A variety of 356 models in both coupe and convertible forms were produced from 1948 through 1965. Nevertheless the basic design of the 356 based on unibody construction with rear mounted air cooled pushrod OHV flat-4 engine remained the same throughout its lifespan, with evolutionary, functional improvements rather than annual superficial styling changes.
It took Porsche two years, starting with the first prototype in 1948, to manufacture the first 50 automobiles. By the early 1950s the 356 had gained some renown among enthusiasts on both sides of the Atlantic for its aerodynamics, handling, and excellent build quality in spite of price tag. The original selling price of a late 1950s Porsche in US was around US$4,000, which was also the price of a new spacious and comfortable Cadillac.
It was common for owners to race the car as well as drive it on the street. The Porsche 356, close to stock or highly modified, has enjoyed much success in rallying, the 24 hours of Le Mans, the 1000 km Buenos Aires, the Mille Miglia, the Targa Florio, the Carrera Panamericana, as well as many other important car racing events. Several Porsche 356s were stripped down in weight, and were modified in order to have better performance and handling for these races. A few notable examples include the Porsche 356 SL, and the Porsche 356A Carrera GT. In the early 1960s Porsche collaborated with Abarth and built the Porsche 356B Carrera GTL Abarth coupé, which gained additional recognition for Porsche in motor sports.
The mid 1962 356B model was carried over to the more modern T6 body type distinguishable by twin engine lid grilles, an external fuel filler lid in the right front wing and larger windows.
The last revision of the 356 was the 356C on the same T6 body type introduced for the 1964 model year. It featured modern at a time disc brakes all round, as well as an option for the most powerful pushrod engine Porsche had ever produced, the 95 hp (71 kW) "SC". 356 production peaked at 14,151 cars in 1964, the year that its successor, the new 911, hit the market.
Finally by the time 356 production ended in 1965 approximately 76,000 had been produced. Thousands of owners worldwide still maintain the 356 tradition, preserving their cars and driving them regularly.