VW Beetle designer Ferdinand Porsche may have given the world the “people’s car,” but it was his son Ferry who, with Karl Rabe, created the 356. These days a Porsche stands for precision, performance, purity, and perfection, and the 356 is the first chapter in that story. Well not quite. The 356 was so named because it was the 356th project from the Porsche design office.
It was also the first car to bear the Porsche name. Postwar expediency forced a reliance on Beetle underpinnings, but the 356 is much more than a Bug in butterfly’s clothes. Its rear-engined layout and design descends from the father car, but in the athletic son the genes are mutated into a true sports machine. A pert, nimble, tail-happy treat, the pretty 356 is the foundation stone of a proud sports tradition.
The first Porsche 356 was a triumph of creative expediency and inspired engineering, taking basic VW Beetle elements to create a new breed of sports car. Aficionados adore the earliest cars, often affectionately dubbed “jelly molds.”
With limited luggage accommodation in the front, the rear rack provided useful extra luggage space.
Not a covered jacking point but an access cover to allow you to retrieve the torsion bar.
Seats were wide and flat, and the large, almost vertical, steering wheel had a light feel. Passengers got a grab handle.
The patented Porsche baulk-ring synchromesh gave smooth gear changes with quick and positive engagement.
The 356’s wheelbase measured 82 in (210 cm).
The first Porsche 356s distinguished themselves almost immediately with a 1951 Le Mans class win and a placing of 20th overall. Since then, Porsche has always been associated with performance, boasting an enviable track and rally victory tally.
The ’62 356 Carrera 2 model had a 1966cc engine.
Drum brakes gave way to all-around discs with the 356C in 1963.
The interior is delightfully functional, simple, timeless, and, because of that, enduringly fashionable.
The original incarnation of the 356 had lower wheels and a more bulbous shape. The featured car here is a 1962 356B Super 90, produced just two years before the birth of the 911 which, although a very different beast, is still an evolution of the original shape.
On convertibles, the rear-view mirror was attached to a slim chrome bar that gave a deceptive split windshield appearance from the front.
On the 356B, headlights and bumpers moved higher up the fender.
The rear-engined layout was determined by reliance on VW Beetle mechanicals and running gear. The flat-four engine, with its so-called “boxer” layout of horizontally opposed cylinders, is not pure Beetle, but a progressive development. Engines grew from 1086cc to 1996cc.
This is the 1582cc engine of the 1962 356B.
On the 356B twin exhausts exit on each side through bumper overriders. The busy air-cooled thrum is an unmistakeable trademark sound that was appreciated by thousands of buyers.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Porsche 356B (1959–63)
BODY STYLES Two-plus-two fixed-head coupe, convertible, and Speedster.
CONSTRUCTION Unitary steel body with integral pressed-steel platform chassis.
ENGINE Air-cooled, horizontally opposed flat-four 1582cc with twin carbs.
POWER OUTPUT 90 bhp at 5500 rpm (Super 90).
TRANSMISSION Four-speed manual, all synchromesh, rear-wheel drive.
SUSPENSION Front: independent, trailing arms with transverse torsion bars and antiroll bar; Rear: independent, swing half-axles, radius arms, and transverse torsion bars. Telescopic shocks.
BRAKES Hydraulic drums all around.
MAXIMUM SPEED 110 mph (77 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 10 sec
A.F.C. 30–35 mpg (10.6–12.5 km/l)