Porsche may be best known for the 911 but it was the car’s predecessor, the 356, that put the German marque on the map.
The 356 entered production in 1948, initially in Gmünd, Austria. Only about 50 examples were built there before Porsche moved production to its current home of Stuttgart, Germany. Production ran to 1965, making the 1963 model featured in the latest episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage” one of the later examples. Porsche had already launched the 911 in 1963.
The featured car is a 356 SC coupe which was a more powerful version of the 356 offered at the time. Its air-cooled 1.6-liter flat-4 engine is rated at about 95 hp, versus the 75 hp of the standard car.
The car has traded hands multiple times but was always serviced and garaged. Its current owner was able to trace back its ownership to the original buyer, with maintenance receipts included. It’s done about 69,000 miles, with only the seats and paint having been replaced during its life. Even the tires are 40 years old, though Leno reveals that he has experience driving cars with extremely old tires.
The 356 is the model Porsche recognizes as its first car, though it isn’t the first Porsche sports car. Ferdinand Porsche, who started the original Porsche engineering company in 1931, had already explored the potential of a sports car with the Type 64, of which three were built from 1939 to 1940.
Known officially as the Type 64 60K10, the cars were endurance racers originally designed to compete in the 1939 Berlin-Rome race, though the race was canceled due to the onset of the Second World War.
Two of those cars were destroyed shortly after they were built, with the chassis of the first car used for the third car, and the remains of the second car being restored and today on display in the Petersen Automotive Museum. The third car went into private ownership and came up for sale in 2019 but failed to find a buyer.