Ferry Porsche and Karl Rabe began work on the Type 356 project in June 1947. The concept was to put a mildly tuned version of the four-cylinder Volkswagen engine and its gearbox in a tubular space frame. Volkswagen components such as suspension units, steering and brakes were used for economy and reliability.
The VW engine, mounted first ahead of the rear axle and then behind at (as in the BE), produced a paltry 25 hp in standard form but was improved by enlarging the ports and raising the compression ratio from 5.8:1 to 7.0:1. The roadster’s bodywork was designed by Erwin Komenda.
The first 356 models were built in Gmund, Austria until 1950 when Porsche returned to Stuttgart. The roadster version was joined by a coupe, and Beutler in Switzerland built some attractive convertibles. The little car’s lightness and agility led to its constant use in competition.
The Porsche company grew rapidly and the 356 was produced in greater numbers, its success enhanced by a continuous program of improvements. The engine capacity and power were increased but it remained fundamentally a VW.
Then, as part of a deal with Studebaker in the USA, Dr. Ernst Fuhrmann of Porsche designed the Type 547 engine for racing use. This unit, with four overhead camshafts driven by bend gears and shafts, was a substantial change from the VW engine, but retained the flat four-cylinder, air-cooled concept. Although the 356 push rod engine had been progressively developed, the revolutionary change to the car came when it was decided to fit a version with the much more powerful 547 four-cam engine. This inspired concept was underlined by christening their version of the 356 the “Carrera” – Spanish for “race.”
The 1964 example described here is the rare cabriolet version of the later 356 Carreras – the “2” in the suffix indicates the larger two-liter engine. It is believed that less than 50 Carrera 2 Cabriolets were built. Fully restored, this motorcar is finished in ivory with a black top (also accompanied by a hard top), black leather upholstery and black houndstooth-check door panels. The car comes with a copy of the Certificate of Authenticity and a brand new Porsche 912 engine which could be substituted for the present, original four cam engine.