Wednesday 27 June 2018

Porsche 356 (1948)

Porsche 356, circa 1950
Introduced June 1948

Just three years after the end of the Second World War, the (then) Austrian firm Porsche came up with a little two-sweater sports car called the Porsche 356. Arguably the first modern sports car, the 356 created a template for a lightweight but relatively powerful vehicle that many others copied.

Although sales were slow to begin with, after a few years this sleek sports car started to pick up sales and became available as a coupé, convertible or roadster. Various engines became available, with a typical unit being the 59 HP 4 cylinder 1.6 litre air-cooled engine. Not a lot by modern standards, but with an aerodynamic car weighing as little as 771 kg it didn’t need to be a fire-breathing monster.

The engine was in the back above the drive wheels, a configuration which gives the fun of driving a rear-wheel drive car with the advantage that most of the weight was above the drive wheels which led to better handling. The 356 found success in motor racing, but it was equally at home pottering around the restaurants of the Côte d'Azur instead.

The production run was from 1948 to 1965, with four models and a pretty slow evolution of specifications and design over that period. The Porsche 911 was introduced to replace it in 1963, but 356 production continued a little while after that.

76,000 356s were built, with around half still existing. Prices for a used one seem to range from around £70,000 to over £250,000 depending on condition and exact model, although it’s of note that Porsche will still look after the car for you. Several companies (such as Chesil) make modern reproductions at a fraction of the cost.

Image credit: Matthew P.L. Stevens via Flickr

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