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Porsche history 1939 - 1962

Broadcast date : 23rd May 2004


To understand the heritage of the Porsche 911 it is necessary to go back to the 1930s when the first prototypes of the Volkswagen Beetle were being prepared for tests by the German government.

This was the car that was designed to put Germany on wheels. It was commissioned by Adolf Hitler and designed by one of the automotive geniuses of the twentieth century, Ferdinand Porsche.

It is said that the first pre-war prototypes were first tested for thirty thousand kilometres with government representatives on board. And when there were no problems of any kind, the Nazi government ordered the tests to be extended to fifty thousand kilometres. And still there were no problems.

That original rear-engined, four cylinder bug-shaped car evolved into the Volkswagen and more than twenty million were produced between 1946 and 1978, before Beetle production in Germany was halted and switched to the front-engined Golf.

But the Porsche design heritage would live on.

In 1948, Ferdinand Porsche's son, Ferry Porsche, produced the first car to bare the Porsche name, the 356.

Based closely on Volkswagen Beetle mechanicals, but improved in almost all respects, the 356 also featured a four-cylinder, air-cooled, rear-engined design. But its aerodynamic efficiency and fine handling soon made it a force to be reckoned with in sports car circles.

In fact much of its aero know-how was gained from the pre-war Rome-to-Berlin streamliner designed by the original Ferdinand Porsche. This car is now seen as very much a part of the Porsche sports car heritage.

The 356 was enormously successful, selling over sixty five thousand units.

But it is said that as early as 1956 Porsche was already designing its successor, the 911


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