The first time the public came into contact with a Porsche 356 was at the Geneva Motor Show in 1949 where it was, needless to say, an immediate success. To understand the origins of this project, however, it is necessary to take a step back over the years, the history of the 356 is in fact inseparably linked to the troubled history of the Porsche family and it is no coincidence that it was the first car to have the Porsche logo stamped on the hood. . In spite of its soft and harmonious lines, the 356 was born, as we will see, among a thousand vicissitudes and its development had to suffer the heavy arrest caused by the Second World War.
Ferdinand Porsche was born in Bohemia in 1875, the son of a humble tinker and immediately developed a strong interest in the sciences and in particular in the study of electricity. His inclination towards this subject led him to Vienna where in 1898 he managed to enter Jakob Lohner’s electric car factory, this was the first stage of a long and unrepeatable career in the automotive sector with more than three hundred and eighty industrial projects under his belt. Porsche worked as technical director at Austro-Daimler, at the German Daimler where he designed the Mercedes SS and SSK and finally at the Austrian Steyr. The continuous wandering between different factories, which once left still carried out the projects for which he had created the conditions, could not continue, however, and in 1929 he decided to found a private design studio that would bear his name. This allowed him to enter into contracts with the manufacturers and at the same time to maintain a certain independence.
These years were the sporting successes with the famous 16-cylinder racing cars, with central engine and torsion bars that the Studio designed for the Auto Union group. Porsche had always given importance to sporting competitions, he himself had won the “Prinz Heinrich” cup in 1909 aboard an Austro-Daimler, and he understood that races, as well as valid tests for materials and solutions, represented an excellent means of advertising. In the designer’s mind, however, there was a project very far from competition: that of a small car with a low purchase price and low running costs that would have powered Germany. Only with Adolf Hitler’s rise to power was the project possible and in 1938 the “Volkswagen”, literally the people’s car, was a reality. Unfortunately, the advent of the Second World War and the subsequent fall of Hitler blocked the start of the production process of the Beetle and the development of a sports prototype called Typ 60K10. This model, based on Volkswagen mechanics and destined for the Berlin-Rome Rally of 1939, was the first stone of the 356 project.
After the war and freed his father Ferdinand from French captivity, Ferry Porsche, who was born in 1909 and had always collaborated in his father’s projects, gathered in the Austrian town of Gmünd the most valid collaborators of the Porsche Studio to create a sports coupe that carried the his name. Thus was born the 356 project, a small sports car based on the mechanics of the Beetle that was inspired by the Typ 60K10.