Great Design Monday: 356A Speedster

shoutOut on 29/10/12 by travis.lyle1 in peeps

Porsche 356A Speedster - timeless design icon

It's an icon of automobile styling which sits, serenely and entirely appropriately, in the class of 'Elegant Classics'. With sleek lines that call to mind the shapely form of screen sirens of years gone by, it's fitting that the Porsche 356A Speedster is of that age. And, whilst it may not feature sheer brute force or rocket-speed performance of many later models of the Porsche marque (such as the 911, which succeeded the 356), there will always be a place for the good looks and impressive design of this particular model.

Porsche & VW heritage create a classic hybrid

Brought to life in 1948 as a hybrid of Volkswagen and Porsche design at a time when the two companies were inextricably entwined, the 356 was (and here we will allow the venerable Wiki to inform us) "...created by Ferdinand "Ferry" Porsche (son of the founder of the company). Like its cousin, the Volkswagen Beetle (which Ferdinand Porsche Senior had designed), the 356 was a four-cylinder, air-cooled, rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive car utilizing unitized pan and body construction. While the 356's body was an original design by Porsche employee Erwin Komenda, its mechanicals (including engine, suspension and chassis) were derived from the Volkswagen."

Unitized body, unmatched aerodynamism

And what a body it is - designed to be as aerodynamic as possible, the body was initially handcrafted in aluminium and later steel. With the 356 model altered slightly to an open-top model on the advice of Max Hoffman (the same New York automobile dealer who suggested to Mercedes that the addition of gullwings to their 300SL would make the model that much more appealing to the American market), the 356A's popularity exploded in the US and went on to become associated with Hollywood stars and gorgeous women with scarves billowing in the wind.

A collector's dream

With 76,000 units produced by the time the production run ended in 1965, this model was an unqualified success for Porsche and had continued to sell even whilst the more modern and powerful 911 had been rolled out. Experts estimate that around 36,000 units still survive, making the 356A a collectible which is still within reach of those with a relatively modest budget.


If you enjoyed this design article, take a look at the many others in our Great Design Monday archive! 



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