Ferdinand Porsche is surely one of the most important people in the history of automobiles, for it was he who, in the mid-1930s and at Adolf Hitler’s personal behest, designed one of the most famous and commercially-successful cars in the world, the Volkswagen Type 1, generally known as the Beetle. But Porsche’s real interest lay in sports cars and so, at the end of the Second World War, he opened the first car factory bearing his name. The first vehicle produced became a timeless icon: the superb 356.
The 356 was the brainchild of Porsche’s son, Ferry. He had the brilliant idea of developing a sports car based on the Beetle. The first model was sold in 1948 and began a glorious career lasting to the mid 1970s.
The first 356s arrived in the USA in 1950, to be sold by the famous New York importer, Max Hoffman, who was of central importance in the birth of the legendary Speedster.
Hoffman persuaded Ferry Porsche to come up with a less expensive and more spartan version of the 356 cabriolet. At that time, the Porsche brand was almost unknown in the USA and Hoffman believed its cars were simply too expensive for the American public of the day. Porsche listened to him and, in 1955, the 356 Speedster began being distributed, in the American market alone, at a more competitive price. It was a huge success.
This model was distinctive on account of the lowered windscreen, the interior fittings (reduced to a minimum) and the chrome trims which ran right down the sides.
Nowadays the 356 Speedster is not only one of the most sought-after Porsche cars around the world, but has also succeeded in retaining something of the glorious and carefree 1950s in its sensual and rebellious curves. A car for all time.
The photograph shows a superb 1955 356 Speedster sold by Sotherby’s during the 2018 Arizona auction.
Stuttgart, October 2018