The first of the new Porsche sports cars was the rear-engine rear-drive 1948 Porsche 356, created by Ferry Porsche (Por-SHA), based largely on the design his father Ferdinand Porsche had produced for the Volkswagen Beetle. One of the most prolific automotive engineers of all time, Ferdinand Porsche is credited with creating the first gasoline electric hybrid automobile, one of the earliest purely electric automobiles, the aforementioned Volkswagen Beetle, and some of the most formidable racing cars of his time.
The Porsche 356 was followed in 1963 by the first Porsche 911 model, which is arguably the car that really put Porsche sports cars on the map. A more highly evolved iteration of the 356, the 911 supplanted its predecessor’s horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine with a flat six. A number of highly successful racing variants of those new Porsche cars evolved over the years. These new Porsche models ultimately went on to become the winningest sports car design in racing history—as well as one of the most highly coveted sports cars ever devised.
Both the 356 and the 911 were developed based on a strategy of continuous evolution. Rather than remaking the cars from scratch every five to seven years, the 356 was updated continually until it was felt its basic design had reached its full potential. The 911 then evolved from the 356. In similar fashion, the Porsche 911 gets continual updates and improvements to the original design, but its basic layout remains the same.
The success of those new 911 models carried the Porsche company well into the latter part of the 20th century. Along the way, it also developed front engine sports cars in the form of the Porsche 924/944/928/968 models. Today’s mid-engine Porsche Boxster and Cayman vehicles succeeded the company’s first mid-engine sports car, the 1969 Porsche 914.
Toward the end of the century, the company’s management team realized if it were to survive, Porsche would have to expand beyond sports cars. Thus the new Porsche Cayenne SUV models were developed. Skeptics questioned the decision—at first—until they saw it perform. The success of the Cayenne emboldened Porsche to also field a full-size luxury sedan. Called the Panamera, these new Porsche cars are (as you would expect) the best performing models in their price range.
Meanwhile, the Porsche 911 continues its reign as one of the most extraordinary sports cars ever produced.