The Porsche 356 is a car that the legendary German manufacturer produced from 1948 to 1965. Today the 365 is a popular collectible, especially among those who revere the German brand. The 365 is notable for many reasons, but primarily for being the first production vehicle that Porsche ever made. The company began in the 1930s to do consulting and development work, including the government-directed design of the Volkswagen, the car for the people. The 356 is a rear-wheel drive, two-door sports car with a rear-engine configuration. Of the 76,000 units originally made, about half have been accounted for today.
Ferdinand Porsche, son of the company’s founder, is credited with creating the 356. In its original incarnation the model included a four-cylinder, rear-mounted engine with a newly-designed chassis. The body was designed to be smooth and aerodynamic. Made from lightweight aluminum, it was a unibody construction. This first incarnation of the 356 was a roadster with a two-piece, frameless windshield. At the time of its release in 1948, the first 356 was like no other car on the road. It had a unique look, was extremely aerodynamic, and was fast and sporty. The first racing win, of many for the 356, was in Innsbruck, Austria in 1948.
The early 356 is today referred to as the type 1 model. Variations on the original model are classified as the 356A, made from 1955 to 1959, the 356B, made from 1959 to 1963, and the 356C, which closed out the car’s run from 1963 to 1965. Over the years, Porsche made changes and updates to the 356. The body styles expanded to include a coupe and a cabriolet. The windshield merged into one framed piece. New engines were developed and used in the updated models.
Porsche also made special versions of the 356 throughout the model’s run. The Speedster sold in the U.S. in the 1950s and proved to be popular. It was a stripped down version of the cabriolet with a simple folding top and a lower price point. In the early 1960s, the lineup included a Karmann hardtop, also described as a notchback.
The Porsche 356 has left an important legacy in car design, engineering, racing, and in collecting. On the racetrack, the model won in rally races, at the 24 hours of Le Mans, at Targa Florio, at the Carrera Panamerica, and at many other races. For collectors today, the 356 is highly desirable. The Speedster is one of the most popular, especially in the U.S., but any version of this legendary Porsche is considered a top-notch classic.