This year marks the 75th anniversary of the first Porsche-badged car, the 356/1 Roadster. To celebrate, the designers in Zuffenhausen have rolled out a new concept car: The Vision 357. “When you talk about the Porsche brand, everyone thinks of the 911,” says Porsche design boss Michael Mauer (who was also recently named as head of design for the entire Volkswagen Group). “But if you really go back, the 356 was the starting point of the sports-car brand for Porsche.”
Ferry Porsche built the first 356 in 1948 as a mid-engine, two-seat roadster with an aluminum body and a tubular frame. Although it used many of the mechanical parts from the Volkswagen Beetle—including its 40 hp, 1.13-liter flat-four engine—the car debuted Porsche’s branding. Later, the 356 went into production as a rear-engine sports car, produced in a variety of open-top and coupe variants until 1965. Today, the 356 has become a prized model among collectors, with noteworthy examples fetching more than $1 million at auction.
As an homage to the iconic 356, Porsche’s Vision 357 aims to recapture the pure forms and monolithic shape of the former. Far from the VW-derived workings of the 356/1, the new concept is based on the current 493 hp Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS, with its naturally aspirated six-cylinder boxer engine.
“We wanted to use a [current] car that at first glance you could see the connection to the 356,” Mauer explained in a conversation ahead of the reveal. “Then we discussed on which platform should it be; should it be an EV? Should it be a combustion engine? We decided the best choice was the 718 Cayman.”
Mauer points out specific design cues that echo the 356 coupe, including the reduced and sculptural surfacing, as well as a soft, rounded roofline. “This was driven by the technology of the time; it was not yet possible to have hard edges,” he explains. Others are less obvious, including the round headlight pattern on the front nose.
The car is done in two-tone Ice Grey Metallic and Grivola Grey Metallic. Although these are not original 356 colors, the palette selected is reminiscent of factory shades popular in the 1950s, according to Porsche. And designers had fun with the graphics; in addition to the “75” numbering on the doors and hood, small decals include messages such as “Air,” “E-fuels only” and even a dinosaur—a cheeky reference to the state of fossil fuel–powered cars. But the Vision 357’s coolest feature—literally—is the vertical striping down the rear of the car, functional vents that pay tribute to the 356’s cooling grilles for the engine.
The Porsche Vision 357 can be seen in the metal at a special Porsche 75th anniversary exhibit in Berlin from now until mid-February. After that, Porsche says the car will make the rounds at “further international events over the course of the year.” If history is any indication, that means the big automotive gatherings such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Monterey Car Week.
Click here for more photos of the Porsche Vision 357.