(first posted here 1/29/2016)
The other day I dropped in at the Sports Car Shop, and there was a blue 356C on the showroom floor. I opened the door, and slid in over the high sill, to sit behind the wheel for a spell. I have never felt more at home and at one in a car; it’s as if it were an extension of myself, like slipping on a second body. This is me! This is the car I would have designed and built for myself. Of course, my feelings of familiarity and being at home weren’t new; they stem from the fact that I’ve had a gigantic crush on the 356 since I was a wee lad. I’ve sat and ridden in a few over the decades; the VW Beetles I owned were cheap surrogates. And now I’m ready, willing and able for the real thing. I would have written a check for $25-30k on the spot for it.
I asked the proprietor how much; he said it wasn’t for sale; it was having some work done. I asked how much the owner had paid for it, given its slightly dinged and patinated paint and all-round original (but cared-for) condition. “$80,000. They’ve more than doubled in the past couple of years.” Every dream (car) has a price, and this one may now continue be a dream. Which I’m ok with too. One doesn’t have to own something in order to truly love it.
This 356 CC was originally posted at the other site six years ago, after finding it at the curb. It seems like the right time to post it here now (with some enhancements and more images), given that my 356 love was once again re-kindled and burns hotter than ever, if that’s possible.
(original post text from 2010:) My love and lust for cars is vast; I can (and do daily) rhapsodize about everything from giant dagmar-breasted yank tanks to pre-pubescent micro-cars. And I would gladly have affairs with (almost) any of them. But for some of us, there is one car that is the one, our automotive soul mate. You’re staring at mine, so…no leering, please.
Because even if this utterly perfect, exactly-according-to-my-specifications (except for the non-original hub caps) 356A daily driver doesn’t belong to me, we’re inextricably intertwined, and will reunite on another plane. Now that may turn out to just be the internet via this Curbside Classic, but since I’ve been carrying the 356 in my heart and head for over fifty years, that’s progress. But I have nagging doubts that I can do my true love justice in a blog post. I almost regret finding this Porsche; I don’t have the time (or ability) to write a book of love poems.
But sure enough, last Saturday in Portland, there it was sitting on Division near about 35th in its exquisite perfection. This is not just any 356; it’s exactly the vintage (A series, from ’55-’59), body style, and condition that I’ve been carefully constructing, driving and loving in my head for over fifty years. And to top it off, this is a genuine daily driver. The owner has had it for twelve years and was out shopping with his daughter, who rides next to him in the car seat.
He says it’s great in the snow! Of course it is. And of course a 356 is the only true-blood forty-year-old sports car one would even consider using as a daily driver. That alone speaks volumes about the Porsche (and me).
That combination of qualities defines the vision that Ferdinand Porsche had for the car that would ultimately bear his name and the family coat of arms: a practical, durable, comfortable, efficient and speedy conveyance whose design followed the necessity of overcoming the limitations of its VW donor sedan as well as reflecting the sensibilities of its time and place.
As pretty much any casual student of Porsche knows, Ferdinand Senior (right) didn’t actually build the first 356 in 1948; that was left to son Ferry (left) while the old man was being held in jail by the French on trumped-up war crime charges—he was later exonerated—and forced to consult on the development of the VW-similar Renault 4CV.
But the first true “Porsche”, the mother of them all, was built by Porsche almost ten years earlier, the KdF 60K10 or Porsche Type 64. It was a radical design based on the then-new KdF car (VW Beetle) to compete in the 1939 Berlin-Rome race. And it encompassed the key design parameters that turned a prosaic and poky sedan into a giant-killer.
The original KdF engine produced only 25hp, and even the finely-tuned race version could make all of 45 hp or so. In order to achieve the speeds required (90 mph), Porsche’s body designer Erwin Komenda penned a hyper-aerodynamic body to sit on the VW chassis. The race was called off because of the eruption of war, but one of the three 60K10 coupes served as Porsche’s personal car during the war years, easily barreling down the autobahn at well over over 85 mph. driven by Porsche’s nephew and secretaryGhislaine Kaes, while Porsche worked or napped.
