The beautiful replica of 356 Number One will embark on a world tour for the brand's 70th birthday.
It has been 70 years since the first Porsche rolled off the production line in 1948 – the Model 356 'No. 1 Show Car', which took two months alone to cover in aluminium body panels alone, marked a historic starting point for the German brand. Though that original car has been lost, that doesn't mean it is necessarily gone for good.
Porsche engineers are celebrating the company's landmark birthday with a near-identical replica of that first car, and it's all set to go on tour around the world as Porsche fans gather to wish the Germans 'herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag'.
Finished in a handsome baby blue exterior with a red leather bench seat, this Porsche 356 replica took eight months to complete by experts at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart. Work started with a 3D scan of images and design drawings of the original vehicle from 1948. Those sketches were superimposed and transformed into 3D animations, before a milling machine carved out a life-size model from a block of foam.
Of course, there are some variations – even Porsche admits that this impressive replica still isn’t exactly identical compared with the original. The first roadster’s body was tapered more to the rear, for example, and it featured a more pronounced nose. Side-by-side you’ll notice some of those slight variations.
Following its final completion, the handsome Porsche will be on show in Stuttgart on 8 June as part of celebrations at the Porsche Museum, before heading over to Goodwood from 12-15 July to take up pride of place at the Festival of Speed, which this year is paying tribute to Porsche. After that, the 356 heads to Vancouver from 8-9 September as part of the Luxury & Supercar Weekend in the Canadian city, followed by a stint at the Laguna Seca racetrack from 27-30 September for the Porsche Rennsport Reunion.
Gallery: First Porsche 356 Replica
The “No. 1” always wore custom-made suits. Back in 1948, tinsmith Friedrich Weber spent two months clothing the first Porsche. The original apparel didn’t last very long, however, for the roadster not only changed hands many times over the years. It was damaged and repaired, modernized and converted. Its attire kept changing but its identity remained the same. It was shaped by history. Yet its essence remains inviolable.
The original condition of the “No. 1” Roadster is lost and can no longer be restored. But its custom-made suit has been reconceived in something very close to the original form and reproduced using the same materials and techniques. This painstaking, manual labor of love, however, couldn’t be completed overnight. In their efforts to create a copy of the 1948 roadster body that’s true to the original in every detail and dimension, experts from the Porsche Museum first made a 3-D scan of the existing vehicle. A computer then superimposed these virtual results onto the design drawings from 1948, which had been scanned as well. This revealed a number of deviations. Step by step, the radii from a fixed point were modified to match the original form. Archive staff members consulted all the original photos available, studied drawings, and analyzed journals. Finally, a computer-assisted milling machine carved out a life-size model of the car from a block of rigid foam.
When placed next to the car from 1948, some significant differences are evident. The original roadster’s body tapered more to the rear. Its front had a more pronounced nose. The original one-part rear lid, which folded at the back, extended from the passenger compartment to just over the rear bumper. It was later replaced on the roadster by a two-part construction with a lateral panel over the engine and a shorter hood over the rear storage space.
With the help of original wooden gauges, a replica of the original “No. 1” car body finally took shape—similar to the way in which the original aluminum body was made seventy years ago. In 1948 its metal sheeting was bent, pulled, and pushed using hand tools. This same meticulous attention to detail extended to formulating the color for the replica’s paint job. The original car had been painted over a number of times, so samples were taken from under the dashboard and analyzed in order to reproduce the original shade as closely as possible. Period fittings with dials adapted exactly to their original counterparts flank the steering column. Even the mats are knotted in the same way they were seventy years ago. The only thing the replica can’t do is drive. An engine won’t be placed into its mesh frame, and its rear axle consists of a simple pipe. The front axle—including the steering system and wheel—was taken from a Volkswagen Beetle, as with the original.
It took eight months to complete this new, custom-made classic suit—for a show car whose significance for Porsche isn’t merely historical; it’s highly symbolic. Its lines, driving dynamics, and lightweight construction constitute the core of the sports car brand. And this Porsche 356 “No. 1” Show Car recently set off on a trip around the world.