This is the first-ever Porsche, with the number 356001 proudly stamped on a plate on the bulkhead under the bonnet, just in front of the 50-litre fuel tank. Sit inside and while the cockpit is large, the wide sills cram the two seats together so that you can't change gear without driving your knuckles into your passenger's leg, the heat from the mid-mounted engine heats the bulkhead to scorching levels and the unique four-speed gearbox has no synchromesh on first and second gears, so you have to dance around the pedals double declutching up and down the 'box.
This is the first Porsche, registered 70 years ago (although Porsche was formed in 1931) and sold the following year for 7,500 Swiss Francs (about £600) to Peter Kaiser, a Zurich architect. He sold it on quickly and it passed through about seven hands before in 1958, Porsche bought it back (it was swapped for a new 356 Speedster). By that time it had been widely changed, at one time it had been fitted with a more modern 1.5-litre engine and new brakes by Porsche for an owner who wanted to race it. Another owner had even modified the body to look like a 356 Speedster. Porsche slung it in its museum and there were a number of attempts to restore it back to original condition over the years with various degrees of success. Yet these days authenticity is more important than originality, which implies a single date when the car was perfect, which isn't really possible with a prototype. And this car, Number One, as Porsche calls it, reeks of sincere and genuine graft even if the silver coachwork is a Boxster silver rather than grey, or even unpainted as it was when Ferdinand and his son Ferry Porsche first tested it on the Swiss Mountain roads..
The car's origins lie in the immediate post-war period when Ferry Porsche, released after a six-month term in a French jail had to return to Gmünd in Austria where his family firm had been moved to from Stuttgart during World War Two to avoid Allied bombing. Times were tough. His father, Ferdinand Anton Piëch, his uncle and a minority director were serving a 22-month jail term. Adolf Rosenberger the other founding minority director had fled Nazi Germany for France, Britain and finally America, changing his name twice in the process.
Ferdinand and Piëch wrote begging letters to Rosenberg, which he answered with food and money, but the firm's 200 staff needed work and Porsche turned his engineering skills to designing and building agricultural equipment, mowers, tractors, winches and water pumps; to this day, you can still see Porsche tractors at work in Austrian pastures. Ferdinand was still earning a royalty on each Beetle produced and there was consultancy work on that car's further development, but it was a contract from the Italian car maker, Cisitalia, to develop a grand-prix car which got him released from jail as Piero Dusio, business man and Cisitalia's owner, fronted up the bail so that Ferdinand could repurpose his unraced design for Auto Union's flat-12 supercharged, 1.5-litre race car as the Cisitalia 360.