The triumph of aerodynamics, light weight (1200 lbs), a supple four-wheel independent suspension, and a reliable, efficient small engine was undeniable. The parameters for the future 356 were set in 1938, but it took almost ten more years to put it into production.
The first post-war 1948 Porsche, 356-1, was actually a mid-engine roadster, in a format that Porsche sports racing cars (RSK) would reprise some ten year later. The Beetle’s drive train was flipped on end, and all of the other mechanical components were VW parts, which were not easy to come by in 1948. The Porsches eked out a modest living in the first few years after the war in Gmund, Austria, repairing VW Kubelwagen that had been left behind and were now prized items. Many or all the parts used on the 356-1 and the first few 356-2s were actually sourced from these Kubelwagens.
But for a number of good reasons, a more pragmatic rear-engine configuration was chosen for the 356/2, the first of the long line of 356s that would go into production. Also penned by Erwin Komenda, the rear engine allowed the 356 to be more than just a “sports car”; it was really a sporty, high-speed touring car, and one that could seat up to five, with a bench front seat and a couple of rear seats.
Yes, a bench front seat. That’s what the early 356s came with, and it was an available option pretty much right to the end. Why?
In that post-war time, if you could afford a Porsche in Europe, it was going to be your primary family car. Here’s Ferry Porsche with his, along with his sons. It was the Porsche family car. Which helps explain what a Porsche really was: never a harsh-riding, uncomfortable and compromised ‘Sports car” as typically found in England. the Porsche was always designed to be the master of all circumstances, regardless of whether that was a steep Alpine road, the Autobahn, or a race track.
Or even boar hunting. And just about the only classic sports car I wouldn’t have qualms driving 15 miles up a gravel Forest service road to a trail head.
Those first 356s were cobbled together in an old lumber mill in the mountains of Austria (Gmund) using all-VW components; after a few years the fledgling company moved back to Stuttgart and slowly began to replace the purchased Wolfsburg parts with their own.
By the time the 356A appeared in 1955, the evolution of a VW-based “kit” car to a mature sports car was complete. The production coupe’s measured aerodynamic Cd of .29 is right up there with the best of today’s wind-tunnel tuned designs. Combined with a low frontal area, 356s like this one cruise happily at ninety or more despite its 70hp, and getting 30 mpg while doing so. The 356 represents the ideal of accomplishing more with less; one that speaks strongly to to me.
Of course by this time all of the VW-sourced components had been steadily replaced by Porsche’s own. Engine size increased from 1100cc to 13oo, 1500 and ultimately 1600cc, foreshadowing the VW engine’s evolution. Porsche 356s, except for the very rare four-cam Carerra, were designed to be always adequately (and reliably) powered, but were never highly-tuned and highly-strung.
The Porsche was radically different from the sports cars of the time that relied on hard suspensions to vainly overcome the flexibility of their frames. The Porsche unified body/framework structure was extremely rigid, allowing the rather softly independently-sprung wheels to work effectively, whether on a rough road or the racetrack. As such, it is the most influential sports car ever, and inspired the work that Lotus and others later took up in their quest for chassis perfection.
But despite its storied racing successes, the 356 never lost its ability to be a perfectly practical, comfortable daily driver. And it explains why even today, a 356 does not feel like most old cars. Its rigidity and supple suspension are a stark contrast to almost all vintage sports cars. That is the ultimate genius of this car.
Growing up as kid in Austria in the fifties, the Porsche name should have had the prefix “Saint” attached to it. The very first race the original 356-1 ever entered was in Innsbruck in 1948, and it handily won its class. In its first attempt at LeMans in 1951, an early 356 100 won its class. We would go to the sports car races at the airport and be amazed to see the little jelly-beans with their distinctive engine howl nip and tuck their way between big bellowing Austin Healeys and Jags. David and Goliath, an archetype that always inspires.
In Baltimore in the late sixties, my brother’s friend had a clapped out 356A, very (un)like this one. They could be had for next to nothing at the time, if you could live with some rust. I have vivid memories of squeezing into that back seat, which was pretty remarkable given how small the 356 is and how big I was getting to be. It put me inches away from its howling fan and mechanical symphony. No wonder I owned a succession of Beetles; they were the next best thing for staving off the Porsche addiction.
