* All Porsche and Piëch family members are partners in the enormous wealth that originated with Ferdinand Porsche's Volkswagen Beetle. The wealth stems less from Porsche AG, the smallest independent car manufacturer in the world, than from Porsche Holding of Salzburg, Austria, Europe's largest car distribution company. No family member can hold an executive position in either company, a unanimous decision made after squabbles about control of Porsche AG in 1972.
* Piëch is a typical product of the famous Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, which is a stickler for exactness.
* Interviewers were often shocked by Piëch's strange way of responding to questions. Piëch waited for what seemed an interminable period of time before answering. Often the next question would be put just as Piëch started to reply.
* Piëch doesn't need much sleep. He would often appear on a factory workshop floor in the middle of the night unannounced and look over an engineer's or worker's shoulder and make suggestions or corrections.
* He doesn't like to lose. While Audi's vice president of r&d Piëch would play squash at lunchtime with his staff. He wasn't too good at the game so he trained secretly, until injuring his spine.
* When at Audi he tried to pass all Mercedes and BMW drivers on the Autobahn in an effort to convince them to buy an Audi.
* Piëch was not the ideal presenter of new models while at Audi. His answers were intricate and often gruff. Once when Audi President Wolfgang Habbel discussed the launch of an important model with Piëch, he suggested that a smooth-talking young Viennese engineer named Fritz Indra introduce the car to the press. 'The press people liked him much better than us,' Habbell said. But Piëch didn't like being upstaged and Indra never made another presentation at Audi. Indeed, he soon left Audi for Opel. Indra is now director of future powertrain development at General Motors in Detroit.
* Piëch invented a test to check the smoothness of eight-cylinder engines. He placed a coin on its rim on a level surface in the car. If it stood on end while the engine ran, the motor passed Piëch's test.
* He is able to sketch a complete engine in freehand. While on a bullet train in Japan, Piëch drew VW's 'W' engine for some of the engineers accompanying him.
* Piëch went to work as Porsche's chief development engineer during the late 1960s. At the time Porsche successfully raced six- and eight-cylinder cars, but could not match Ferrari. Piëch thought of fitting a 12-cylinder engine to a simple, lightweight chassis, causing a sensation inside Porsche. The international racing federation required 25 cars to be produced for homologation. Normally, approval would be granted when officials were shown a few readymade cars and some components. But after having convinced his cousin,
Ferry Porsche, Piëch ordered all 25 cars to be built. When officials came to Stuttgart, the 25 Type 917s stood in a perfect line. The motor racing world was flabbergasted. The 917 became Porsche's most famous purpose-built race car, as well as the most powerful race car ever at 1100hp. It won at LeMans in 1970.
* In the late 1960s, Piëch introduced unconventional methods to guarantee race-car reliability. He brought cars to Volkswagen's high-speed test track in Wolfsburg for endurance runs, and set up test programs with accurate reproduction of severe racing conditions on each circuit. It paid off. Porsche began to dominate international sports car racing.
* Piëch wanted to build the Audi quattro 4WD car in the late 1970s, but had to convince then-VW President Toni Schmücker - a sales expert, not a technician - that the high development costs were worthwhile. So he arranged for Schmücker to try driving a front-wheel-drive Audi 100 up a grassy slope that Audi engineers had drenched with water. He then gave the boss a four-wheel-drive car that negotiated the slope easily. The project was soon approved.
* Opel's head of advanced engineering, Walter Treser, worked at Audi in the late 1970s and early 1980s while Piëch was head of r&d. In 1976, Piëch invited Treser to talk about joining Audi. The two met at Munich's airport. Piëch arrived with a briefcase under one arm and couple of engine components under the other. Together, they entered an Audi 200 prototype and drove off to Ingolstadt. 'That was typical Piëch, doing two or three things at once,' recalled Treser. 'He tested a new car, talked about the engine components which he brought and offered me the job at Audi.'
* While testing the new quattro 4WD system in a disguised standard Audi 80 in the late 1970s, Treser and Piëch drove up the Stelvio pass between Austria and Italy for winter testing. Piëch saw two men struggling to attach snow chains to a truck. He stopped and asked the men what was wrong and if he could help. Treser recalled: 'When they waved us by, he took off at full speed with a big smile - without snow chains or special winter tires. He left those guys in disbelief that such a humble Audi could drive in such poor snow conditions. He really enjoyed the fun of proving something that way.'
* Piëch likes to be among the first to own products with cutting-edge technology. During the late 1970s he had an exotic MV Agusta four-cylinder motorcycle. But when Honda came out with its even more sophisticated CBX six-cylinder motorcycle, he immediately ordered one. Piëch was the first in Germany to own and drive that motorcycle.
* In retirement, Piëch plans to sail an aluminum spaceframe boat around the world. Details of the boat are secret, but it is known to be 30 to 35 meters long.
* Piëch's most important contribution to VW, according to long-time engineering head Ulrich Seiffert, was his insistence that all VW production cars be benchmarks in their class.
* On April 17, Piëch's official biographer, Herbert Völker, editor of Austria's leading motor magazine Autorevue, was finally allowed to transmit his manuscript to the book's publisher for printing.
* Starting in October, Piëch will lecture on automotive engineering at Vienna Technical University.