The First Porsche – 6/8/1948

History |


Australian automotive engineer, Ferdinand Porsche, rolled out his first Porsche design in 1900, at the World’s Fair in Paris. Porsche’s electric vehicle set several records (reaching more than 35mph) on land and earned him international acclamation. In 1916, Porsche became the director of Austro-Daimler Company and moved to Stuttgart, which was the company’s headquarters. Porsche became mainly responsible for designing some of the most outstanding Mercedes race cars when Daimler merged with Benz in the 1920s.

In 1931, Porsche left Daimler and formed his company. After some years, he was called by Adolf Hitler to help in the production of the “people’s car” for the German masses. Hitler wanted a car that was affordable to a majority of Germans, and Porsche was called upon to actualize his dream. In 1936, Porsche designed the prototype for the original Volkswagen (known as “strength through joy” or KdF: “Kraft durch Freude) together with his son Ferdinand (Ferry). During the Second World War, he was responsible for designing military vehicles, the powerful Tiger tank being one of the most notable.

After the war had ended, Porsche was accused of war crimes by the French and was imprisoned for more than one year. Ferry was left with the responsibility of keeping the business in good shape. He did not fail. Ferry built the Type 360 Cisitalia for a rich Italian industrialist and used money from the racecar to bail his father out of jail.

Porsche then took over from where his son. He approved one of his son’s project: a new sports car that would bear the name Porsche for the first time. The new car had similarities with earlier Porsche-designed racecars such as the Cisitalia, and it was called the Type 356. The new car featured modified Volkswagen drivetrain components and had its engine placed mid-chassis.

The aluminum prototype, built fully by hand and labeled “No. 1”, was finished on June 8, 1948. It became the first vehicle to bear the name Porsche: one of the world’s leading luxury car manufacturers. The production of the 356 had commenced during the winter of 1947-48. The first design drawings were completed on July 17, 1947, and on June 8, 1948; the Kärnten state government issued a permit approving the car. A series of 52 additional cars followed Number 1.

Before Erwin Komenda designed its bodywork, it was tested in chassis form. Even though Porsche had VW roots, it looked different because it was more detailed. It had a decorative aluminum license plate surround, integrated bumpers, and pop out handles. Inside, it was fitted with a bench seat. 

Porsche made the 356/2, their second car, after the first 356/1 roadster. Only four of the 356/2 were made in 1948. In 1949, 25 more were built, and another 18, in 1950. Unlike the 356/1’s, the 356/2’s had rear engines. The split windshield is the most distinctive feature.

The Germans continued to seek Porsche’s services (through consultation) for the further advancement of the Volkswagen. Porsche then opened new offices in Stuttgart using the proceeds. His motive was to produce 500 cars per year. His company was able to build 78,000 cars over the next two decades. 

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