Perhaps the most famous car manufacturer to date.
Founded by Professor Ferdinand Porsche in 1931 as the Porsche Engineering Office in Stuttgart, the company did not actually produce any sports cars for another 17 years. The prototype for the Volkswagen was designed by Ferdinand Porsche, but World War II intervened and production did not begin until 1946. The first sports car of Porsche design was built and tested on June 8th, 1948: the Porsche 356.
In 1949, the Cisitalia racing car is released with a 1.5 Litre flat-12 supercharged engine and a top speed of 300 kilometres per hour. In 1951, a light-weight variant of the Porsche 356 won the LeMans 24 hour race. This victory helped in boosting the reputation of the company and brought international attention to them. In this same year, the first two right hand drive Porsche vehicles, both 356s, were built and imported into Australia.
Along with the victory at the LeMans, Professor Ferdinand Porsche Sr died in 1951. His son, Ferdinand (Ferdy) Porsche Jr continued as head of the company and design team.
Another unique car design to spring from Porsche came in 1953 in the form of the Spyder 550. A 1.5 Litre, 4 cylinder racer with a mid-engine design, the Spyder proved very formidable on the race track, often competing and winning against higher horsepower cars. As a small piece of trivia, James Dean owned and raced a 1954 Spyder 550, which had been nicknamed 'Little Bastard'. This was also the car in which he died, in a fatal road accident in 1955.
Porsche commemorated their 25th anniversary in 1956 by producing their 10,000th Porsche 356. Porsche had already scored 400 victories in motor racing by this year.
1961 saw the start of a new car design by Alexander Porsche, the son of Ferdy Porsche. Presented at the Frankfurt International Automobile Show in 1963, the Porsche 911 (originally 901, until Peugeot protested the name) would become the most popular and successful of the company lineup. It featured a 2 Litre flat-6, air-cooled engine mounted in the rear. After recieving much praise at the auto show, production began the following year on the 911.
Towards the end of the 1960s, the Porsche 914 was released, including 4 and 6 cylinder mid-engined models based on the Volkswagen engine. Unfortunatly, this impacted performance and models of this era did not become as popular as the 911.
During the 1970s, several different models of Porsche were designed and released. The Porsche 917, a 4.5 Litre 12 cylinder racer, was released in 1970 and won virtually all races it entered. The first turbo model, a 911, is released in 1974. The first transaxle model, the Porsche 924, is released in 1975 with a front-mounted engine. And in 1978, the Porsche 928, also known as the 'big Porsche' is produced featuring a transaxle design and light alloy V8 engine.
In 1984, the Porsche 959 is launched. This model became the first sports car to win the Paris-Dakar rally in 1986. In 1989, the Tiptronic transmission becomes a feature of Porsche cars: this transmission allowed for manual or automatic gear changes and was first featured in the 911 Carrera.
In the 1990s, the Porsche Boxster is designed and built as a mid-engined roadster and in 1998 Porsche celebrated their 50th anniversary. It is estimated that over 1 000 000 Porsches have been built and that around 2/3rds of them are still on the road.
Information obtained in large part from the Porsche company website: http://www.porsche.com/english/company/history/milestones/default.htm