NCMA Porsche by Design: Porsche 356 Gmund Coupe
While the three Type 64 cars ultimately were little more than an engineering exercise, it provided Porsche with the knowledge it needed to create the Type 356. The body shape was an extension of what Porsche began with the Type 64, and the teardrop shape still looks attractive to this day.
The birth of the Type 356 was not an easy one. With World War II raging, and Allied forces carpet bombing large portions of Germany, Porsche packed up and escaped to Austria. Porsche set up shop in an old sawmill in Gmund, Austria which is why the car carries its odd title.
Despite having packed up and moved to a sawmill, the 356 was still built using some of the most advanced materials and engineering possible. The bodies were all hand-hammered from sheet aluminum, and the chassis was a very stiff pressed-steel unit that was formed into a single unit with the floor. You could almost think of it as an early monocoque.
Beyond the futuristic production, the 356 featured full-independent suspension in all four corners. With that suspension setup and its lightweight, the Gmund Coupes were natural-born racers.
The car you see here is 356/2-017. It is number 17 to be produced and one of the oldest known living examples. While in Gmund, Porsche only managed to create a total of 50 to 52 Gmund Coupes (numbers are unreliable as to exact production). After those first 50, or so, cars were produced, Porsche returned to Stuttgart, ending the production of “Gmund” 356 models. Porsche still continued to make the 356 after it returned to Stuttgart and eventually produced around 76,000 of the cars in total.
Why I love it
For the most of its existence, Porsche has only really made two cars, the 356 and the 911. These Gmund coupes represent the first of the 356 line, and also demonstrate how Porsche was able to adapt and grow while under the terrible pressures of World War II.
As one of the oldest Gmund coupes known to still exist, this car also represents a certain snapshot of history. It is almost like an automotive fossil that we can use to identify, trace and gauge the growth of progress and performance of Porsche and the Automobile.
This thing really is special.