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Meet the Austro-Daimler ADS-R, the Oldest Driveable Porsche Collection Car

Back in the 1920s, Ferdinand Porsche wanted to prove that small, affordable cars could survive in the land of large sedans and big displacements, on the racetrack and road both. And so, he came up with the Austro-Daimler ADS-R, which is now adoringly called "Sascha."
1920 Austro-Daimler ADS-R 13 photos
Photo: Porsche
1920 Austro-Daimler ADS-R1920 Austro-Daimler ADS-R1920 Austro-Daimler ADS-R1920 Austro-Daimler ADS-R1920 Austro-Daimler ADS-R1920 Austro-Daimler ADS-R1920 Austro-Daimler ADS-R1920 Austro-Daimler ADS-R1920 Austro-Daimler ADS-R1920 Austro-Daimler ADS-R1920 Austro-Daimler ADS-R1920 Austro-Daimler ADS-R
Meet Sascha, the Targa Florio class champion. Today, Sascha is going home, enjoying all the attention out in the street. People reach for their smartphones to snap some shots of this historical automobile, they turn heads when they hear the engine growl with the sound some of them heard in their youth, some only heard on YouTube. The sound of a good ol’ car. The sound of a water-cooled 1.1-liter four-cylinder engine of the Austro-Daimler ADS-R.

Ferdinand Porsche designed the car that was going to make a living on the race track. That was more than one hundred years ago. He was then 45 and a Managing Director of automobile manufacturer Austro-Daimler in Wiener Neustadt, 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Vienna, Austria.

He was dreaming of building a small, lightweight, affordable car. He teamed up with Josef Graf Kolowrat-Krakowsky, who went by the name of Sasha. He was the co-owner of Austro-Daimler. He was also a movie producer. And a motor racing enthusiast. He had all the qualities to help him turn this project into reality.

But the Austro-Daimler Executive Board was skeptical about it. To win them over, Ferdinand Porsche also came up with a race car. Kolowrat financed the project, so the car was named Sascha. It was a 598-kilogram (1,318-pound) vehicle, pulled by a 1.1-liter engine with 49 horsepower (50 PS). The car was to make its racing debut at the Targa Florio road race in Sicily.

1920 Austro\-Daimler ADS\-R
Photo: Porsche
The four prototypes built were finished on the night before the race. The paint was applied on the aluminum bodies on the train journey to the starting grid. Otherwise, he was afraid they would get too much attention and might get stolen in Italy. For extra character, Kolowrat decided to apply car symbols on the bodies.

One of the three vehicles that raced in the 1.1-liter class dropped out due to engine failure. It was the one driven by Kolowrat himself. The other two secured a 1-2 victory in the class.

The fourth prototype, powered by a 1.5-liter engine, raced in an upper class and finished 19th. The Italian media then called the ADS-R "the revelation of the Targa Florio." Sascha kept racing and won 22 out of 52 racing events.

The restoration of the ADS-R was a mammoth project, carried out with the help of Wiessach Development Center. They had to call on retired employees to help out with the car that is over one hundred years old.

1920 Austro\-Daimler ADS\-R
Photo: Porsche
The ADS-R has been residing for decades in the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart. The one letting her stretch her legs now is Jan Heidak, vehicle service attendant. The youngest employee at the museum workshop is now driving the oldest driveable car in the collection.

He worked on the classic car for months, alongside his boss, Kuno Werner. But they got it running again. And now, they are taking it to its birthplace, Wiener Neustadt, in Austria.

Cruising along the streets of the old town, Sascha really feels at home. The engine purrs, the wheels spin like in the good ol’ days. And young Heidak is the only one who drives it more than one hundred years after it first saw the light of day. “You can feel every vibration. Hear how the engine’s performing.

There’s no power steering, so you need a lot of strength and sensitivity,” he explains. He wears goggles not for getting a hipster look, but for protecting himself from the dust that the front wheels throw off the road.

There is no seat belt and there are no lights. But there is an emergency seat for a mechanic, just in case. The driver has to focus. Driving this car is unlike anything he has ever experienced. The clutch is on the left, the brake is on the right, and the gas pedal is in the middle.

1920 Austro\-Daimler ADS\-R
Photo: Porsche
It is one old, moody automobile. One afternoon, it simply refused to start. Whatever the team did, it just did not work. But Werner and Heidak must have had some aces up their sleeves.

After a brief conversation and 15 minutes of work, the familiar sound of the race car fills the air again. “We were expecting that,” they say. They came prepared. This time, it was just a spark plug that needed to be replaced.

There are more than 700 historical cars at the Porsche Museum. But the ADS-R is the oldest of them. And bringing it home to its birthplace is a story to tell grandchildren. After this stint, a trip down memory lane, the race car is going back to Stuttgart for decades of display. It remains to be seen how many.
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