Classic Spotlight: 5 Competitors to the Porsche 356
Porsche’s rivals from the 1950s that helped define the luxury sports car
The highly auctioned Porsche 356 is widely considered the first true luxury sports car that saw mass production. It generated copycats and a few serious competitors, some of which are still around today.
Although none of the cars on this list have the same unique rear-mounted flat engine configuration as the 356, they joined Porsche in defining the luxury sports car.
Aston Martin DB
While there is technically no such thing as a DB1, the Aston Martin 2-Litre Sports is commonly referred to as the DB1. Only 15 were produced between 1948-1950, but the preceding DB cars eventually saw production numbers in the thousands.
They were famous as distinctly British luxury grand tourers, and the legacy continues today with the gorgeous new DB11.
We often think of the Corvette as being an extremely American car—and it is—but it’s always had a hint of European influence.
It didn’t come around until 1953, but when it did it was an instant icon.
It only got better as it grew into a V8 and eventually became the legendary C2 Stingray. Although the cars are quite different now than they were back then, Porsche and Corvette still enjoy a friendly rivalry.
The XK120 roadster was Jaguar’s return to sports cars in 1948. It gets the number 120 from its top speed of 120 mph, making it the world’s fastest production car at the time. The top speed of the original Porsche 356 was only around 85 mph, but it had a clear advantage in handling.
The XK inline-six engine gave it its famously long hood, which gave way to a gorgeous, curvy body. The XK series eventually gave birth to the classic E-Type, and the XK name has been going in and out of Jaguar’s lineup ever since.
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL W198
The 300 was for the 3.0L inline-six and SL for “sport light.” This Benz took the world by storm in the mid-1950s.
If Porsche was the scrappy new kid, Mercedes was the seasoned veteran. The W198 is known for its distinctive styling, gullwing doors, and innovative fuel injection.
A clear advantage for the Porsche? It was about half the price of the Mercedes.
This one hardly counts as a competitor, but it’s an interesting car. It was supposed to be like a W198 that was priced more like a 356, but the BMW 507 was a complete flop. Producing the car ended up being far too expensive, and BMW was forced to sell them for double the originally intended price.
This V8-powered Bimmer was intended for the American market and was eaten alive by the Corvette and the Ford Thunderbird. Only 252 were produced between 1956-1959.
Douglas Barry is the CEO of Dusty Cars, the No. 1 classic car buyer in California. Douglas has built a strong reputation over the last 20 years by offering the best prices for old cars, not only across America but also across the whole world.