I’m repeating myself, but this particular 356 is like waking up in the day dream I’ve been having all my life. It’s just so damn perfect.
I’d have a Super 90 in “my” 356A, but with the baby moon hub caps, please.
Update: As much as I love the purity of the 356/356A, with its low bumpers and original headlight position, the blue 356C I sat in has its practical advantages too. By the last years of its long run, the 356 benefited from numerous improvements, including its suspension, four wheel disc brakes, and more powerful engines.
And its revised interior is even more appealing. It’s both intimate yet surprisingly room. Like the VW Beetle, headroom is generous, not what one would expect. Visibility is better than might be expected too. the large but handsome steering wheel is right where it should be. As is everything else. It’s like slipping on your favorite well-worn shoes or slipper.
Although I’ve never driven one, I just know what it would feel like to drive. I’ve driven VWs, and I’ve been imagining driving a 356 for almost sixty years; plenty of time to form a good virtual idea. I’m an experienced 356 “driver”. Will it ever happen for real? Who knows; some passions are best left to the imagination forever; the attraction is always greatest to what we don’t have. Plus there’s no maintenance and repairs.
Such a great car in a sea of Japanese 90s Econoboxes and minivans . Eugen again?.
Town seems to be awash with them. College student cars I guess?.
Rich college students, judging by the recent asking prices for 356s at BaT and other sites.
I like this a lot, today’s Porsches do nothing for me. Unless I become a rockstar or CEO it’s well out of my price range. I know I will be unable to sit comfortably in it being a Vanessa Feltz look a like but I could just look at it like a work of art.
Great story and photos. The Porsche story is an interesting one that continues to this day and makes for fascinating reading. I saw one of these at a car show in Toronto’s Distillery District about 10 years ago, complete with matched luggage in the trunk. One classic I’d definitely love to own. These are the quintessential true sports cars that are still able to show others how it’s done.
Wonderful car, great story. Two things: that colour light blue looks very, very similar to the Mercedes Horizon Blue colour (always a fave of mine and the colour of my W108). I wonder if they are one of the same? Also, you mentioned the car bearing the Porsche family crest. Ki always thought the Porsche crest was actually that of the city of Stuttgart. I once read somewhere that when they took the very first Porsche to the USA for unveiling at a motor show and were preparing the display the night before opening, Max Hoffman said to Ferry “where is the badge”. Ferry replied they did not have a badge to which Hoffman replied “every car has to have a badge”. The story goes that the only badge they could think of was that of the city of Stuttgart and they spent much of the night hand painting that onto the car. At the opening of the show the next day, there is was with a badge. It would be interesting to know if this story was fact or fantasy!
The Porsche company logo is a combination of the Weimar-era Württemberg coat of arms and the City of Stuttgart coat of arms.
Ferry Porsche ordered one of his managers, Hermann Lapper, to develop a company logo. The result was revealed near the end of 1952 (According to German Wikipedia).
A black horse on hind legs against a yellow shield. Weird coincidence or what?
Stuttgart was famous for its horse farms and -breeders, hence the horse in the city’s coat of arms. So I’ve read (a long time ago).
There’s a theory that Count Baracca’s black horse might have come from a German plane he shot down. Enzo added the yellow shield. But who really knows?
Below a circa 1900 Stuttgart city seal.
More here, the Stuttgart-horses (on seals) date back to the early-14th century:
Us, lots of horse heritage in Stuttgart – you see those symbols – and Mercedes stars – all over the city!
It kind of bothers me how expensive these have become. Even 10 years ago, these would have been attainable to an average guy or girl.
I greatly prefer the coupe to any roadster/convertible/speedster variant; although I’ve always preferred the later B and C styling, the A/early B is growing on me. Nice color, too.
I got a thing about the A.
