The Legend: Hans Mezger (1929-2020)
Porsche is synonymous with few things: success in motorsport, exceptional community, and enthralling cars. The rear-engined 911 is largely responsible for that last bit and we owe a huge portion of that credit to Hans Mezger.
Image Source: Top Gear - Hans Mezger pictured with Porsche 917
It's a rare thing that an engineer is so highly propped up by a manufacturer, but Mezger's influence on Porsche as a company cannot be ignored. To be fair, he'd been involved with Porsche at some level since 1957, flexing his new engineering degree on the Carrera's four-cylinder power plant. After cutting his teeth on several other projects, Porsche's own Ferdinand Piëch appointed Mezger as the new head of their coveted motorsport R&D division, and with it, soon came the development of the renowned 917.
The historical significance of that car in particular goes without saying and still is, by far, one of the most iconic cars to grace motorsport circuits worldwide. Mezger's influence and ongoing development of the boxer engine for both street and motorsport use has become critical to the 911's evolution. You can even argue that Mr. Mezger's work with the boxer engine architecture has made it possible for Porsche to retain and design around its iconic, sloping shape.
Mezger standing above his creation: the TAG Turbo engine for McLaren F1
Mezger's influence touched one of racing's biggest stages as well: Formula 1. His Porsche-made TAG Turbo engine from the mid-80s propelled Ron Dennis's outfit and the McLaren MP4/2 to multiple championships with both Niki Lauda and Alain Prost as pilots.
Image via Elferspot: 997 GT3 RS 4.0
His swan song was the legendary 997 GT3 RS 4.0, with a spine tingling output of 500hp and an aura that just simply has not been matched with the GT cars that soon followed. The 4.0's 400K price tag is an indication of just how special this car is today.
History lesson aside, Mezger's influence on Porsche and its community is vast. Talk to a BMW enthusiast about engines and you'll find them referencing codes like S54, S65, M52, etc. Talk to a Porsche owner? It's whether it's a Mezger or not.
It goes without saying that we have lost an icon of the automotive world and pieces of his work still remain some of the most sought after examples that Porsche aficionados flock toward, and I imagine it'll stay that way for decades to come. Rest In Peace, Mr. Mezger.