In late September of 1951, this racing Gmünd coupe in record-breaking tune was driven around the
Montlhéry banking for 72 hours at 94.66 mph, to a new world record. The car was powered by Porsche’s
then experimental 1500 Super engine. Earning an immediate trip to the Porsche stand at the nearby Paris
Salon, it was proudly displayed, still encrusted with bugs and oil, next to the factory’s shiniest new models.
Not bad for a car composed mostly of Volkswagen parts.
The first cut at a light and handy modern sports car worthy of the legendary Porsche name, the
Gmünd cars were identified by the town in which they were built and to which Porsche had relocated when
the pressure of Allied bombing in Stuttgart became too great. The Gmünd cars offered the opportunity to
make some money and perhaps fulfill a dream. Known as project 356 from the design sequence that started
when Porsche opened his independent design studio in Stuttgart in 1931, the new car was brought to reality
by Ferry Porsche working under the watchful eye of his father. Gmünd coupes were hand-hammered out of
sheet aluminum over wooden bucks.
While the exact number is debatable, less than fifty Gmünd coupes were built in 1949. At some
point a handful with serial numbers above fifty − assembled in 1950 after the factory returned to Germany −
were converted to SL (Sport Leicht) racing specification and renumbered as 3000 series cars. In addition to
a new serial number series, SL configuration involved such visible differences as louvered steel quarter
“windows”, full wheel spats, streamlined aluminum belly fairings, pedestal-mounted shifter and, for Le
Mans, a third roof-mounted wiper arm, remote oil filter and driving-lights. Gmünd coupes carried the
Porsche name into competition for three years at Le Mans as well as in several rallies, notably Liège-Rome-
Liège where one finished first in class and third overall. Said John Wyer when he saw the new Porsches at
Le Mans: “interesting … but the engine is in the wrong end.”
Most race cars were non-competitive after their first campaign — the 1927 Vauxhall was competitive for 23 years (1927–1950) and you can see it in person. Learn more