I love a good art gallery or museum exhibition. Hamburg’s Prototyp Museum has just announced something special for fans of the Porsche 356 and early Porsche heritage: the ‘Very Important Porsche 356’ exhibition from November 13, 2015.
Twelve of the most important Porsche 356s will be shown at the wonderful Hamburg Automuseum, including the oldest-known German manufactured 356. Of course, an Austrian-built Gmünd Coupe also forms part of the exhibition, as well as two early pre-Stuttgart Convertibles: a 1949 356/2 Beutler Convertible and a 356/2 Keibl Convertible from the same year.
Three Gmünd Porsche 356s at Hamburg Prototyp Museum
While the museum has gathered twelve 356s in total for this exhibition, the trio of early Porsche 356s alone should attract a number of visitors, keen to see three early Gmünd-built cars in one place. I can’t think of anywhere these three rare cars would have been gathered together at once in the last five years, so new arrivals to the world of classic Porsche will find these cars fascinating.
For my money, nothing sings more of undiluted Porsche DNA than these very early 356s, pieced together by hand in a converted Austrian sawmill, nestled in the foothills of the Central Eastern Alps. Ferry Porsche wasted no time after the end of the war in making his dream of Porsche-produced sports cars a reality. Every ounce of Ferry’s passion – a passion that was shared by the great team around him – sings from the aluminium bodywork of each of these cars in a hymn of devout inspiration.
Porsche 356 Gmund Styling
Once Porsche 356 production moved to Stuttgart in 1950, the bodies were stamped out in steel and much of that precious Gmünd styling was lost including the low, narrow roofline and the careful detailing through the front end. Photos never do these cars justice: you have to stand beside a Gmünd car to experience all of what they communicate. To me, the 356/2 Keibl Convertible built by Karosseriefabrik Ferdinand Keibl in Vienna (top pic) is one of the most beautiful road cars ever built: small wonder that Ferry was also a great admirer, and bought the only surviving example back for his personal collection.
Perhaps the most surprising part of this exhibition to those unfamilar with the very first cars produced by the genius Ferry Porsche will be the colour and sharpness of an early 356. We’re so conditioned to seeing these Porsches in grainy old black and white photos, that we expect the reality to be monochrome paintwork and workaday VW plastic on the dashboard, and tend to ignore opportunities to get close to these cars as a result.
I am always quite taken aback by the joy with which these cars were built and finished. Some of the colours are simply incredible and the shapeliness of the early 356s is quite honestly mesmerising from almost every angle. The crispness of a coachbuilt convertible top removes any thought that new cars rule for quality and the elegant palette of colours across bodywork, trim and soft tops is just beautiful. I encourage you to go along to Hamburg for a day while the exhibition is open from November 13 to March 27, 2016. Entry is only €13.50 and the museum is well worth the journey.
The cars of the Very Important Porsche 356 exhibition:
- 1949 Porsche 356/2 Beutler Convertible
- 1949 Porsche 356/2 Keibl Convertible
- 1949 Porsche 356/2 Gmünd Coupe
- 1950 Porsche 356 Chassis 5006
- 1951 Porsche 356 Gläser Convertible
- 1952 Porsche 356 America Roadster
- 1953 Porsche 356 1500 S USA de Luxe Convertible
- 1957 Porsche 356 A 1500 Carrera GT Speedster
- 1960 Porsche 356 B 1600 Carrera GTL Abarth
- 1963 Porsche 356 B 2000 GS-GT „Dreikantschaber“
- 1964 Porsche 356 C 2000 GS Carrera 2
- 1964 Porsche 356 C 1600 SC Polizei Convertible