"PORSCHE 356: 75th ANNIVERSARY" - the complete history of Porsche's first automobile


"PORSCHE 356: 75th ANNIVERSARY" - the complete history of Porsche's first automobile

Porsche’s first car, the 356, entered the market in 1948 and celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2023. Porsche 356: 75th Anniversary celebrates this iconic sports car that launched one of the greatest brands in automotive history.  

Ferdinand Porsche was a brilliant engineer who, prior to World War II, had been involved in a variety of significant automotive engineering developments including the first hybrid drive vehicles, racing cars including the Mercedes SSK and the mighty Auto Union Grand Prix. During this period, Porsche also developed the groundbreaking Volkswagen, which would prove critical to his postwar, namesake automobile manufacturer.

The Typ 356 was developed by Ferdinand’s son “Ferry” Porsche and introduced in 1948. Though the rear-engine layout was based on the Volkswagen, most similarities ended there. The 356 had a unique chassis, higher performing engine, and a handsome wind-cheating body. Little known outside Germany initially, by the early 1950s the 356s were lauded for their excellent handling, build quality, and growing volume of competition successes. The 356 evolved over its 17-year life through four distinct series: pre-A, A, B, and C, with coupes, cabriolets, Speedsters, Hardtops, and Roadsters among the many body variations. Equipped with the “Carrera” 4-cam engine, the 356 was a force in sports car racing. Dedicated competition models were developed beginning in 1953, and the Rennsport Spyders dominated road racing, endurance, and hill climb events for over a decade.

PORSCHE 356: 75th ANNIVERSARY includes a cast of fascinating characters, from those engineers who designed the cars, to race drivers who built the “giant-killer” mystique, to owners like James Dean and Janis Joplin who fell in love with the little bathtub-shaped sports cars. From titled European gentlemen in the 1950s to movie stars like Paul Newman and Steve McQueen in the 1960s, the first Porsches attracted enthusiasts and racers alike. Today, the car has an even wider following among collectors including Porsche fans like Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno. “356 Fascination” continues with ongoing restoration efforts, vintage racing, and an “Outlaw” movement, all enhanced by large-scale events that celebrate the car’s history.

Author Gordon Maltby wrote the highly regarded Motorbooks title Porsche 356 and RS Spyders, co-authored several Porsche technical, historical, and buying guidebooks. He was the editor of the Porsche 356 Registry bi-monthly magazine for 28 years. He has owned 31 Porsches over 50 years, doing most of the maintenance and restoration himself.



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