The very first Porsche, the 356/1, was a beautiful little roadster. The body was designed by Erwin Komenda. The car was based on ideas from Dr. Ferdinand Porsche and was executed by his son Ferry Porsche. The 356/1 is shown here with its makers; Erwin Komenda, Ferry and Ferdinand Porsche. The picture is taken in Gmünd, Austria, where this car was completed in June 1948.
The first 356 coupes were also built in Austria and are known as the Gmünd coupes. Only 49 of these aluminum Porsches were built. The factory moved to Germany in 1950, where work started on the first series of steel bodied 356 coupes. In 1951, 5 lightweight Gmünd coupes were built for racing purposes and were renamed : 356 SL.
One of these cars, chassis 063 was campaigned in the US by von Neumann in 1952. In order to beat the competition, he fitted new brakes and cut off the roof. The result is a roadster which may have inspired the design of the Porsche 356 Speedster. The car is beautifully restored as you can see in this recent picture.
Another forefather of the 356 Speedster is the roadster of Heinrich Sauter. This car also had a steel body, built on a 1951 365 Cabriolet chassis. When the Porsche 356/1 roadster (see first picture) was seriously damaged in transport, the Sauter roadster took its place for the Porsche 50th anniversary celebrations in 1998. Here you can see the car in its full glory.
The above examples show there were creative enthusiasts, building Porsche Roadsters to their needs. The serious racer was lacking power. Porsche knew this and asked Dr. Ernst Fuhrmann to design a powerful engine. Dr. Fuhrmann was a brilliant engineer who at the time was only thirty-three years of age. The engine was very complex. It had dual ignition, four camshafts and produced 110 bhp. It was shown to the press late 1953. The engine was first used in the Porsche 550 but in 1954 a 100bhp version was put in Dr. Porsche's personal 356 coupe. Here you see a picture of the car in question, known as Coupe Ferdinand.
The car was such a hit at the Porsche factory, as a result a similar car was entered in the Liege-Rome-Liege marathon race. It performed remarkably well and as a result Ferry Porsche decided to make a small series of 356's with the four-cam engine. Because of the success of the four-cam engines (with the Porsche 550) in the Carrera Panamericana races in Mexico, the car and engine were named Carrera. Since a couple of years, the American market requested for a cheaper no frills, open top Porsche 356. As a result the Porsche 356 Speedster was developed. Here's a picture of one of the very first Porsche 356 Speedsters.
The Porsche 356 Speedster, being lighter than the Coupe and Cabriolet, was the ideal car for the four-cam Carrera engine. From 1954 until 1959 about 140 Speedsters Carrera were made.