Porsche celebrates its 70th birthday in style

  • 1948 Porsche 356 "No. 1"

    1948 Porsche 356 "No. 1" Photos Courtesy of Porsche

 
 
Posted1/21/2019 6:00 AM

Porsche had a crazy 2018, celebrating its 70th anniversary. One rock star VIP that was along for the worldwide ride was none other than Porsche No. 1.

The car is a 1948 356 that was hand-built in a small workshop in Gmünd, Germany. It's creation officially marked Porsche as a bona fide manufacturer of sports cars. The two-seater was sold and remained in private hands until Porsche was able to purchase the historic piece back.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Porsche sent both an original 1948 356, the first car to carry the Porsche name, and an exact replica out on a world tour in 2018.
Porsche sent both an original 1948 356, the first car to carry the Porsche name, and an exact replica out on a world tour in 2018. -

But when officials and staff looked over celebratory plans for the 12-month revelry, including trips to all four corners of the globe, it was apparent one "No. 1" would not be enough. The decision was made to create an exact replica to aid in logistics and allow even more enthusiasts the opportunity to see the type of vehicle that kicked off the Porsche phenomenon.

It was decided one would always remain at home base in Zuffenhausen, Germany, on display at the Porsche Museum, while the other would travel.

While No. 1 was a concept car with an aluminum body, its successor with a rear engine and steel body would become the very first race-winning model in the history of Porsche.
While No. 1 was a concept car with an aluminum body, its successor with a rear engine and steel body would become the very first race-winning model in the history of Porsche. -

To get the ball rolling, museum experts used a 3-D scanner to thoroughly measure the original car. The virtual result was compared with construction drawings from 1948 and cross-referenced with original photographs, records and logs from the Porsche archive. To re-create No. 1, a computer-assisted milling machine cut the main shape out of a foam block while traditional wooden jigs were assembled to fabricate the aluminum body panels. These metal panels were then hand-beaten by skilled craftsmen using the traditional tools that would have been available in 1948.

With the finished show car ready, it hit the ground running, appearing at the "70 Years of Porsche Sports Car" exhibition in Berlin. After a short hop to Austria for an early media appearance, the original remained as the star attraction at the Porsche Museum in Zuffenhausen, as the world descended for the official 70th celebrations and the opening of a special exhibition.

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From there, the cars really began racking up the miles, with trips to the Czech Republic, Poland and as far as the Sportscar Together Day in South Africa. The start of July saw No. 1 enjoying parade laps in France before huge crowds at the famous Circuit de la Sarthe as part of the biannual Le Mans Classic, before taking part in the famous hill climb at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. It also made two welcome appearances closer to home, first on a drive through the Bernese mountains of Switzerland, before braving stages of the mountainous Ennstal Classic in Austria.

Things didn't slow down in summer. At the end of August, the No. 1 was parked beside a Mission E mock-up at Monterey Car Week in California before showing up at the Rennsport Reunion, billed as the world's largest gathering of Porsche race cars, at Laguna Seca Raceway in Salinas, California. There, Wolfgang Porsche, son of Ferdinand and chairman of Porsche's supervisory board, took the wheel of No. 1 in September.

Together, the two Roadsters traveled more than 62,000 miles on their world tour.
Together, the two Roadsters traveled more than 62,000 miles on their world tour. -

The roadster also flew north to Vancouver and Toronto followed by a flight back across the Atlantic to star at the Porsche Sound Night at the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart. From there, the team was back on the road again, with several outings in China that lasted from October into December.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

By the end of the year, the original 356 Roadster had traveled a staggering 29,113 miles around the world while the show car had racked up an even more staggering 33,490 miles.

It was a massive logistical challenge involving many moving parts, but Porsche was committed to the effort. It is, after all, its heritage and hey, you only turn 70 once.

• Share your car's story with Matt at auto@dailyherald.com. Learn about his book at COPOthebook.com.

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