B, C, 911, 912, 928, 930, 959, 996 and 997 all have their appeal, but I just know that if I had the good fortune to be possession of any of these, I’d still be hankering after an A. Or maybe a Pre-A. I came across a daily driver A and had the briefest chat with the owner. No probs after changing the 6 volt to 12 volt electrics.
But as Aaron says above, prices on these have gone insane. And they aren’t coming down anytime soon.
Great piece Paul.
Definitely right on the Lotus; the Lotus Elite was Colin Chapman’s attempt of “doing a 356” and was it’s equal as long as no bits fell off…
“…never lost its ability to be a perfectly practical, comfortable daily driver.”
I never thought of it in this way before, but that phrase captures what I’ve always loved about 356’s and earlier 911’s.
My father owned a 356 C convertible during his last days of bachelorhood. Years later, he tried to convince my mother that an early ’70s stripped-down 911 would be a good family car, but it was a losing argument. In those days, though, he was right; it would have been a perfectly reasonable car for a young family.
I love the boar-hunting shot as well. Hunting has changed as much as cars have over the last few decades. Occasionally, I’ll find photos of hunting scenes from the 1950s-70s, and people frequently strapped their kill to the trunk of a sedan or on the roof of a station wagon, and were likely to be dressed in plaid jackets and denim overalls. Nowadays, its almost mandatory to have an off-road F-250 and $1,000s worth of ScentLok camo outfits just to step out in the field.
Great story Paul, it helped me set the pace for my work day.
I can totally picture you arriving at the next CC meetup on one of these, keep looking.
I can’t see myself in a 356, so I’ll stick with the beetle for now. Besides, I aspire to embody that line from the movie Christine: Good hands… Bad taste in cars.
Love the Vasek Polak license frame. Spent many years in the 70s drooling in front of those plate glass windows.
“Automotive soul mate” — I know exactly what you mean, Paul! Having been a teenager in the 1980s, mine was the 1980s equivalent of your 356, a 911 Carrera Targa (non-turbo) in Guards Red, and I was lucky to find a 964 911 Carrera 2 Targa in Guards Red for sale locally at the exact right time when I started to look seriously with sufficient funds in hand after over two decades of daydreaming. Owning it for 3 years was somewhat bittersweet because I was overseas in Iraq for half of the time, but definitely worth it. It even financially worked out well, because it was 17 years old and fully depreciated when I bought it, and I sold it for a break even price later when I decided to move on to another long-time automotive dream, before any expensive repairs cropped up to ruin the experience. So I can attest that the Porsche automotive soul mate experience can work out.
1. There is just SO much understated passion in this post, it’s quite inspiring.
2. “One doesn’t have to own something in order to truly love it” will henceforth be a mantra for me.
A wonderful tribute to a groundbreaking car. I’ve always been a 911 guy myself (early chrome-bumper for maximum perfection) but the 356 has grown on me greatly in recent years. At a show a couple years back I saw a very early pre-A 356, as well as a 356C and a replica of the Type 64, and it was very fascinating to see the evolution of the design in a nutshell right there.
Also, there seems to be an early 60’s Ranchero photobombing the second photo in the post! Easy to miss with that gorgeous 356A front and center.
This was a car that I didn’t appreciate when I was younger. I was totally into Detroit style big iron mentality. Now I can appreciate the simplicity and elegance of this design. The understated beauty of the car is now so appealing. I saw one in the Reno car museum with painted, color matching rims and wheel covers. It is a shame that the prices on these cars has skyrocketed. I think that the Porsche 944 has much of the same charm and utility and the prices are right where a poor enthusiast like me can buy one. Act now! Even if you just park it in the garage for a few years.
Nice article Paul. I too am a fan of all things air cooled VW/Porsche. Makes me sad to think of how many of these were parted out to make desert racing Baja Bugs and buggies in the ’70s
Wonderful car and kudos to the owner for actually driving it at least around town with his child. I’m sure the kid gets as excited as mine do when I take them and there can’t be a better way to build a future gearhead…
The older I get, the more I like the 356; growing up I preferred the look of the early 911s. Even now I prefer the B/C to this A. It’s moot, though, because at these prices I’ll never have one. I can’t even afford a nice 914 anymore, so when/if I get the chance I’ll have to be happy with a late Karmann Ghia or regular Beetle. You can always plug in a hot engine.
