Using license fees from VW, accrued rent from their war-time occupied buildings and upfront dealer money, Porsche were able to move production from Austria back to their hometown of Stuttgart and produce the first German 356, a ‘Split-Window’ Coupé.1
Finished in the spring of 1950, the first Coupé marked the 50th anniversary of Porsche transport which began with the Lohner-Porsche of 1900. This was celebrated at the Paris Salon de l’Automobile where the diminutive Coupé was displayed by its lonesome.1
Not long after the show, Porsche output exceeded 30 cars a month with both Coupé and Cabriolet bodies. Both were loosely based off their equivalents made in Gmünd, Austria but had bodied made in steel instead of aluminum.
The engine was the same VW 1086cc that employed a Porsche cylinder head, the same design that was used on the last few Gmünd cars. Bodies were all sourced from Reutter except some cabriolets which were sent to Glässer when demand was great than Reutter could handle. By November of 1950 80 cars were being made per month.
At the Frankfurt motor show in 1951 a suite of upgrades was announced including Lockheed discs and a 1.3-liter engine. This used larger bore, finned aluminum cylinders with chromed cylinders from Mahle. The engine had lower compression for pump fuel and could still produce 4 additional bhp.
All the cars and most of the 356 production was eventually sold to Max Hoffman who was the sole importer for America. After racing three aluminum-bodied Gmünd Coupés at the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans the 356 appeal grew.
Before the 1952 year, Porsche and Reutter improved the car with a one-piece bend windshield, Not too long afterward in mid-1952 the bumpers were repositioned at the request of Max Hoffman. By the end of the year the seminal 1500 engine was released with Hirth-sourced crankshafts and connecting rods which became known for their rolling bearing big-ends.
Series Production Car
1950 – 1951
Type 369 VW Air Cooled Flat-4 w/Porsche Cylinder Head
Dual Solex 26 VFJ Downdraft
1086 cc / 66.27 in³
64 mm / 2.5 in
29.8 kw / 40 bhp @ 4200 rpm
36.83 bhp per litre
50.38 bhp per tonne
body / frame
Steel Body over Steel Tub Chassus
VW Worm & Nut
VW Parallel Trailing Arms, Tubular Dampers
VW Leading Arms w/Torsion Bars, Hydraulic Lever-Arm Shock Absorbers