Who Was The Greatest Engine Designer In Automotive History?

The more you learn about race cars, the more you see the same names pop up when it comes to engines. For instance, just one man headed Porsche's race engine development from the late 1950s through the 1990s.

This man is Hans Mezger. Sometimes you hear Porsche afficionados talk about a 'Mezger engine' - this refers to the water-cooled flat six that started in the 1990s Porsche GT1 Le Mans prototypes and then was adapted into the 911 GT3 road cars, up until the current 991 generation. Truth is, that was pretty much the last engine that Mezger worked on for Porsche.

Mezger was the guy who developed the flat-four from the 356 into the flat six for the 911 back in 1963. That engine he worked from 1.4 to 3.6 liters, from 130 to 845 horsepower. Mezger was the guy who developed the flat 12 for the world-beating 917. The reason there's a fan in the middle of the 917's engine is because the power uptake out of the motor comes from the middle of the 12 - it's basically two of Mezger's flat sixes together as one.

Who Was The Greatest Engine Designer In Automotive History?

The 935 and 956/962 engines were his. They didn't call him "Motoren-Papst" (they really did) for nothing.

Mezger was in charge of the TAG V6, which dominated Formula One in the late '80s in the middle of McLarens. One of Mezger's rare failures was when he mushed those two V6s together into an F1 V12. Pictured below, it again drew power out of the middle. The motor wasn't good, but it goes to show that the guy was in charge of three F1 engine programs (he also designed the 1.5L flat 8 in their early '60s effort), more Le Mans engine programs than I can count, and the foundation engine for the modern Porsche line as a whole.

Who Was The Greatest Engine Designer In Automotive History?

But he may not be the greatest engine designer of all car history. I can think of one Hungarian-Italian who I have more respect for. Who do you think was the best?

Photo Credit: Porsche