1972. $600. A friend of mine bought a Porsche 356 coupe for $600. It was very-much used, but it ran well. It was his daily driver for about a year. Then he sold it to a hippie-dude, who totalled it about a month later. A few months later, this hippie guy’s girlfriend inherited a pristine 1960 Corvair Monza from her grandma. It was in gorgeous condition. She totalled the Monza about a month later. Too much weed or something. Ugh.
There’s a feature (and drive!) of the 60K10 in the December 2015 issue of the British magazine The Automobile. Always wanted to know more about that one.
Now that I’m older, I appreciate the early Porsches a lot more than I did back in the day. Back then I just thought of them a rebodied Beetle with a hotter engine and an astronomical price tag. I think most folks saw them as that. Now I understand just how different and special they were. Thank you for taking us inside the early 356, Paul.
Very well said Paul. These are, to abuse the cliche, a timeless design. But it’s true. I really like that blue on it too!
This a love story, bless the man for his love. We have i one in Srilankan. But how he”musty” found it is a story for “Ewake up Tales!
Too bad you’ve never driven one as they’re great road cars and comfy as daily drivers too .
In the 1970’s I had to fish or cut bait , Tom wanted to sell me his bent window Continental Coupe or I could buy my first Split Window VW Beetle….
The Beetle won , oops .
I time I bought a rather nice if unrestored 1963 356B Coupe and drove it a few years , I still liked it but liked the ’54 better and my 1967 912 5 speed 5 gauge Coupe better yet so I gave the ’63 356B to my Son who’s allowing it to rust away in his back yard….
Good cars , _GREAT_ times ! I flogged those old Porches absolutely as fast as they’d go on some seriously bad mountain roads like they were designed to do =8-) .
Great article. I have a ’59 and love it.
Couple of things – the Super engine didn’t have the roller bearing crank. That was the earlier four-cam Carrera engine (which eventually had a regular crankshaft).
Also, those hubcaps are correct for a Super (and they were optional for other cars).
The 356 Super had the Hirth roller crankshaft through 1957. And the Normal through 1954.
You’re right about the hubcaps; they first appeared in 1958 on the Super.
Paul, I found this advertisement in my Father’s personal papers after his early passing.
He saved the ad for over 30 years.
5.15.17 UPDATE :
Last week I discovered a little hole in the wall shop in North Hollywood, Ca. that’s building these Coupes on IRS VWPans, very nice indeed and fairly affordable .
Been driving 356 Porsche’s for eight decades (my first hwy car was the first 356 Speedster on the American highways), and my belief is that a true 356 Porsche nut would let any other true 356 Porsche nut, drive their car … if you asked them nicely (especially if you have never driven a 356, before). I will give you this one word of advice, though: Don’t get-up on the wheel and steer the car. Just think about where you want to go and let the car take you there (a 356, in perfect alignment, takes very little conscious effort to drive).
My dream cars would be, in order
1) Porche 912 with fuel injection, in green as seen here
2) Porche 356 like the one here in this post
3) Karmann Ghia with the 1300 single port and the Judson supercharger
Marc – love your choices!
Do try a Ghia! They are cheap and charming and have some of the feel of a 356. My ’71 is my daily driver and has been lots of dependable fun. These later twin port 1600 IRS cars will cruise at 75, reach 90 and generally keep up with traffic – all that with 48DIN hp, due to good CD and low frontal area. They are also a bit higher geared than the early ones. A Judson blown 1300 would be neat, but not as usable – depends what you want.
You can get all mechanical parts for them and they are fun to work on.
Practical, too – mountain bikes fit inside (causes many smiles when I extract mine at the bike park) – there is a lot more stowage space than you would think.
No one cares if you modify one sympathetically – I am having fun doing things to mine and there is a fount of information out there to help. The VW folk are very laid back and friendly, and people seem to have affection for them too.
Good luck in finding a vehicle you love, whatever it is!
Oh man, that baby blue 356A is gorgeous!
