Page 1 of 3 Next >> In July 1948 the world caught the first glimpse of the Porsche 356 Roadster. Up until then Ferdinand Porsche had worked for nearly half a century for other manufacturers. Developed by his son, Ferdinand Jr. or Ferry, the small two-seater was the first car to bear the Porsche name. The new Porsche received universal acclaim from journalists and won its class at its very first race. The sport's cars exotic mid-engined spaceframe chassis was however too expensive and complicated for mass-production. Ferry Porsche had already realized this before Porsche #1 was completed and started the development of a less labor intensive production car. Even though the second Porsche was only remotely related to the original, the 356 name was retained.
Just like the original Porsche 356, the '356/2' used many Volkswagen derived bits like the engine and suspension. This is hardly surprising as the Volkswagens was developed by Ferdinand Porsche and his men a few years earlier. The new 356 distinguished itself from its predecessor and the Volkswagen through its custom platform chassis. With the engine moved back to its familiar rear mounted location, the wheelbase could be considerably shortened. The suspension was pretty much carried over from the Volkswagen with trailing arms at the front and swing axles at the rear. The cable operated drum brakes were also pure Volkswagen and would be one of the 356's few weaknesses. They were quickly replaced by Girling sourced hydraulic drums.
Also carried over from the Volkswagen was the air-cooled four cylinder boxer engine. Before it was bolted to the rear of the 356 chassis, it was however considerably modified. In its Volkswagen guise the flat four displaced just over 1100 cc, which was lowered to 1086cc to make the 356 eligible for the popular and highly competitive 1.1 litre racing class. Equipped with high compression heads and twin Carburetors, the Porsche power-plant produced 40 bhp; a full 15 bhp up from the Volkswagen spec. The first rolling chassis was completed during April of 1948 at Porsche's temporary headquarters in Gmünd, Austria. After being extensively tested, the chassis was fitted with a body towards the end of July; just a few weeks after the 356/1 Roadster was revealed.
In stark contrast with the original 356, the first production 356 was fitted with a coupe body. The rational was that a majority of the potential customers were found in the colder climates of central Europe. The coupe's evocative lines were penned by Erwin Komenda and shared lines with 'his' Volkswagen 60K10 competition coupes that were built for the 1939 Berlin to Rome race. He was also inspired by Pinin Farina's work on the Cisitalia 202. Constructed from aluminium, the body shells were very light and also had very favourable drag figures. In 1949 the coupe was joined by a similarly styled cabriolet, most of which were built by Swiss coachbuilder Beutler. Page 1 of 3 Next >>