Motorsport has been a part of Porsche’s history right from the start. Before the production lines where set up in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, around 50 examples of the 356 aluminium coupe were produced in the Austrian town of Gmünd between 1949 and 1951. In 1951 these aluminium coupes became the basis for Porsche’s entry into the world of automotive racing. Porsche 356 Light Metal Coupe had a self-supporting steel body with aluminium outer panelling. The length of the car was 3860mm and it had a wheel base of 2100mm. The car’s weigth was 640 kg. It had a torsion-bar suspension and hydraulic drum brakes. The air-cooled, four-cylinder twin-valve induction engine had a displacement of 1488cc and produced 70 horsepower at 5000rpm. With the four-speed gearbox it could reach a top speed of 162 km/h. The car was specially modified for racing. The tank capacity was increased to 78 litres by moving it further forward and shaping it to fit around the spare tyre. In order to accelerate refuelling, the filler neck protruded in the centre through the front lid.
On its very first outing, at the Le Mans 24 Hour race, the Porsche importer in France at the time Auguste Veuillet, with Edmonde Mouche as co-pilot,drove the aluminium coupé straight to a class victory at an average speed of 140 km/h. The speed and reliability of the Porsche Coupe was demonstrated during a record-breaking drive lasting 72 hours in 1951 in Monthéry. During this race an aluminium coupe from Gmünd with the 1.5-litre engine covered almost 11,000 kilometres, which corresponds to an overall average of 152.35 km/h. By the mid 1950s, the aluminium coupe with a 1500cc engine and now also, as was already a feature of the series 356, with the single-piece windscreen, was successful all over Europe, predominantly at rally events. This was the case in 1952 with a class win in Monza, in 1953 at the Sestriere rally, at the Belgrade Grand Prix and the Alpine Rally, in 1954 at the long-distance Liège-Rome-Liège rally and in 1955 at the ice race in Zell am See.