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The mind is free – history of the 356 Miersch

Although the Iron Curtain divided Germany, Porsche fans in the Communist part of the country still realised their dream of a sports car – and with the active assistance of Ferry Porsche.

It was June 17, 1953, just eight years after the end of the Second World War, and Soviet soldiers were on the march in Dresden again. Like in Dresden, citizens all around East Germany were rising up against the Communist regime installed by the Soviets. Dresden was still marked by the devastating bombing it had suffered in the war.

Just under 40 kilometres away from Dresden, in the small town of Nossen, he set up a women’s shoemaking workshop – a bold undertaking in the Communist part of Germany. Private property was frowned upon; large companies were nationalised and became the property of the people.

More than a few farmers in the Dresden area therefore still had a Kübelwagen in the barn. And just such a Kübelwagen also marks the beginning of this magical story. The twin brothers Falk and Knut Reimann, 21-year-old students at the Technical University of Dresden, designed a coupé on the drawing board that looked strikingly similar to the Porsche 356. The budding Reimann engineers found another ally in coachbuilder Arno Lindner of Mohorn near Dresden, who put their designs into practice. Lindner's family business had a wealth of experience with constructions of this sort: indeed, his grandfather had built horse-drawn carriages according to this principle.

Miersch smuggled precious goods from West to East

A brake system for the Porsche 356 A was procured from the West Berlin dealer Eduard Winter through the personal mediation of Ferry Porsche. Miersch smuggled the precious goods from West to East “in a very large briefcase”, sweating bullets all the way. Lindner charged 3,150 West German marks for the production of the body.

Initially, the Miersch was powered by a weak 30-hp boxer engine, which struggled with the 1,600-kg vehicle. The original 356 prototype weighed only about half as much, and had twice as much engine power to boot. It was not until 1968 that Miersch was able to install an engine of suitable stature: a 75-hp, 1.6-litre Porsche engine. He was allowed to import the dismantled engine – ostensibly a gift from a West German relative – as automotive spare parts.

The Porscheli was always at the centre For as long as they could, the Reimanns undertook extensive tours through Europe in their self-built car. The western-oriented lifestyle of the two sports-car replicators was not lost on the ubiquitous spies of East Germany’s secret service. It was not until 2011 that Austrian collector Alexander Diego Fritz discovered the car and saved it from ruin. As far as anyone knows, only two of those GDR Porsches have been completely preserved: the fully restored car owned by Fritz, and the largely still original car built by Hans Miersch. When Miersch’s shoemaking operation was converted into a state-owned business in the early 1970s – in other words, when it was expropriated – he managed to protect the car from state intervention. Miersch cunningly used his war wound as a rationale for keeping it: “It is a personalised, self-built vehicle designed specifically for me as a disabled person.” He said it was worth 1,800 East German marks.

Handover of the Miersch 356 to a Porsche enthusiast

It was not until 1994 that Miersch decided to part with his life companion, now painted white. He found a worthy successor in the Würzburg Porsche enthusiast Michael Dünninger. And over time, he too has made some improvements.

All adaptations aside, the Miersch remains a compelling piece of contemporary history. And in a time when people could still build their automotive dreams themselves.

The self-built car of Falk and Knut Reimann in film

A series of moving pictures at 911-magazine.porsche.com tell the story of how Falk and Knut Reimann constructed their Porsche replica. Unlike the lovingly maintained car of Hans Miersch, it had mouldered for decades in undeserved oblivion. Austrian Alexander Diego Fritz restored the car and wrote a book about it in 2016: Lindner Coupé: DDR Porsche aus Dresden (Lindner Coupé: a GDR Porsche from Dresden, not yet available in English).

Info Text first published in the Porsche magazine Christophorus, No. 396. Copyright: The words, images and sounds published here are the copyright of Dr. Ing. Porsche AG, Germany or other individuals. Porsche AG. Please contact newsroom@porsche.com for further information.

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Apr 21, 2021 at 21:46

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