In June 1947 Ferdinand Porsche allotted project number 356 to a new car design he was working on at his factory in Gmünd. This new car was to be built with Volkswagen parts – all that was available to Porsche in those immediate post-war years. During March 1948 the first Type 356 car (356–001) was tested in chassis form by Ferry Porsche and Robert Eberan von Eberhorst, the car powered by a mid-mounted air-cooled flat-four engine. In April of that same year, roadster bodywork was built for this first prototype. Today, this historic car is on display in the Porsche Museum. Porsche also built a parallel model to 356–001, the Type 356/2, which had a platform chassis but still used Volkswagen mechanicals. With a rear-mounted flat-four this car would be fitted with coupé bodywork designed by Erwin Kommenda. Seventy years ago, with financial aid provided by two Swiss businessmen – Bernhard Blank and R von Senger – Porsche commenced production of 50 Type 356/2 chassis and 10 coupé bodies in March 1948 – the original roadster prototype having now been forgotten.

These 50 sports cars would be the first Porsche 356s – a model that would eventually remain in production until 1964, when it was replaced by the Porsche 911.

With the help of Porsche Club New Zealand 356-expert Graham Lister, we gathered together three of the best examples currently resident in New Zealand – Graham’s own coupé, Neil Tolich’s delightful Speedster and the extremely rare Carrera currently owned by Richard Giltrap.

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