It isn't really possible to find a car more significant to the history of the Porsche brand than the very first one to wear the Porsche name. 356 "No. 1" Roadster was first registered for road use in June of 1948, and heavily influenced the styling of the original run of Gmund 356s. Over the next seven decades, this Porsche was reshaped by the sands of time as it was damaged, repaired, and updated. That original design no longer exists, but thanks to the painstaking work of a few folks in Porsche's restoration shop, they've built a brand new original 356 No. 1.
Using the original car as a basis to start from, Porsche's craftspeople scanned the 356 in three dimensions to create a digital model of the car's shape as it sits now. They then uploaded the known dimensions from the original design drawings created in 1948. By compiling the two data pools into a single car, working to get certain curves correct based on period photographs, the archivists determined their best guess as to the original 356's original sheet metal. The last step of the design process was to mill the body of the 356 out of solid block of foam to provide a shaping buck from which to build a wooden body buck. The replica was crafted in the same manner as the original, by hand hammering, pulling, and bending metal sheet into the right shape.
Details were sweated in the eight-month process of this project, with attempts made to get the 356 as close to perfect as possible. The original 356 was painted silver at some point, but based on a paint chip from underneath the dashboard, the workshop was able to determine the original shade of blue, and color matched it perfectly. The gauges, switches, and even hardware were recreated to the most precise degree. For most intents and purposes, the new recreation is closer to the original car than the original No. 1 356 is today. The front axle was cribbed from a period-correct Volkswagen Beetle, as was proper for the first 356. The only thing missing, however, is the drivetrain, as the show car doesn't even have one, relying instead on a wire frame rear axle to support the rear wheels in place of the original 356's mid-engine layout.
If you want to see one, or both, of these 356s, Porsche will be trotting them out for events all over the world this year in celebration of the original 356's 70th birthday. Porsche says this list is 'some' of the stops, so it is perhaps not an exhaustive list, but you can for sure see them here.
The original 356 No. 1 Roadster can be seen at:
- June 8 Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, Germany: Porsche Museum ceremony
- July 12–15 Goodwood, United Kingdom: Festival of Speed
- September 8–9 Vancouver, Canada: Luxury & Supercar Weekend
- September 27–30 Laguna Seca, USA: Porsche Rennsport Reunion
The 356 No. 1 Show Car can be seen at:
- Until May 31 Berlin, Germany: DRIVE exhibition, Volkswagen Group Forum
- June 9–10 Johannesburg, South Africa: Kyalami racetrack, Sportscar Together Day
- Mid-July through September Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, Germany:Porsche Museum exhibition
- November 15–25 Guangzhou, China: Guangzhou International Motor Show
It will be awesome to see the original Porsche 356 No 1 at Rennsport Reunion, which will surely feature the interesting juxtaposition of this car with the most modern 919 Hybrid Evo. If the people who worked on that original Gmund assembly line could only see how far this company has progressed on the back of what they created, surely it would bring a tear to their eyes.