The Porsche 356
48 years ago, in Gmünd, Austria, the very first Porsche sports car was hand built. When I say "hand built," that's the truth, because the entire aluminum body was hand beaten over a wooden buck. All the engine and drivetrain components were made without a machine shop.
Porsche number 356/1 , as it was called, was the only one with the engine mounted in front of the rear axle. It was an open top 2 seater, made with a tubular space frame. Every Porsche 356 made after this had the engine in the rear (behind the axle). It was, of course, air-cooled.
Porsche number one had a 1.1 liter engine, making 40 horsepower. It had a top speed of over 135kph (85mph). In 1948, only 4 356s were made! In '49 and the early part of '50, less than 60 more were produced. These very rare cars are known today as the Gmünd Coupes. During 1950, Porsche moved into a factory in Stuttgart, where they continued to produce the tiny sports cars. By the end of 1950, 298 cars had been delivered to their owners.
In 1951, three engines were offered from the factory. All of them were flat-4's, "boxers", that were air cooled. Offered were the 1,100cc, the 1,300cc, and the 1,500cc. In late 1952, the 1500 Super was the top powerplant. Along with the Super came a synchromesh transmission. Also in 1952, the America Roadster was created. This car, of which only 16 were produced, was an aluminum cabriolet body, with a removable windshield. This car obviously inspired the 40th Anniversary 1992 911 America Roadster.
By 1953, Porsche needed to compete more in the American market, and the Speedster was born! It was basically a cabriolet, but with a shortened windshield, and the bare necessities only. It's price in 1954--$2,995. What a bargain!
In 1954, along with the speedster came 6 different engines: 1100, 1300, 1300A, 1300S, 1500, and 1500S. Again, the 1500Super was the top-of-the-line. The Coupe and Cabriolet wore the "Continental" badge designation.
The 356A was introduced for 1956. Changes included an all steel body, smaller wheels, and a curved windshield. At this same time, the 356 Carrera was introduced (1500GS engine). In 1958/9, another model, the "Convertible D", was available. It was an upgraded Speedster, with a bigger windshield, roll-up windows, and other add-ons.
1959 brought in the 356B, with it's new body and Super 90 engine. The 356B again changed body styles, for 1962 and 63, when the 356C entered production.
There was yet another model, tyough, before the 356C. It was the Carrera 2, and became available in April 1962. It's engine came form the same lines as previous Spyder engines, and produced 130 horses. There were about 450 Carrera 2's produced in Coupe and Cabriolet form. One other note for 1962, a very small number of 356B 4 seater coupes were made by a Swiss company. They are rare, but still around.
Then, in 1964, the 356C came about. It had 4-wheel discs brakes, and offered the 1600C, 1600SC, and Carrera 2 engines. So you could get either a 356C or SC, the only difference between them being the engine. The C and SC were available in Coupe or Cabrio form. By the end of 1965, over 76,000 Porsche 356 models had been sold, and the model 912 took over the 356's place in the market. But there was also another model in the lineup.....called a "Nine Eleven."
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