1951 Porsche 356 Gmünd Pilots: A. Veuillet, E.Mouche Team: Porsche KG Race: 20th overall (1st in S 1.1 class) at Le Mans in 1951 Highspeed - HF9256 (diecast)
Right after World War II, Porsche’s factory was located in Gmünd, Austria. From 1948 to 1949 that’s where they started producing the 356. A total of 50 cars came out of the assembly line, all with an aluminum body. In 1950 production shifted to Zuffenhausen, Germany, and from then on the 356 had a steel body. Even though the production of the 356 started in 1948, it was first exhibited in the 1950 Paris Auto Show. During the exhibition, the Le Mans organizers approached Ferdinand Porsche and invited him to the 1951 24 Heures du Mans. Porsche reasoned that racing would be a good way to promote his cars, so he accepted.
So, he instructed his engineers to transform the 356 into a proper race car. Weight is always a problem, but they still had a few old Gmünd aluminum bodies. So if they used them on the current steel chassis, they would have a very light car. That’s what they did, and the result was the 356 Gmünd SL (“Super Leicht”). The engine used was basically the same one of the the road-going 356, the VW 1086 cm³ push-rod flat-4. The difference was a bigger oil filter and two Solex carburetors, delivering in race-tune 46 hp. The car also received a big 60 liters fuel tank, and in the end weighed only 612 kg.
Two cars were prepared for the race, car #46 (chassis #356/2-063) and #47 (chassis #356/2-054). However, in practice car #47 crashed and was out of the race, so Porsche had only one car for their first Le Mans race. Still, #46 came in 1st place in the SS 1.1 class, and even ahead of the more powerful 1.5 class cars. Some say this is the most important race car from Porsche, since it was the first ever Rennsport car. If the #46 hadn’t won at La Sarthe that Sunday afternoon in 1951, very possibly Porsche the brand would be very different from what we know of it today. After all, it’s the only brand that has been present at La Sarthe every year since their debut in 1951.
In 1:43 terms, even though this is “just a Highspeed” model, it’s pretty nice. If I had to criticize something it would be the dead-eye headlights, the missing mesh in front of the lenses, the amber fog lights (should have been clear) and the missing license plate at the rear. But I think I can forgive those small details on a budget model like this. Possibly not for all collectors, but definitively a must buy for the Porsche race car collector. And this one is special to me because it was a gift from my ex-Porsche fanboy friend Gary Oafiolli .