The origin of the model name, Porsche Carrera, is not only interesting but also somewhat hazy. It all started in a dusty town called Tuxtla Gutiérrez near the southern border of Mexico. The year was 1950, and an epic road race was about to get underway, La Carrera Panamericana, in celebration of the completion of the Mexican section of the Panamerican highway which stretched from Alaska to Chile. Little could the engineers at Porsche have foreseen that four years later, Hans Herrmann would steer the diminutive 550 sports car, then fitted with their latest high performance engine, to an overall third place in this gruelling event.
In brief, the Spanish word carrera means ‘race’ which has an obvious application in this instance, but for a full explanation and background to the tortuous world in which Porsche came to use the name Carrera, you need to read this book – Porsche: The Carrera Dynasty, by Glen Smale.
Work had begun on a new high performance engine in 1952, but it wasn’t until the following year that it would be ready for testing, and still another year later before it would be raced in competition. The Type 547 engine was of course the factory design name for the Professor Fuhrmann-designed four-cam 1498cc four-cylinder boxer engine, but it was only following their third place finish in Mexico in 1954, that the engine was given the name of ‘Carrera’.
356 Carrera Coupe/Cabriolet
At the Frankfurt Motor Show, September 1955, the public were presented with the first four-cam engined 356 model, the 356 A 1500 GS Carrera Coupe. Those early achievements by the Porsche drivers in that inhospitable and unforgiving environment in Mexico, were to be offered to the buying public in the form of the new high performance 356 road car, fitted with a slightly detuned version of that same engine.