Never Stop Driving #98: The Piëchesode

Jochen Leubke/DDP/AFP/Getty Images

One of the most anticipated videos of the year just debuted on our YouTube channel: Jason Cammisa’s deep dive into the career and complicated personality of Ferdinand Piëch.

I cherish the characters and personalities behind the cars we love, and Piëch, who passed in 2019, was supremely colorful. The grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, the engineer who designed the VW Beetle and sired a son who founded the Porsche sports car company, Piëch possessed a seemingly inexhaustible drive that propelled him to produce the Le Mans-winning Porsche 917, the Audi Quattro, the Bugatti Veyron, and a multitude of other cars that changed the automotive landscape for decades. “All he cared about,” Cammisa said, “was making great cars.”

Ferdinand Piech next to an Audi in 1982
DPA/Getty Images

The video is an extraordinary documentary, one that Cammisa and his team have been planning for years. Cammisa’s ingenious angle was to describe Piëch’s career with a host of cars bracketed by two wildly different creations: the fuel-sipping Volkswagen XL-1 and the top-speed-focused Bugatti Veyron. Since the XL-1 was never sold in the States and Veyron is so rare, filming was delayed until we secured both. Special thanks to the VW owner, Phillip Sarofim, and Houston Crosta, who loaned the Bugatti! The wait, I hope you’ll agree, was worth it.

ICO-412 Piëch Thumb

I’m so grateful we’re able to tell these stories and provide them for free. If you’d like to support our efforts, please join the Hagerty Drivers Club, which includes six issues of the Hagerty Drivers Club magazine, discounts on automotive products, and several other useful benefits.

Piëch wasn’t without his flaws. He was known as a demanding and autocratic boss, more dictator than collaborator. His management style led to amazing cars but also was cited as a key reason why no one at VW dared to speak up and admit that the diesel emission targets Piëch demanded simply weren’t possible. That led to the Dieselgate scandal that cost VW billions in fines and was chronicled in the excellent book Faster, Higher, Farther: The Volkswagen Scandal by Jack Ewing.

The folks behind our cars are rarely boring. Recently, we chronicled Helene Rother, a pioneering designer who penned the interior of the Nash Metropolitan and set the stage for wider styling trends; NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick; and a 16-year-old who shoots model cars in incredibly realistic scenes. There are plenty more, which we’ve sorted via this link.

Speaking of personalities, contributing writer Sam Smith recently published a collection of his work called Smithology: Thoughts, Travels, and Semi-Plausible Car Writings, 2003 – 2023. Smith’s fantastic work for Hagerty includes a rousing comparison of the Honda Civic Type R and Toyota GR Corolla, a tire-killing roundup of all the Hellcat-equipped cars, and much more for you to peruse here.

I’ve had the privilege of working with Sam on and off for years, and never fail to leave a conversation with him smarter than I was before. On this week’s Never Stop Driving podcast we talked about his career, what’s he’s learned, and how he developed his special gift for telling stories. Please give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Before I sign off, let me remind you to sign up to our free newsletters to make sure you don’t miss our latest material and also learn what cars are newly for sale on Hagerty Marketplace.

Have a terrific weekend!


P.S.: Your feedback is very welcome. Comment below!

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    Thanks Larry! I’ll give it a watch. Wondering if you’ve seen anything about what his son Anton Piëch is up to? Carrying on the namesake in his EV company Piëch Automotive. They have a pretty sleek looking concept GT. Worth the Google.

    Larry, your podcast interview with Sam Smith was exceptional. Interesting to hear the thoughts of a writer who has the knack for story telling. There was definitely a hole in the storytelling fabric when Peter Egan retired and in my view Sam Smith filled it. You have an amazing group of story tellers. Keep up the podcasts and your newsletter!

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