I had the pleasure of a trip in a 356C to visit Gmuend in Austria, to see the Porsche drawing office there and drive the original test routes in the mountains. Experiencing that car taught me how roomy, comfortable and competent a 356 is – the perfect GT car. Their modernity must have been mind blowing in the ’50s against Healeys (loved my time in them, but pretty crude and uncomfortable), or Jag XK 120-150s!
I think that being small and unaggressive looking, 356s also have a social acceptance that avoids the hostility that modern supercars seem to provoke.
They are at the top of my dream car list – this from someone who loves old Corvettes and 911s.
I recently saw a genuine survivor but restored Kubelwagen 1942 vintage at a show, What Porsche did with that basic kit of parts is amazing the kubel is basic in the extreme and has the aero of a brick coupled with almost no horsepower a slippery body made a huge difference, very cool cars.
Check out the Schwimmwagen and 4wheel drive Kdf as well!
Check out the Schwimmwagen and 4wheel drive Kdf as well!
I’ve confessed here before to a desire for a drive of 356, and also can’t help but admire the engineering even including those then-cutting edge but verdammnt swing axles.
But “Saint Porsche”?
The brilliant engineer decided to accept patronage from a bunch of nasty crooks in power in Germany, and I refuse for one moment to accept that that choice was unknowing.
And whilst there’s no doubt that his post-war imprisonment was entirely political in form, his moral responsibility for what he chose pre-war, over decency, forever condemns him. I’ll be damned if it doesn’t also poison every cent inherited from that legacy since, in every car still enriching that family and inheritors as I write this.
It appears you have misconstrued my use of the term “Saint Porsche”. I said “Growing up as kid in Austria in the fifties, the Porsche name should have had the prefix “Saint” attached to it.”
That has to do with my childish veneration of the car. I was steeped in religion as a child, and my feelings about cars was quite religious, although that might be hard for some to understand, especially from a modern perspective. I literally venerated cars, and would stare at them for extended periods like Russian Orthodox members stare at their icons. That’s how I used the term “saint”.
I knew that Porsche had also designed the VW, as well as the fabulous Auto-Union race cars, the Mercedes SS-SSK-SSKL, as well as others. I picked this up from my father. In the religion of automobiles, yes, I did see him as the equivalent of a saint.
This all happened in the years before I turned eight, or quite young. I only knew about the war from what I heard from my parents, who were both anti-Nazi. I knew my grandfather had been sent to a concentration camp because of his prominent anti-Nazi writings. I knew that my father had been kicked out of medical school and forced to serve in the German army because of his Jewish blood, having been deemed “politically unreliable” (His mother was at least half-Jewish, and there’s a large Jewish clan related to him in Hungary). I knew that Hitler and the Nazis had committed vast atrocities against the Jews and others.
But I was in no position to judge Porsche or the millions of other Germans/Austrians who were not Nazis and yet served in/during the war in a wide range of capacities, either in the military (like my father, who could have turned down the demand to serve with the resulting consequences) or so many other capacities. Or my grandfather, who could have kept writing anti-Nazi books and articles, with the clearly stated consequence of a bullet in the head, after he was released from the concentration camp thanks to the intervention of influential friends.
Non-Nazi Germans/Austrians had families to feed and wanted to live long enough to get to the other side of the war. Business owners felt a responsibilities to their employees, as employment was commonly accepted as a life-time thing back then.
I refuse to judge Porsche. I’ve read a enough about him to have some insight into his personality and (non)politics. Just as I refuse to judge all the non-Nazi Germans, who were caught up in a situation that was not their doing or preference. (Note: Porsche was given Nazi party membership by Hitler, along with other awards/titles. That’s not the same as asking to join)
The collective guilt of the Germans is what it is, and cannot be denied. And they’ve largely stepped up and accepted that. I’m still not in a better place to judge Porsche now than I was at age six. The more I’ve read and the older I get, the more I realize that judging people in the gray area of “complicity” is very difficult. I’ll just stick to judging Porsche on his cars and work, and leave that to to others, like you, who know better and have such certitude about it.
