The Porsche 356 was the company's first production automobile. It was a lightweight and nimble-handling rear-engine rear-wheel-drive 2-door sports car available in hardtop coupe and open configurations. Production started in 1948 where approximately 50 cars were built.
In 1950 the factory to Germany, and general production of the 356 continued until April 1965. It is estimated approximately half of the total production of 76,000 are still around. In 1948 the mid-engine, tubular chassis 356 prototype called "No. 1" was completed. This led to some debate as to the "first" Porsche automobile, but the 356 is considered by Porsche to be its first production model.
The early 356 automobile bodies produced were handcrafted in aluminum, but when production moved to Germany in 1950, models produced there were steel-bodied. It took Porsche two years, starting with the first prototype in 1948, to manufacture the first 50 automobiles. By the early 1950s the 356 had gained some renown among enthusiasts on both sides of the Atlantic for its aerodynamics, handling, and excellent build quality. Increasing success with its racing and road cars brought Porsche orders for over 10,000 units in 1964, and by the time 356 production ended in 1965 approximately 76,000 had been produced.