History of the 356
Most of this is from the 356 registry site which you can jump to
Timeline for the 356
Various models covered below include the 356A, 356B,
356C, The D in 356 Convertible D actually stands for Drauz, the name of the
coachbuilder. For my model, the convertible D there were only about 1300 built between 1958 and 1959 so I think it will take a pretty good lottery win before I own an original!!
Here's a very rough timeline of the development of the 356,
compiled from a variety of sources. "Driving in it's Purest Form", "Excellence
was Expected", "Speedster" and "Porsche : 356 & Rs Spyders" are all recommended
for the Porsche 356 enthusiast and those interested in the Porsche history
See also the
Porsche North America corporate website from which much of the below
Project Number 356:
During the war Ferdinand
"Ferry" Porsche (who died on 27 March 1998 at the age of 88) and a handful of
his proven, faithful employees had started work on development number 356 in
their workshops moved to the town of Gmünd in Kärnten.
The first design drawings were
completed on 17 July 1947 and on 8 June 1948 the Kärnten state government issued
a special permit homologating the car.
Returning home after being held
by the French as a prisoner of war and bailed out of custody by his family,
Professor Dr.-Ing.h.c.Ferdinand Porsche, Ferry's father, stated right away that
"every single bolt was just right". No 1 was then followed by a small series of
52 additional cars built in Gmünd, production in Stuttgart from 1950 - 1965
subsequently amounting to 78,000 units of the 356 model Porsche No 1, a mid-engined
roadster, is completed and homologated in the Austrian town of Gmünd.
The engine displaces 1131 cc
and develops maximum output of 35 bhp(26 kW). The first few 356 coupes are made
of light alloy.
(son of the famous Dr. Ing Ferdinand Porsche, founder of Porsche motors)
designed and fabricates the first Project #356 car, model 356-001. The car
utilized a tubular chassis, an 1100cc engine and was very light and so quick for
the time. Karl Frolich was the gearbox and suspension specialist contributing to
the handling of the prototype. Ferry Porsche often took the prototype--sometimes
just the rolling chassis without body--up the steep mountain roads surrounding
Gmünd and found the car a spright handler and good climber.
The body of the car was designed by Irwin Komenda.
Kommenda, an Austrian born in 1904, contributed substantially to the Volkswagen,
Cistalia, Auto Union racers and other cars of the day. Though the car changed
from mid-engine to rear, the tubular chassis gave way to a unitized pan and body
construction, and a myriad of details evolved over the 22 year run of the model,
the overall design and instantly recognizeable shape of the car remained the
same, a timeless classic. Komenda joined Porsche's design bureau in 1931 after
positions at Steyr and Daimler-Benz and other coach shops in Austria and
Germany. Komenda contributed to many other designs in Porsche's history and was
the chief engineer and head of Porsche's coach werk from 1955 until his death in
Karl Peter-Rabe was the "confidential clerk" for
Porsche, and became the chief business manager, after Prizing, until 1965. Dr.
Ing Albert Prizing was a business manager who brought 37 orders back to the
factory after one importer's conference in Wolfsberg in 1950.
The original 356-001 car is raced at the
Innsbruck city race, achieving a victory in the 1100cc class in its first
outing. Porsche was homologated by the state government of Kärnten in Austria on
8 June 1948. Above and below photos courtesy of the Porsche archives. The
original Porsche "001" car is in the Factory Museum and frequently tours the
world for special car shows and historic events.
Over 50 Gmünd cars are built and sold primarily
in Austria and Germany. Many still survive in US and other collections around
1949: The first 356 Cabriolet is built.
The Gmünd cars are alloy aluminum.
1950: The factory relocates to
Zuffenhausen, next to the Reutter coachwerks and begins production on the 356.
This run will continue to 1965, and produce
nearly 80,000 cars. Cars are produced by other coachbuilders as well, namely
A 1951 "split windshield" 356
Cabriolet. Porsche 356es made prior to 1955 are sometimes called "Pre-A", as
the model took on the letter predicate at that time.
1951: Porsche 356 technical innovations
continue. The 1.3 liter motor has chrome plated aluminum cylinders and the
world's first synchromesh transmission. Porsche 356-002 wins at LeMans in the
1100cc class. The "Old Professor", Dr. Ing Ferdinand Porsche, Sr. dies at 75.
Porsche KG employs 1400 people as Ferry Porsche leads the company.
1952: The 1500 "Super" engine is
introduced (1488 cc, 70hp DIN)
1953: In a deal with Max Hoffman, of New
York, Porsche introduces the 356 to the United States. Soon Hoffman makes
arrangements with select foriegn auto dealers around the country to carry the
Porsche cars. Hoffman acts as sole US importer. Split windshields give way to
Hoffman urges Porsche to make a less-expensive "stripped-down" model of it's
open car for the West Coast. Fair weather, a cruising scene and lots of amateur
racing make the "Speedster" a success, a staple production for the next 5 years.
Over 4100 Speedsters will be sold by 1959.
1955: The 1600 motor is in production. The
1500 GS Type 547 Carrera motor is in development for racing and finds its way
into the 356 production line. The "A" version of the 356 model is introduced.
Numerous subtle differences in the shape of the body and features of the care
are introduced. Almost half the cars sold are open cars: cabriolets and
Speedsters. The "A" models are named internally at "Type 1", and thereafter
known by enthusiasts as "T-1" cars.
1956: The 10,000th 356 Rolls off the
assembly line. Pictured below with Ferry Porsche.
1957: More improvements to the 356A
results in a new project, the Type 2, or "T-2". A new transmission, the 644
replaces the earlier 519 with improved shifter, a split case design, dual nose
mounts and better synchros.
1958: Continued improvements in the
Carrera engines yield higher horsepower. Production begins on the "Convertible
D", a replacement for the Speedster. The "D" is made by Drauz factory, and the
car is between a Speedster and a Cabriolet in luxury and lightweight
appointments. Most noticeable are the roll-up windows and a taller, but still "removeable"
1959: The last Speedster is made. The 1300
engine is dropped from the line. In the fall a new model, the Type-5 (T-5), 356B
is introduced. The Convertible D becomes the Roadster with the new T-5 body
1960: The 356B gets the "Super 90" (S90)
motor as an option, with a counterweighted crank, sodium-filled valves and Solex
1961: The Karmann Coachwerks is employed
to make the "Hardtop", which is a Cabriolet body with a fixed hard roof. This
profile gives the car the nickname "Notchback". Nearly 1750 of these cars will
be made over two years' production
1962: Karmann makes 2170 coupes along with
the 4100 made by Reutter. Along with almost 1600 Cabriolets, production tops
7900 for the year. Porsche begins discussion with Reutter to purchase the
coachmaker and finally completely consolidate the successes of 12 years of
co-operation. The factory launches "Christophorus", a customer magazine of news
and background on the Porsche lifestyle.
1963: The 356C, known as the Type 6 (T-6)
is introduced, along with the SC engine with 95hp. The "C" has 4-wheel disc
brakes, and an optional 12-volt electric system. The optional "Carrera 2" motor
develops 130 DIN horsepower.
1964: 356 Production reaches a high of
over 10,000 in a single year, more than the entire line production of the first
10 years of the Porsche 356. The factory introduces the 911 model, presaging the
end of the 356 line.
1966: The last 10 356 Cabriolets run off
the production line in this calendar year, finishing the 1965 model year run.
The 4-cylinder Carrera engines continue racing in the successful 904 model.
Total production run: more than 78,000. About 1/2 of the entire production are
believed to exist today.