Designed by Ferry Porsche, the 356 was based on the Volkswagen created by his father, Ferdinand Porsche. Like the ‘Beetle’, the 356 used a platform chassis with a rear-mounted air-cooled engine and torsion bar independent suspension.

The 356 saw constant development, with its engine growing to 1.3 and then 1.5 liters, the split windscreen replaced by a one-piece, and the adoption of a Porsche synchromesh gearbox.

A cabriolet followed the original 356 Coupe, and in 1952, US importer Max Hoffman convinced Porsche to build 15 roadsters, leading to the Speedster in 1954. The Speedster was inspired by John von Neumann, who had modified a Gmünd-built Coupe into a lightweight competition car.

Distinguished by its low wraparound windshield, retractable hood, lower waistline, trim strip, and bucket seats, the Speedster was designed to compete with cheaper British sports cars. It initially had a 1.5-liter engine, later upgraded to a 1.6-liter, 60bhp engine in the 1955 356A.

The optional Super tune boosted power to 75bhp, enabling over 100mph. Priced at $2,995, the Speedster was the lightest 356 model, enhancing its performance. Its style, performance, and value made it popular, with 4,822 units produced between 1954 and 1958.

Photos by Andrew Trahan courtesy of RM Sotheby’s