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356 Coupe
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  Porsche 356 Coupe

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Country of origin:Germany
Produced from:1950 - 1954
Numbers built:7627 (All engines)
Internal name:356
Designed by:Erwin Komenda
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:May 20, 2009
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Click here to download printer friendly versionShortly after the launch of the coupe, Porsche had received sufficient orders to orders for a fifty car production run. Hand-built, the first Porsches were very expensive and they certainly did not make a profit. The 356 was nevertheless the perfect advertising tool for the profitable engineering and consultancy arm of the Porsche company. Towards the end of 1949, the Porsches were allowed to return to Germany and their former headquarters at Stuttgart. Here they could set up a more efficient production line to meet the ever increasing demand. An important step forward was the deal struck with coachbuilder Reutter to build the 356 bodies late in 1949. Despite having produced less than fifty cars in Gmünd, Porsche placed an order for 500 steel body shells as they expected to be able to sell around 100 cars per year.

Very few examples were produced in 1950 as the company moved back to the Stuttgart suburb of Zuffenhausen. To further broaden the appeal of the 356 Ferry Porsche decided to adopt three of the Gmünd built coupes for racing. Extensively lightened, these were labeled 'Sport Leicht', or SL. Two were entered for the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans. However, an accident during one of the practice session decimated the Porsche entry to just one. The other one completed the race 20th overall and more importantly 1st in class in the hands of French drivers Auguste Veuillet and Edmond Mouche. The two drivers repeated that class victory in the next race. It was the start of a love affair between Porsche and the legendary endurance race that has resulted in innumerable class wins and 16 overall victories for the German manufacturer.

Now fully settled in at their new Stuttgart facilities, Porsche struggled to meet the demand. During 1951 the German manufacturer produced 298 cars; nearly three times more than the original estimate. In the potentially biggest market, the United States, Porsche wasn't quite as successful. The high quality and relatively luxurious 356 was much more expensive than the highly popular British alternative. Iconic importer of European cars Max Hoffman believed that Porsche deserved a chance and proposed the addition of a more rudimentary equipped version of the 356. Porsche reluctantly accepted and commissioned the construction of a series aluminium Roadster bodies at the little known coachbuilder Heuer. Known as the America Roadster, it is believed that just over a dozen were built before Heuer went bankrupt.

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  Article Image gallery (34) Chassis (2) Specifications