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CATEGORIES (articles) > Cars we emulate > Porsche > Porsche 356 Speedster

Porsche 356 Speedster

Porsche 356 Speedster
Porsche No. 1 Type 356 (mid-engine prtotye)
1951 Porsche 356 Light Metal Coupé
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Porsche 356

The Porsche 356 was a sports car sold from 1948 through 1965, and was Porsche's first production automobile.

It was preceded by the pre-war Porsche 64, which has lead to some argument over which car is officially the first Porsche (the Type 64 was actually a VW racing automobile). Also, the "Number 1" was a prototype for the 356, but it had a mid-engine.

The 356 concept was created by Ferdinand "Ferry" Porsche, styled by Erwin Komenda, and mechanically derived from the Volkswagen Beetle, which Ferdinand Porsche Sr. had designed. It was initially available as a coupé, cabriolet and later a roadster, and went through several evolutions before being retired in 1965. The Porsche 356 Carrera (with a special racing engine), "Super 90" and "Speedster" models are among the most desirable versions; 356 Carrera models often sell for well over US$150,000. The original selling price of a late 1950s Porsche was nearly $4,000, the price of a Cadillac.

The 356 "Speedster" was introduced in late 1954 after Max Hoffman, the sole importer of Porsches (as well as other European cars) into the United States, told the company that they needed a lower cost, racier version for the American market. With its low, raked windshield (easily removable for weekend racing), bucket seats, and minimal folding top, it was an instant hit. The now much coveted Speedster (which often sell for over $100,000) was later used in a number of films, including - 48 Hrs., its sequel Another 48 Hrs., and Top Gun.

Production of the Speedster peaked at 1,171 cars in 1957, and it was replaced in 1959 by the Convertible D model, which featured a taller, more practical windshield, glass side windows, and more comfortable seats. Approx. 1300 of these models were produced at the end of the 356 lineage as a final attempt to bolster flagging sales. Due to the low number produced the convertible D models are desirable. The D in convertible D stands for Drauz, the coachbuilder. Previous models were developed by Reutter coachbuilders.

While the 356 changed over time with various mechanical refinements, the basic shape remained the same and was instantly recognizable year to year. Coupe and cabriolet models were produced every year up to 1965, with the last 356B Roadster built in early 1963. The final model, the 356C, featured disc brakes and the most powerful pushrod engine Porsche ever produced: the 95 hp "SC". 356 production peaked at 14,151 cars in 1964, the year that the new 911 model went on the market, although the company continued to sell the 356C in North America through the end of 1965 as a lower-cost vehicle (the late Janis Joplin had a 356C cabriolet which was psychedelically painted).

The 356's push-rod engine was later reused to power Porsche's "entry level" 912 model, produced between 1965 and 1969, after customers complained that the 911, at almost twice the price of the 356, was too expensive.

In 2004, Sports Car International named the 356C number ten on the list of Top Sports Cars of the 1960s. Today the Porsche 356 is a well regarded collector car that has stood the test of time. Worldwide, thousands of 356 owners maintain the tradition, preserving their cars and driving them regularly.


  • Wood, J (1997). Porsche: The Legend. Parragon. ISBN 0-75252-072-5.

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