The 356 is a lightweight and nimble-handling, rear-engine, rear-wheel drive, two-door available both in hardtop coupé and open configurations. Engineering innovations continued during the years of manufacture, contributing to its motorsports success and popularity. Production started in 1948 at Gmünd, Austria, where Porsche built approximately 50 cars. In 1950 the factory relocated to Zuffenhausen, Germany, and general production of the 356 continued until April 1965, well after the replacement model 911 made its September 1964 debut. Of the 76,000 originally produced, approximately half survive.
The car used unibody construction, making restoration difficult for cars that were kept in rust-prone climates. One of the most desirable collector models is the 356 Speedster, introduced in late 1954 after Max Hoffman advised the company that a lower-cost, somewhat spartan open-top version could sell well in the American market. With its low, raked windscreen (which could be removed for weekend racing), bucket seats and minimal folding top, the Speedster was an instant hit, especially in Southern California.