Professor Helmuth Bott – the father of all-wheel drive in the Porsche 911

Helmuth Bott tests the Porsche 959 in Weissach in September 1984.

Helmuth Bott is one of the most important technology pioneers ever to have worked for Porsche. He arrived at Porsche aged 26 after an apprenticeship with Daimler-Benz, a degree in engineering at the University of Stuttgart and several internships at Daimler and Bosch. 

The Porsche 356 from the Stuttgart works was only just celebrating its 2nd birthday when Helmuth Bott joined the firm in 1952. Just a few years after the end of the Second World War the Porsche factory was still in the middle of construction work. Teacher and trained locksmith Helmuth Bott began his career at Porsche as an operating assistant. His job was to train apprentices, build transmission test stands and write repair manuals.

Professor Helmuth Bott in 1970
Professor Helmuth Bott in 1970

The history of Helmuth Bott

As early as 1955 Helmuth Bott took on the mantle of testing engineer in the steadily growing company. In the early 1960s Helmuth Bott guided Porsche to a breakthrough in motor racing. The legendary Porsche 911 sports car was developed on his watch in the experimental department.

In 1978 the charismatic technician moved up the ranks to occupy the position of Research and Development Manager of Porsche AG. At the start of the 1980s it became clear that the planned phase-out of the Porsche 911 would have to be abandoned, as, contrary to expectations, the Porsche 928 was not proving to be a sales hit. Helmuth Bott’s was an early voice in the argument for product innovations to revive the sales of the ‘Eleven once more.

Helmuth Bott forced the pace of the introduction of all-wheel-drive technology in series production of the Porsche 911. 

Press articles released in April 1983 told the public that Porsche had pulled out all the stops to get four-wheel drive into the ‘Eleven.

Bott had started daily personal trials of a red 911 SC with engageable four-wheel drive as a service vehicle in late 1981.

The first four-wheel-drive Porsche 911 Carrera 4 and the 959 super-car were built under his supervision as chief development officer.

Professor Bott during winter tests in Canada 1979
Professor Bott during winter tests in Canada 1979

Farewell of Helmuth Bott

Helmuth Bott ended his active work phase as a development executive at Porsche on 30.09.1988, two years before his planned retirement.

In early October 1988, the Porsche board invited an illustrious audience to the casino in Weissach to a ceremony to bid farewell to Helmuth Bott. Former employees, personalities from science, research and motor sports, journalists and the entire management and supervisory boards, including Ferry Porsche and Louise Piëch, gathered to give Bott and his wife a rousing send-off.  

Helmuth Bott continued to serve the company in a consultancy capacity even after his official departure. Helmuth Bott and his wife attended the 80th birthday party for Ferry Porsche, which was held in September 1989 at Schloss Prielau in Zell am See.

Hans Mezger, Helmuth Bott and Julius Weber in Zandvoort in 1983.
Hans Mezger, Helmuth Bott and Julius Weber in Zandvoort in 1983.

Interview with Helmuth Bott

In our new book about the Porsche 964, you can read in one of the last interviews with Helmuth Bott how all-wheel drive found its way into series production of the nine-eleven.

Porsche 964 – THE BOOK 1989–1994“

On November 30, 2021, Berlin Motor Books will publish „PORSCHE 964 THE BOOK 1989–1994" in a limited edition of 1994 copies.

Special features in this book

  • Detailed purchasing advice and price trends
  • Extensive information about special models and prototypes
  • Unpublished documents and photographs from the historic Porsche archives
Learn more about the book