The 911 captured me as an impressionable teenager in the mid-1970’s – and as many know the Porsche Targa – please see my previous posts here Porsche 911 Targa – including, specifically, its most recent incarnation, is firmly my favourite car of all time. When considering an iconic design classic it’s a fault to overlook its antecedents.
Now that the Porsche 911 is firmly over fifty years old its predecessor – acknowledging the role played by the smaller engined entry model Porsche 912 introduced in 1965 – from which it draws many clear styling cues, was the Porsche 356.
I was looking at an auction by those nice people at Gooding and Company upcoming in March 2018 at their Amelia Island location in Florida. They are hosting the sale of a collection of Mr James G. Hascall, the former CEO of Primex Technologies – a specialist in aerospace technology – and clearly a Porsche fanatic, who died in August 2016. Of the twelve Porsches being sold two are Porsche 356 in two differing body styles – both by Ruetter – including our featured image a 1960 356 B Cabriolet and below, a 1965 365 C Cabriolet. I think you’ll agree they are both way more than very appealing.
The first fifty cars of the Porsche 356 – Porsches’ first production car – were built in Gmünd, Austria by Porsche Konstruktionen GesmbH in 1948/9. A prototype 356 called “No1” was created in 1948, designed by Irwin Komenda and has the accolade of being Porshce’s first car.
The son of the company’s founder, Ferry Porsche and his sister Louise, based the light, tubular steel, hand-crafted aluminum bodies and rear engined 356 on a Volkswagen Cabriolet with a supercharged engine that Ferry owned early post war. The air-cooled pushrod OHV flat-four engine as developed by Porsche’s designers was based on the Volkswagen engine case.
In Kärnten (Austria) seventy years ago, on 8th June 1948, the first 356 was road certified.
In 1950 production moved to Zuffenhausen in Germany and was operated by newly formed German company Dr. Ing. h. c. F. Porsche GmbH. Production continued there until 1965 with around 76,000 cars being made of which, it is believed around 50% have survived.
On moving to Germany, steel bodies built by Reutter were used. Later, in 1963 when acquired by Porsche, Reutter continued to make car seats and changed its name to Recaro. Karmann also made bodies including the “Notchback” so called because the car’s profile derived from adding a hard roof onto a Cabriolet body.
A growing reputation for build-quality caused the 356 to appeal to an increasingly international audience. A win at Le Man in 1951 exponentially assisted the marketing. In late 1954, the Carrera engine developed by and for Porsche cars increased orders.
Porsche 356 models primarily included the coupe, roadster and cabriolet.
The Porsche 356 A Speedster built at the behest of US importer, Max Hoffman was a huge success with the West Coast audience.
The production stats – for those interested are as follows: Model 356 (1948–1955) 7,627 – the earlier models having split screen windscreens; Model 356 A (1955–1959) 21,045; Model 356 B (1959–1963) 30,963 and Model 356 C (1963–1965/66) 16,678. In 1964 the first 911’s were produced – in parallel with the 912 that initially outsold the early 911 – and later superseded the 356.
Above Janis Joplin’s psychedelic 1964 Porsche 356 C Cabriolet.
If you get the chance to restore a classic Porsche 356 – it would be worth investing in an owner’s workshop manual to aid your endeavors – click below the image to pick up a copy
Whilst your barn find/restoration project is underway remind yourself of the finished article with these two wonderful die-cast models – you chose silver or black? Click on the image below each image.
As I say in our post – seventy years on and still going strong – enjoy this excellent retrospective book – click on the link below the image.
Just for a bit of fun – as you like me are clearly a Petrol Head – why not wear the 356 on this stylish graphic shirt – click on the link below the image
Image Credits courtesy of Gooding and Company – James G. Hascall Collection Sales Amelia Island, Florida March 9th 2018 Hascall Collection Sale
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