeared. The brief was given to Dr. Ernst Fuhrmann, a brilliant engineer who at the time was only thirty-three years of age, to build a higher performing, air-cooled 1.5-litre boxer engine capable of producing 100 bhp from the outset. The new engine was to follow the general format of the existing 1500cc pushrod motor, and should not exceed the physical dimensions of this unit. The engine should also allow much greater development potential in the future, in fact right up to 2.0-litres. Fuhrmann decided early on that the motor would have two camshafts per bank which were shaft driven, rather than chain or belt driven.
The complex, light alloy 1498 cc engine had dual ignition, four camshafts and produced 110 bhp at 7800 rpm (the earlier 1488 cc SOHC engine developed 79 bhp). It had twin ignition which meant two plugs per cylinder, two camshaft driven distributors and two coils. The motor was fitted with a Hirth four roller-bearing crankshaft and was dry sumped with a large oil pump and a separate oil tank. The motor was so complex that Porsche mechanics had to be specially trained before working on it, as an engine rebuild could take up to a week. The simple task of replacing the spark plugs, for instance, required the use of a special double-articulated plug wrench.
Initially this motor would only be for competition purposes, which meant that it was destined for the 550 race car. Although the engine drawings were finished by late 1952, the first unit was only ready for dynamometer testing by Easter the following year.
But where did the name ‘Carrera’ come from? At the beginning of 1950, it was decided to celebrate the completion of the Mexican section of the Trans-American highway that ran from Alaska to the tip of South America. In an effort to draw attention to the Mexican section of this development, it was decided to hold a motorsport event to celebrate the completion of this project. The Spanish word ‘carrera’ means competition or race, and so the name given to this great Mexican event was simply, ‘La Carrera Panamericana’, which in English translated to, ‘The Pan American Road Race’. The event was first held on 5th May 1950, although later the events were held in November, and was officially classified as a rally, although in reality it took the form of a no-holds-barred race across some of the harshest and most dangerous terrain in motor sport at that time. The Carrera Panamericana was only run for five years (1950-54) because of the high risk attached to the event, for both drivers and spectators.
In 1953, four 550 race cars were despatched by the factory to compete in the Carrera Panamericana. That year the two older 1488 cc Type 528 engined cars fared disappointingly, while the two 1498 cc 4-cam Type 547 engined cars bowed out with engine problems. The twin-cam engine was still considered to be under development, and so this outcome was not surprising. However, the following year which was the final year that the event was held, it was an altogether different matter, as Hans Herrmann brought the Porsche 550 chassis #004 home in third place overall, behind two works Ferraris. It was this remarkable achievement by Herrmann in the 550 Spyder, powered by the high-performance 4-cam Carrera engine, that launched Porsche’s motor sport record into the big time, and this for a company that had produced its first sports car just six years earlier!
The history of Porsche’s name ‘Carrera’ is a very interesting one, as it had its origins in this gruelling race – more of this engine’s background can be found here.
It is with this backdrop that the renowned scale model manufacturer, Franzis, has produced this model of the Type 547 Carrera engine, a task that takes in the order of two-and-a-half years from beginning to end! The 300-part kit was developed by renowned scale model specialist John Anson, and consists of a detailed, fully transparent working model featuring moving crankshaft, pistons, valves and even produces the original engine sound. The components are easy to stick and screw together – without any adhesive. Here is a video of the completed, working engine.
The manufacturers estimate that the assembly process should take about three to four hours to complete, but each individual’s build time will vary. The dimensions of the completed model measures: 27.5 x 28.5 x 28 cm.
Access to the full article is limited to paid subscribers only. Our membership removes annoying ads, lets enjoy unlimited access to all our premium Porsche content and offers you awesome discounts on Porsche related products.