Enter Hans Ledwinka, the Czech engineer who devised the rear-engined, air-cooled, independently-suspended Tatra, initially as the flat-twin V570 prototype which gained an aerodynamic body in its second version, later as the flat-four T97 and a series of rapid V8s. Ferdinand Porsche's KdF-Wagen, the nascent VW Beetle, appropriated elements of Ledwinka's concept, but this was brushed under the carpet for many years until Volkswagen, as the Beetle producer became post-war, eventually conceded the Tatra influence and paid damages in 1965.
As Europe began to develop new post-war cars, the newly-nationalised Renault invited Ferdinand Porsche to advise on a new small car, which became the rear-engined Renault 4CV (750 in the UK). It used the simple swing-axle rear suspension that was gaining ground through Europe, and which made the tail-heavy Beetle tricky on the cornering limit, but people didn't worry much about that. The 4CV led over the years to the Dauphine, R8 and R10, plus the Alpine-Renault sports cars. Meanwhile, Porsche had its Beetle-derived 356.
Fiat's 600 and Nuova 500 followed much the same layout, albeit with a less treacherous rear suspension in the 600 using semi-trailing arms. Then, at the end of the 1950s and worried by the Beetle's US popularity, GM introduced the air-cooled, rear-engined, flat-six Corvair whose swing-axles and slow-witted steering together contributed to the lambasting it got from US consumer lawyer Ralph Nader in his book, Unsafe At Any Speed. US owners' inability to follow GM's recommendation of much lower tyre pressures in the front wheels than at the back didn't help the Corvair's case, and even a revised rear suspension didn't salvage its irrevocably tarnished reputation while Beetles continued to sell vigorously.
Back in Europe, Simca launched its rear-engined 1000, originally a Fiat project. Two years later, in 1963, Rootes launched the Imp and Porsche its 911; a year after that came Fiat's 850 and Skoda's 1000MB. Meanwhile, though, the Mini and its bigger relatives (1100, 1800) were making it ever more obvious that the rear-engined small car was a blind alley, unstable in crosswinds and still sometimes harder to handle than a simple small car should be for an average driver. By the mid-1970s, all except the Skodas, and the Alpine-Renault and Porsche 911 sports cars, had gone.