Founded by Ferdinand Porsche in 1931, Porsche AG initially offered motor vehicle development work and consulting, but did not release any cars under its own name until 1948. One of the first design assignments of the company was to design a car for the people, a “folk’s wagon” if you will, for the National Socialist German Government.
The infamous result of this socialised design program was the Volkswagen Type 1, later nicknamed the “Beetle” due to its rounded design. While the initial aim of Volkswagen was to provide an affordable automobile for German citizens, very few people were able to buy a Volkswagen Beetle during the National Socialist regime, due to resources being funnelled to the war effort.
After the success of the Beetle design, Porsche tried their hand at designing a tank for the Nazis, with limited success – the Elefant tank destroyer was the only Porsche design that saw military action. By the end of World War 2, the main Volkswagen factory had fallen to the British, with Major Ivan Hirst taking over production of Porsche tyres and VW-branded Beetles, and Ferdinand Porsche was arrested for war crimes, but not tried. It was during these dark days for the company that Ferdinand’s son, Ferry Porsche decided to build an original car design. The first models of what was to become the 356 were built in Gmünd, Austria, with Porsche tyres and aluminium bodies. Though Porsche was initially forced to use components from VW Beetles due to shortages in post-war Germany, they were later able to replace these parts with original Porsche tyres, engine parts and cases. By using sleek, rounded bodies and air-cooled rear engine designs from the start, Porsche have managed to carve out a niche in the car market, courting vintage car aficionados and speed freaks alike. Most Porsches are full of that famous German vigour, so performance or asymmetrical-tread tyres are recommended to maintain grip.