I had just watched a program on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, which was followed by one on the Nuremburg trials, and opened CC for some light relief. An unfortunate coincidence. The anniversary program was centered on a minor Nazi who took the only photographs inside the concentration camp, and made an album of it, from which extraordinarily vivid details of timing (from arrival to death, on that day) can be deduced. Then to watch the familiar sight of those who ordered it denying responsibility in the next program, and knowing they tried only a tiny number of murderers direct and otherwise rather set the emotions on edge. Especially as the sort of thinking that gave rise to it is again on the march.
I understand complicity is complex: believe me, I’ve often thought what I would have done, and suspect it to be not much other than head-down survival.
I also remember your dad’s history with the Nazis, and that alone calls for my apology, as I could be taken to be lumping you in with the complicit in what I wrote.
I did misunderstand what you meant about “saint”, not thinking of the Catholic soaking (in which I too was early steeped).
I do judge Porsche, though. It’s not me that knows better, but him. People of wealth and knowledge have a different scope for choices in such a circumstance, and he chose his.
No need to apologize.
The horrors that took place then are so great, that I struggle to find a way to integrate them. I find myself drawn to programs like that from time to time, as a reminder of what humans are capable of. Stephanie and I watched Shoah when it came in 1985 or so, 47 hours total, and it will never leave me.
As to Porsche, it’s clear that his relationship with the Reich was mutually beneficial. he actually wasn’t wealthy at the time Hitler asked him to design the VW in 1933; in fact his business was near bankruptcy, due to the Depression. But that’s just a foot note.
It’s not to exonerate him, but it is hard to imagine him (or anyone in a similar situation) turning down Hitler. But that was in 1933. What exactly he knew as each year went by is almost impossible to answer. But there’s no doubt that he was no saint, in terms of his complicity.
My car enthusiast (must be where I get it from?) Father had one of these, buttercup yellow with red interior, hand crank sunroof and the Am-Fm-Shortwave push button radio that gave me bragging rights to my grade school buddies. I ran the 6 volt batter down on this car, more than once, listening to the SW band.
When it wasn’t eating up expensive Bosche generators, Dad said the car was entertaining, zippy and fun-to-drive. With his at the time flat top hair cut and Rayban aviator sunglasses, he looked like a Porsche advertisement when grinning at me from the driver’s seat. Mom liked to ride in it, Dad zapping the gas in second gear, waving at her envious suburban housewife “friends” as they roared by.
Rusty and unreliable, spooked by it’s …unusual…wet weather handling characteristics, leaky sunroof gasket & expensive, often needed replacement parts, Dad finally gave in and traded it in on a new 1964 Corvair Monza.
The Chevy dealer, quite interested to get their hands on it for the front row of their “OK” used car lot in suburban New Orleans, kept raising their trade in value price until Dad gave in/gave up. Dad said he laughed all the way home from the Chevy dealer.
To address an earlier comment: The meaning of Stuttgart is as follows:
The area around which the city developed was originally a site for breeding cavalry horses, owned by Duke Liudolf von Schwaben in the 10th century. The name comes from ‘Stutengarten’ which is an archaic form of the German word ‘Gestüt’, meaning stud yard. That is why the Stuttgart coat of arms shows the prancing horse and that is incorporated into the Porsche crest.
I got to ride in one once (decades ago) and still find it a pleasant memory. This is 1997, where it’s supposed that a perfectly-restored, no-provenance car would get $45. This one is “Seinfeld” + “Gurney,” and that changes things:
Our neighborhood in Towson had a red 356c coupe that lived on Trafalgar Rd right next door to my friend Lisa’s house, just around the corner. It was the 1st Porsche I’d ever seen, around 1966. I walked by it often on the way to the school bus stop on Chestnut Ave. and even though the red paint was beginning to fade, it looked so purposeful and fun. I’ve loved them ever since. Wish I’d bought one when they were so cheap, another neighbor bought a well worn black 190 SL for $700 right around ’67, so it was possible to do back in those days!
The 356 series has always been elegant, straight forward, and functional. A real pleasure to look at and drive.