The Story ~ The very first Porsche, the 1948 prototype 356 No. 1, was truly a beautiful dream roadster. The son of Ferdinand Porsche, Ferdinand “Ferry” Anton Porsche, was responsible for the development of the evolutionary Porsche 356 after his father had been arrested at the end of WWII. Ferry’s earlier work with the elder Porsche in the design of the legendary Auto Union Silver Arrow Grand Prix racing cars in the 30s, and later the Volkswagen, were critical to the development of the Porsche 356. It was Ferry who guided the evolution of this car, which became the heart of the Porsche’s powerful appeal. Our PatentWear Porsche 356 design captures the original design patent.
“I couldn’t find the sports car of my dreams, so I built it myself.” ~Ferdinand Porsche
Ferry Porsche had been thinking about a Volkswagen-based sports car, and it was the brilliant designer Edwin Komenda who first sketched the basic outline of the 356 body in 1947. Edwin Komenda had earlier been responsible for the body design of the Volkswagen, beginning with similar sketches in 1937. These early 356 sketches, in 1947, led to the final design of the Porsche 356. Komenda was responsible for the body design of the Volkswagen Beetle (1936), Porsche 356 (1947), Porsche 550 Spyder and, he led the design team on the Porsche 911 (1959). In 1952, he also designed the famous Porsche emblem.
The original Porsche 356 was hand-crafted in aluminum over an ash wooden buck, or mold. From 1948-49, only 49 of these aluminum Porsche 356s were built at the Gmünd factory in Austria. Today, those models are nearly priceless.
The engine, suspension and chassis of the 356 were derived from the Volkswagen, and, it had the basic design elements of the VW Beetle with its round headlights, air cooled four-cylinder engine in the rear but with a sleek, sporty exterior. With a weight of only 1300 lbs, the small 40hp engine could push it to 90mph. In 1950, the production was moved to a new factory in Stuttgart Germany and, a change from aluminum to steel bodies was made then.
The basic design of the 356 remained the same throughout its lifespan with evolutionary, functional improvements rather than styling changes. Between 1950 and 1965, four major model types were produced: Type 356, 356A, 356B and 356C. Many people consider the 356B to be the definitive 356 Porsche.
Of these model types, there are two basic 356 body styles: the coupes and cabriolets (convertibles). Such legendary names as Speedster, Convertible D, Roadster, and Carrera 2 further added to the mystique of the design. Engines progressed from a 1.1L/40hp VW engine to the all-powerful 2.0L DOHC/130hp.
Between 1948 and 1965 a total of 81,003 Porsche 356s were built. The transition to the Porsche 911 began with development as early as 1959, and the first being introduced in 1964. That is another story in the captivating history of Porsche, to be told at another time and place.