Granted, rallies and track days are pretty much out of the question, but you can still have a field day with a Porsche-Diesel—literally Dr. Ferdinand Porsche’s wide-ranging interests in all things mechanical—and practical—led him to include designs for farm tractors in his project portfolio beginning in the 1930s. As with all things from Dr. Porsche’s fertile creativity, the tractors owed little to convention and much to efficiency and imagination. The earliest Porsche tractor designs were modular, with 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-cylinder engines sharing common cylinders for manufacturing economy and ease of repair and maintenance. Their most intriguing characteristic, however, was their drive system. It was based upon a hydraulic coupling rather than a mechanical clutch, a feature that was—like the simple epicyclic two-speed transmission of Henry Ford’s Model T—designed to be simple to use and maintain by mechanically-unsophisticated farmers. The first Porsche air-cooled diesel tractor designs were completed late in the 1930s, but World War II interrupted manufacturing. Production was begun in 1950 by two licensees, Allgaier and Hofherr Schrantz. The tractors’ reliability and efficiency proved popular, and in 1956, Mannesmann AG set up a subsidiary company to consolidate production under one roof—the former Zeppelin factory near Friedrichshafen—under the name Porsche-Diesel-Motorenbau GmbH. Development continued, and in 1960, Porsche added hydraulic implement handling sourced from Bosch, a system that made the Porsche tractors competitive with others using the Ferguson system. Popular not only with collectors of agricultural equipment but also those who appreciate the performance and ingenuity of Porsche automobiles, Porsche tractors come in a variety of sizes and capabilities. Mike Amalfitano’s is an example of the most popular model, the Standard, with 2-cylinder 1,688-cc, 4-stroke diesel power. It is fitted with the hydraulic implement mount, lighting for use on the roads to and from the fields and a buddy bench seat atop the right rear tire fender. It has been restored to very presentable condition and operates well. It comes with its original German “Kraftfahrzeugbrief.” The Porsche System tractors’ popularity means tens of thousands were built over the years. Many are still in agricultural service, providing their owners with stable, reliable, productive assistance that bears continuing witness to the creativity and ingenuity of Dr. Ferdinand Porsche. Known by some as the “VolksSchlepper,” this Porsche Standard Diesel will be an interesting addition to any Porsche collector’s garage. It is capable of double duty both as a striking display and performing agricultural duties around the collection’s grounds—a versatility that other Porsche designs cannot boast. Sold on a Bill of Sale.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1963 Porsche Standard diesel Model 217 tractor
Years Produced:1956-65
Number Produced:125,000 (all models)
Original List Price:$3,600 (In 1956 dollars)
SCM Valuation:$10,000 to $20,000
Tune Up Cost:$300
Chassis Number Location:Serial number plate is riveted to the right side frame, just behind the motor.
Club Info:The PORSCHE-DIESEL Registry for North America, 475 Winfield Way, Akron, OH 44303-1914
Alternatives:Farmall A, C, or Cub; John Deere LA, M, or 30; Ford 9N or Jubilee; Allis-Chalmers B, C, or G or any Lamborghini tractors.

This tractor, Lot 220, sold for $23,400 at Bonhams’ Quail Lodge auction on August 12, 2010.

Ferdinand Porsche and Henry Ford have often been compared on the basis of working on a car for the masses (the Volkswagen Beetle and Model T respectively). However, they also shared another interest: a desire to mechanize the farm. After World War I, Dr. Porsche experimented with an Austro-Daimler artillery tug as a farm tractor. Dr. Porsche built his first three prototype Volkschleppers (People’s Tractors) in 1934, with development continuing into the late 1930s with Adolf Hitler’s blessing. Higher governmental priorities with the Volkswagen (People’s Car) and then World War II armaments put that concept on the back burner.

After World War II, all aspects of the West German economy needed to be rebuilt—including agriculture. What little the Third Reich had done to mechanize the farm was all for naught because of attrition from the war. Little of the German industrial base survived the war, and factories were initially limited to producing basic necessities. BMW’s first post-war products, for example, were aluminum pots and pans made from melted-down aircraft engine parts. By 1950, with a hungry nation to feed, agricultural equipment production was just starting to get going.

