2023 Author: Eric Donovan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 15:44
The original Porsche is celebrating its birthday. A success story began 60 years ago with the construction of the 356 that made the company the most successful sports car manufacturer in the world.
There is one thing with anniversaries: there are often a number of dates on which an anniversary could be fixed. For example, this year Porsche has declared June 8th to be the day on which the 60th "birthday" of the Porsche sports car was celebrated. Because on this day in 1948 the first “individual permit” for the prototype “Porsche No. 1” was issued. But you can still celebrate later: July 7th, 1948 is considered the actual birthday of the original Porsche 356, because a first test report about the car is said to have been published on that day.
A unique success story
The name Porsche and the number 356 stand for a success story that is probably unique in Germany: The company, which began as a design office in 1931, has now become one of the world's most important sports car manufacturers. The 356 is not least responsible for this.
In the beginning, however, it was nothing more than a clever use of parts from the VW Beetle in connection with a body in the style of a sports car. That had to do with the position of the company founder Ferdinand Porsche, who was significantly involved in the development of the VW Beetle.
After the Second World War, however, Ferdinand Porsche sat for a while in French captivity. His son Ferry, on the other hand, ran the Porsche factory in Gmünd in Carinthia - they had moved there from Stuttgart in 1944 because of the war. A number of old and new ideas came together in Carinthia. During the development of the Volkswagen in the 1930s, the engineers made fun of using tricks to help the rather weak boxer engine achieve more power. Now they started to construct again. The number 356 refers to the construction number 356.00.105, which stands for the first drawing from July 17, 1947.
What gradually developed from this drawing was even more extravagant than the later production model. It was also written «No. 1 »on the chassis of the Beetle and was driven by an engine from the successful Volkswagen model - which, however, was mounted in a mid-engine design in front of the rear axle and the output was increased from 24.5 hp to 35 hp. A specially made tubular steel frame, over which the hand-made roadster body was stretched, ensured the necessary cohesion.
The whole thing was certainly not a bad construction. However, the idea of series production puzzled the makers. With the result that one technically backtracked. For the 356, a revised Beetle chassis was used with the engine in the rear. The roadster also got a fixed roof. It was pretty much "bugged" in the first Porsche - because the transmission and brakes were also taken over. After all, the engine output had been increased to 40 hp.
Handcraft in Gmünd
The first 50 vehicles were screwed together by hand in Gmünd. But then the success story began: Porsche was soon able to return to Stuttgart, and the very small series developed into a small series. As early as 1949, the body builder Reutter was commissioned to produce 500 bodies for the sports car.
Of all 356 copies, these early ones look old-fashioned from today's perspective. The tub-shaped body still had potential for visual improvement. The front window with a central bar was more reminiscent of pre-war techniques. The secret of the success of the Porsche brand and the 356 also consisted in the fact that the car was continuously developed, improved in detail and refreshed in design.
In the 1960s, the little dump in exile in Carinthia had become a company whose name stood for coveted sports cars around the world. And work on a successor to the first Porsche has long been in progress. In the meantime, however, customers had grown so fond of the 356 that they hardly wanted to part with it. Porsche therefore also offered the successor 911 as the 912, which still carried the Beetle-based engine under the modern body. When production of the 356 actually ended in April 1965, the 50 hand-assembled cars in the early days had grown to more than 76,000. (dpa)