From 1945 to 1947, Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche had the difficult task of steering the small fledging company founded by his father, Dr. Ing. Ferdinand Porsche, who was imprisoned by the Allied forces on December 15, 1945 for alleged war crimes. At the same time, Ferry, as the younger Porsche was known, was working on a new two-seat sports car that he hopes could save their company and get his father out of jail.
On June 11, 1947, the project was called Type 356 and by July, the preliminary design work had been completed into a tube-framed, aluminum-bodied, mid-engine roadster using and reimagining parts from the Volkswagen Type 1 (Käfer or Beetle). To achieve the mid-engine layout, Porsche’s engineers flipped the engine, the 4-speed transaxle and the rear suspension of the VW. They raised the compression ratio of the air-cooled 1120 cc VW flat-4 engine, enlarged the intake and exhaust valves, and fitted dual downdraft Solex carburetors to increase the power from 25 hp to 40 hp.
With an aluminum body (production cars had steel bodies) and a curb weight of just around 590 kilograms, Porsche’s first sports car had an ideal power-to-weight ratio plus the ideal balance and center-of-gravity offered by the mid-engine layout. Ferdinand Porsche was released from prison in August 1947 while the first 356 was built in a converted sawmill in Gmünd, Austria.
On June 8, 1948, father and son Ferdinand and Ferry Porsche proudly showed off their sleek silver roadster in the courtyard of the sawmill/factory and started what would become one of the most enduring sports car companies in the world. The Porsche 356 model would be produced until 1965 when it was replaced by another soon-to-be-icon, the Porsche 911.
Model car maker Maisto created a 1:18 scale die-cast version of the Type 356-001 to honor the achievement of Ferdinand and Ferry Porsche. Finished in silver, the national racing color of Germany, the model features steerable front wheels, opening doors, hood and trunk, plus a removable engine cover to expose the miniature mid-mounted air-cooled engine. The V-shaped windshield is an accurate depiction of the original first 356’s vestigial windscreen.
The front compartment showcases the black fuel tank, battery, and silver painted trunk while the rear compartment shows a spare tire secured by leather straps and buckles, which were the standard practice of the day. The interior accurately captures the steel dashboard of the original as well as the banjo-style white-rimmed steering wheel, ivory shift knob, red leather on the seats, door cards, and firewall cover behind the seats.
I’ve owned this Maisto model car for more than 20 years and it’s always a joy to look at and examine closely. It also reminds me of one of my dreams to create a replica of the very first Porsche using Volkswagen parts, exactly how Ferry Porsche did in 1947. It would be a fitting tribute to the unbreakable spirit and innovation of the Porsche founders.
To see other scale model cars and motorcycles that we have previously posted here in the Power Wheels Magazine website, please click “The Rack” button on the header bar near the top right of your screen (if you’re using a PC, laptop or tablet), or type “The Rack” on the Search bar (if you’re using a mobile phone).
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