The late Professor Porsche’s son Ferry was carrying on his father’s other dream of his own car, and by the early 1950s, Porsche automobiles were starting to trickle into the market. His father also had an engineering proposal for an air-cooled diesel tractor with 4-wheel drive and a fluid coupling clutch that he had designed in 1946.

Car manufacturing was far from profitable at first. To help make ends meet, Ferry Porsche was interested in producing this tractor. However, Allied occupation regulations at the time stipulated that only companies which made tractors before the war could continue afterwards. Therefore, Ferry Porsche licensed the designs and engineering to Allgaier GmbH of West Germany and Hofherr Schrantz of Austria. To keep things simple, the two companies only used the Porsche engine and fluid coupling transmission design for their Allgaier-System Porsche and Hofherr Schrantz-System Porsche tractors.

During the mid 1950s, Mannesmann AG wanted to expand their line of equipment into the now-opened and somewhat lucrative farm tractor market. They bought out the license for the use of the Porsche design from Allgaier. The new division, Porsche-Diesel Motorenbau GmbH, started production in late 1956.

The tractors were offered in four basic models, based on the number of cylinders in the air-cooled diesel engine: Junior (14 horsepower, 1-cylinder); Standard (25 horsepower, 2-cylinder); Super (38 horsepower, 3-cylinder); and Master (50 horsepower, 4-cylinder). Refinements in 1959 led to increased output and expanded offerings of the four basic models.

The Porsche Diesel was relatively successful—not just in Germany, but also to some extent internationally. A sales division for North America was even set up in Easton, PA, with the heaviest sales in Canada and on the East Coast of the United States. They were also somewhat popular in South America—to the point of Mannesmann building a market-specific, orchard-type model for coffee plantations.

With a lucrative military contract for diesel tank engines and insufficient plant capacity to make them, the Porsche-Diesel tractor ended production in 1965, so the plant could retool for the military contract. By this time, Porsche was on sound financial footing, and also could put its engineering staff to better use in automotive pursuits. In a sense, the Porsche tractor continued for several decades, as Deutz continued to use a number of the Porsche engineering cues and remained in production.

Porsche diesel tractors have since become extremely popular among both tractor and Porsche automobile collectors. Generally, the Porschephiles pay higher prices than the tractor collectors, but the chasm is not very deep. However, the tractor guys tend to do the most authentic restorations—and then sell them to Porschephiles.

I’ve seen and heard of Porsche enthusiasts that have painted their tractor to match their car.

The supply has generally been less than demand, but as of the last few years, it has been easier to find one. Generally, the cheapest ones are around $5,000 for a running original worker bee, with restored examples generally fetching between $10,000 to $20,000.

The higher price for our example is more of a case of it being at the right place at the right time—the rarified atmosphere of Monterey car week. Closer to reality,  Mecum Auctions sold a 2 condition 1960 Porsche-Diesel Standard for $13,200 during their June 2010 auction in St. Paul, MN.

Only in the neighborhood of 1,000 Porsche tractors were exported to North America when new, and most of them were the smaller Junior and Standard models, which are the most commonly encountered models today. Juniors also are generally the most desirable, as they comply with the “Tractors that fit in a garage stall or smaller are worth the most” axiom of collecting.

Parts availability is not as bad as one would think, once you get in the loop of the few suppliers that stock parts. A visit to the Porsche-Diesel North American registry—incorporated into the Porsche Club of North America Register Group—is a good first stop for parts shoppers.

Granted, rallies and track days are pretty much out of the question, but you can still have a field day with a Porsche-Diesel—literally. Porsche car enthusiasts like to concours their tractors with their cars, while tractor guys will probably be the only ones to have a Porsche chugging into the local threshing or tractor show.

Regardless, this unique piece of Porsche history will continue to be worth adding to your collection—regardless of genre.

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