Ferdinand Porsche was an automotive consultant, designer and engineer, who debuted his first vehicle at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1900. In 1936 he was recruited by the Nazi party to design an affordable vehicle for the German people, which would henceforth be known as Volkswagen. Following WWII Ferdinand was arrested for war crimes. His son Ferry took over the family firm and struggled to keep it afloat. In a turn of events, Ferry was approached by a wealthy Italian who wished to have his own race car. The resulting Type 360 Cisitalia would fund his father’s bail, by then Ferdinand Sr. had approved a new project that being spearheaded by his son, the 356/1 prototype. This would be the first car to officially bear the Porsche name, which made its maiden voyage on this day in 1948 during its road certification.
Erwin Komenda is credited with the design of the vehicle’s body, which took approximately one month to complete. It was fitted over a chassis and mechanicals, much of which were already in use on the Volkswagen Beetle, but tuned for higher horsepower. The 365/1, which won numerous races soon after it was completed, laid the groundwork for the production 356 models. One major difference between the prototype and production models was the engine placement, as it would be moved to behind the rear axle on production vehicles.
After Ferdinand was released from jail he was hired as a consultant at Volkswagen. He used his salary to open a new office and production facility where he planned to build up to 500 Porsche vehicles per year. His calculations were slightly off. Though it took two years to build 50 356s, In the next 20 years more than 75,000 Porsches would leave the assembly line. The first car is currently on display at the Porsche Museum, Stuttgart.
It should be noted that there is some an ongoing debate about the first Porsche. Some historians believe it to be the Type 64, of which Ferdinand built three of for the 1939 Berlin to Rome race, which never happened. Others state it is the 356/1, as it was the first car to use the Porsche name as a badge. Others state it was the first production 356 that marks the beginning of Porsche automobiles. What do you think?