Welcome to Throwback Monday where we take a look at how things once were, or at least how certain famous cars were once built. This week we’re looking at how the Porsche 356 came together.
Porsche entered the sports car market in 1948 with the introduction of the 356. The series’ rear-engine and flat four layout was taken directly from Ferdinand Porsche’s work on the pre-war Volkswagen, or People’s Car. The 356 however, was intended to be built in far smaller numbers than the Volkswagen, and that afforded the company to take a very different and far more labor intensive production process.Ferdinand Porsche conceived rough designs for a sports car while detained in prison by the French for his work for the Third Reich during the war. Eventually released, he joined his son Ferry and an engineer friend from his days at Daimler, Karl Rabe, to realize those designs in metal. Ferry had already been working on a pair of design directions, the 356/1 which was a mid-engine car, and the 356/2 which won out and became the basis for the production series.
The 356 was a fresh design but used a lot of the thinking that went into the pre-war Volkswagen. A flat chassis pan underpinned the body, but here it was welded in place for a more structurally sound uni-body. Suspension was likewise similar to the VW progenitor. Lastly, the pushrod four cylinder engine, originally producing 25-horsepower in VW-use, made 40 in the Porsche owing to the addition of freer breathing via new heads and twin carbs.
We had noted in a Thursday Trivia a couple of weeks back that the company that is now Recaro once built Porsche bodies and interiors under their original name of Karrosrie Reutter at their Stuttgart factory. In this video, introduced by Ferry Porsche himself, we get to actually see that taking place. We also get to observe the incredible amount of hand building that went into each 356. That assembly seems so slow paced by today’s standards. A single pallet of deck lids is described as being a week’s worth, and the huge die stamping them out will remain idle until next week’s order.
So sit back and enjoy this factory tour and a look at how Porsche put together their first sports car—the one that the uber purists consider the only true Porsche.