The Porsche 356 is a luxury sports car, developed in Gmund, Austria by Porsche Konstruktionen GesmbH, and later in Zuffenhausen, Germany by Dr. Ing. H. C. F. Porsche GmbH. The 356 was a very lightweight, rear-engined sports car and the first production automobile ever produced by the Porsche brand. The 356 was very popular for both every day and motor sports users. It offered a beautiful, sleek, elegant design and top rated performance in the same package.
Ferdinand Porsche established the Austrian Porsche company with his sister Louise. He created the idea for the 356 in 1948, via a prototype dubbed “No. 1”. It was later in 1948 that actual production began and the Porsche 356 was born.
Following its debut in 1948, only 50 cars were produced before relocating to Germany in 1950. The first 356 was tested and certified on June 8, 1948. I was entered in a race in Austria where it won its class. Early models were crafted using aluminum, but after moving to Germany, steel bodies became the standard for the 356. Many people would race the cars they drove on the streets, and this proved to be an efficient marketing method, as orders grew exponentially after being seen winning over its class and then being driven daily. Soon they were being ordered overseas and abroad as they gained popularity with a wide range of consumers from all walks of life.
The 356 consisted of a unibody design, meaning that the body was made of one solid piece of material. Very few alterations were ever made to the overall body style of the Porsche 356. There were of course, variations that boasted different features such as a hard top or a convertible, but for the most part the design remained uniform throughout production. A well known variation is the Speedster. The Speedster had a low windscreen and an open roof with a minimal, folding, cloth top and bucket seats. It was very sporty and fun, making it a hit in the United States.
The 356 was built in a series of four. Each series had characteristics all their own.
356 “Pre-A” – These contained 1300 and 1400 cc engines, a V-shaped windscreen. This version is very rare due to the small amount of production in the first two years of its life. They are highly collectable and coveted by Porsche enthusiasts.
356A – This edition contained small changes to the original structure. In 1957 a four-cam version known as “Carerra” became an option.
356B – After significant changes, the 356B featured an external fuel filler, and a large rear window in the hard topped coupe edition.
356C – This variation featured disk brakes and a 95 horsepower engine. This was the final series in the 356 lineup, and the last of them were created for the Dutch police force.
The 356 Legacy
Porsche has long carried a reputation for crafting refined, luxury vehicles. The 356 was the first car ever produced by Porsche and has thus become a collectors dream. The Speedster and Carrera models are highly valued and respected by enthusiasts. Collectors buy and restore classic 356s to their former glory and drive them as they would have been enjoyed in their prim. Porsche collectors make up the largest collective group of registered owners. A consumer in 1950 would have paid around $4000 for a new 356, whereas currently an un-restored version would run nearly $20,000 and sell for over $100,000 at auction once fully restored and drivable. Speedsters and Carrera editions would sell for double that amount easily.