The Porsche 356 was the start of a design dynasty. Ferdinand Porsche opened his studio in ’31. It would be a further fifteen years before the first Porsche production car. When it arrived, it was no coincidence that the 356 was similar to the VW Beetle. Dr Porsche had penned that car, too. The 356’s compact and rounded lines oozed understated charm. In the Fifties, it was the small – but perfectly-formed – 356 which cemented Porsche in the public eye. Right up until ’65, in fact – when the Porsche 911 hit centre stage.
For the first four years, the 956 was manufactured in Austria. It was fitted with a flat-four push-rod engine. Rear-mounted – and topped off with a cute grille – the air-cooled motor kept time in pleasingly pulsating fashion. With a capacity of just 1,100cc, it made a mere 40bhp. Top speed was 87mph – pretty good, considering. Suspension was via trailing-link up front – and high-pivot swing axle at the rear. The gearbox was a 4-speed affair. The 356’s split windscreen was the most notable design flourish.
The Porsche 356A model was released in ’55 – in Germany. Bodywork-wise, it was less rotund than the first version. The new car came with a curved, one-piece screen. Front suspension and steering were revised. A bigger engine had been installed. 1,600cc was a half-litre up on the original. 356 B and C models duly followed. Roadsters, a Karmann coupé, and the Super 75 and Super 90 continued to uprate the technical spec. There was also a 356 Carrera. Indeed, even after the 911 series took over the Porsche reins, the 912 still had a foot in both camps. It was powered by a 356 engine – in a 911 shell. In terms of its legacy, then, the Porsche 356 was pretty pivotal to the Stuttgart marque!