Mention Porsche to any of your friends, and their minds will immediately travel to land-going vehicles, most likely high end sports cars. But there have been a lot of other products. Ever the venturesome company, Porsche early on produced a number of industrial and aircraft versions of their flat four engines and, in 1959, successfully powered a small two-seat airplane with an engine that had been converted to dry sump oiling and dual ignition. There was even an engine designed to run vertically that was used by an American company to power an experimental one man military helicopter; not knowing this, I was amazed to find one of these in the air museum attached to the Pensacola Naval base some years ago. And then there were the sixes.
You may have never seen one of the famous flat-six Porsche engines in this particular configuration, even if you follow the brand closely (as you obviously do since you are here at FLATSIXES.com). Produced for a few years in the 1980s, these were Porsche’s answer to providing smoother, quieter, and more elegant power to the owner of small private aircraft. Carried forward by enthusiastic private pilot and then-head of Porsche AG Peter Schutz, the PFM3200 was a Carrera engine modified to meet the arduous standards for aircraft engines. Dry sumped and with K-Jetronic injection, changes included gear driven overhead cams, dual ignition, and an offset belt driven cooling fan. Power was sent to the propeller through a gear box equipped to dampen vibration from the prop. Later versions saw turbocharging, as in the example shown above on the demonstration stand.
This photograph was made at the 1987 Porsche Parade, held close to the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, and several of us were given brief rides in the Carrera-engine Cessna, maroon and white with the extended Porsche script prominent on its nose. In a long interview with Panorama editor Betty Jo Turner, Schutz pointed out that the development process had involved running Carrera engines more than 600 hours at full load for the first time, and strongly implied related improvements to the automotive counterparts of the new airplane engine. Also installed in some Mooney aircraft (note the photograph on the wall behind the engine), the Porsche Flugmotor, for all its elegant engineering, didn’t have the commercial popularity that Schutz had hoped for, and was withdrawn by Porsche not long after he left the company at the end of 1987, thus becoming another postscript in their long and varied history.