In the middle of the war, the young company Porsche moved from Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen to Gmünd in Carinthia. In the buildings of a disused sawmill, the first vehicle was born, which bore the name Porsche. It was followed by a small series of 356 coupes and convertibles, which coined the unique sports car DNA.
Bombing on Stuttgart
Germany in autumn 1943. Massive bombardments on Stuttgart. The company “Dr. Ing. H. c. F. Porsche limited liability company, threatened by the war and looking for a new location twelve years after its founding. Ferdinand Porsche finds what he is looking for and deviates in 1944 into the much less endangered Gmünd in beautiful Carinthia in Austria.
The conditions found there were extremely difficult. It was not only missing on machines, often also on material. The rooms in the barracks were far too small. But the location in a valley behind the Grossglockner had a decisive advantage: There was very little threat from the cruel war, above all there was enough food for all employees in the rural surroundings.
Destiny in the hands of Ferry Porsche
Ferdinand Porsche was in French detention from December 1945. He was released in 1947 and formally acquitted in 1948. The fate of the company was during this time in the hands of Ferdinand’s son, Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche, called Ferry.
“In the beginning I looked around but could not find the car I was dreaming of. So I decided to build it myself. “ Ferry Porsche
This quote is still legendary and founded the myth Porsche. The company had to be kept alive – especially with the construction of tractors, mowing fingers and winches – but the development contract for the type 360 Cisitalia for the Italian racing car manufacturer of the same name brought the necessary money for Ferry Porsches dream car.
The Porsche 356 No. 1 Roadster is born
In 1948 it was finally time. Initially, the car was still called VW Sport. The steel tubular frame carried an aluminum body. Important parts such as front axle, gearbox and engine came from the Volkswagen “Beetle”, but the Porsche technicians brought the drive source with 1131 cubic centimeters, which was arranged in the middle, thanks to new cylinder heads and fine tuning to at least 35 hp. That was enough to accelerate the vehicle from just 585 kilograms to what was then a massive 135 km / h. On June 8, 1948, the 356 “Nr. 1 “Roadster with the chassis number 356.001 its general operating permit. A historical moment.
The Porsche 356/2 for the first time in Geneva
This vehicle remained a unique piece. Simultaneously with the No. 1 was built on the Porsche 356/2. Already in August 1948, the first coupe was ready. The base of the 356/2 models was a sheet metal box frame. The four-cylinder boxer engine then had 40 hp and it was installed in the rear. This created space for emergency seats and luggage. Even today, the engine of the Porsche 911 is installed in the rear. From winter 1948/49 until the end of production in Austria in 1950, a total of 44 coupes and eight convertibles were built by the 356/2. The bodies of the coupés were made of aluminum sheets by small specialists such as Kastenhofer, Keibl or Tatra in Vienna and Beutler in Switzerland by hand, the bodies of the Cabriolets came from Keibl and Kastenhofer and from the company Beutler in Thun in Switzerland. These models from Gmünd were the first to introduce the Porsche brand to an international audience at the Geneva Motor Show in the spring of 1949.
When Ferry Porsche decided to build “his” 356, he had very modestly assumed that you could sell about 500 pieces of such a sports car. What a gigantic miscalculation: Until 1965, almost 78,000 copies of the Porsche 356 were actually built. The unstoppable success story took its course.
Pictures and text passages: Porsche Newsroom