C h a p t e r O n e

T H E 3 5 6 , AND I T S E VO L U T I ON I NTO T H E 9 1 1 P erformance was always a paramount concern when Dr. Ferdinand Porsche took on an automobile design, and the first car to bear his name, the legendary Type 356, had it in spades. Production began in the spring of 1948 in Gmund, Austria, where the company had temporarily relocated towards the end of World War II. The Birth of the 356 The 356’s rounded aluminum bodywork itself was designed by Erwin Komenda, who would ultimately pen many of the company’s future works. It was a light, aerody- namic, shape; underneath, Porsche had created a rear-engine configuration off of an independently suspended floorpan. The car was very responsive and had excellent road manners, although it, and nearly every rear-engine Porsche since, demanded a degree of vigilance on the driver’s part when turning under acceleration, lest the rear location of the engine mass encourage lurid slides that Porschephiles have always considered part of the car’s considerable charm. The soundness of these performance characteristics was soon demonstrated. The company’s first motorsports victory came in 1948 in a race at Innsbruck, Austria— a first-in-class for the 1,500-cubic-centimeter car. The following year saw the car prominently displayed at the Geneva Salon, which generated orders for forty-six 356 coupes that were produced at Gmund. The com- pany soon returned to Zuffenhausen and started accepting outside contracts for design work, a practice that supported the company in its infancy and one that con- tinues to this day. By 1950, the 356 was setting class endurance records at 4,000 and 10,000 kilome- ters, reaffirming the car’s reputation for ruggedness. Variations in the design started to emerge, including steel-bodied coupes, and convertibles, built by the adjacent coach-building firm, Reutter. Dr. Porsche died the following year at seventy-six years of age, and his son, Ferry, took control of the company. The 356 competed for the first time at the 24 Hours of LeMans, taking victory in the 1,100-cubic-centimeter class, and also set a new world record in a seventy-two-hour endurance test, at an average speed of 94.6 miles per hour. This car was immediately rushed to the Paris Salon—dead flies, dirt, and all— and drew huge crowds to the Porsche exhibit.


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