Happy Birthday, 356
Since it’s edition #208, there could have been some focus on the Peugeot 208 or even the Chevy NP208 transfer case. It’s the left side of that colored bar above that gains the attention.
Check out today’s date. On this day, all the way back in 1948, Ferdinand “Ferry” Porsche sat behind the wheel of first Porsche two-seat prototype, known as the 356/1. The consumer-level enthusiasm surrounding the Porsche 911 would place the brand on the enthusiast version of Mount Rushmore - along with maybe the passionate and tenured Corvette, BMW and Ferrari communities - but the 356 got Porsche’s wheels rolling.
After World War II, engineers in Europe were redirected from the war effort into rebuilding infrastructures and economies. Porsche would become part of those economies. With its 40 horsepower flat-4, the 356 wasn’t nearly the fastest. With its VW-heritage suspension, the 356 wasn’t the most agile. What is was – in straightforward terms – was a sportier, more aerodynamic version of the VW Beetle. The beautiful body lines were there. The engineers saw the potential. Soon, the 356 would be thrilling drivers on country roads and on race courses across the world.
Through the 50’s, thanks to the factory engineers and the independent engineers pushing the limits at the track, the 356 shed its VW heritage and became pure Porsche.
Venerable community member, Heinz Werner Bade, was one of those independent engineers. He goes back to the 50’s with the Porsche 356. Starting in the ’59 SCCA racing season, Heinz was the engineer behind the dominant Bruce “King Carrera” Jennings and his ’58 356 Carrera GT Speedster. The next season, the pair closed on 26 regional and national SCCA wins. That’s a truly remarkable feat. The 356 won the races. The 356 won the hearts. [For the next 2 years, Heinz served as engineer for Sir Stirling Moss in Formula 1, but that’s another story.]
To quote Ferry Porsche – “The first Porsche, built in 1948, is still with us. It will live on in all of our cars.” What a heritage. It started on June 8, 1948. If you see a Porsche 356 this week – or any Porsche for that matter - wish it a happy birthday. See you down the road!