Elaborately hand-assembled by old-world craftsmen in Zuffenhausen, Germany, 50-plus years later a well-kept Porsche 356A represents a profitable investment, for there are few collector cars that enjoy an equally high esteem among classic car buffs all over the world.
And, last but not least, it is a lot of fun to drive such a car, not only with the awareness of possessing an important piece of sports car history, but also because very few other sports cars offer similar driving pleasures plus equally high everyday utility--but, of course, all this has its price!
Essentially, "A" Coupes come in two flavors: unrestored or restored. Attempting to rescue a rusty bargain-basement project can be hugely expensive (and frustrating), purchasing a 356A that has been completely restored will be beyond the means of all but the most affluent enthusiasts. Finding a decent example that has seen much care--but is not a $65,000.00 trailer queen--can be a daunting task, indeed.
Built in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen in the summer of 1958, VIN *105064* was shipped to the U.S. when new and has been a West Coast resident ever since. For the last dozen years, it was owned by an airline pilot who stored it at his hangar in Santa Ynez, Calif., driving it during occasional visits to his wine country ranch.
Let's now inspect this fine Porsche in more detail, starting with the trunk.
With the large fuel tank filling most of the available space, there's not much room for actual luggage. Original tar-based sound deadening material is still present, a good omen.
There's no sign of rust; the battery box floor has been replaced with a flat piece of sheet metal. Note factory tire jack; the spare--mounted to a chromed rim--is also included.
Turning our attention to the Porsche's voluptuous body, we admire its smooth coachwork. Apart from a few very minor dings, too small to spot in these photos, there are no ripples, waves, or other imperfections that would cause sleepless nights. Shut lines ("gaps") of doors and hoods are excellent.
Again, there's no sign of rust or paint bubbling; fender lips and door bottoms are fully intact.
Date-coded 4.5Jx15 steel wheels wear correct "baby moon" hub caps and are fitted with a set of expensive MICHELIN XZX tires of the dimension 165SR15.
Note original REUTTER coachbuilder's badge on lower right fender.
Sporting the most attractive color combination, metallic silver over red, the car was repainted many years ago. Finish has remained superbly glossy and is complimented by excellent brightwork and weatherstripping throughout. All the glass is in wonderful condition, too.
A definite highlight of any 356 interior is its dash layout. Topped by a perfectly crack free safety pad, this dash is beautiful to behold, a masterpiece of ergonomics, and proof positive that less can indeed be more.
From the large, two-spoke steering wheel with full horn ring, to the beautifully preserved, chrome-bezelled gauges, ivory-colored knobs, and painted metal fascia, there's an aura of pure Fifties' precision, Made in Western Germany.
Though the car retains its original 6-Volt configuration, the Stereo was updated to a modern AM/FM/Cassette unit--especially made for Porsches--that fits the dash perfectly while leaving the original opening uncut. You can spot the 6/12V converter underneath the dash.
Note protective Coco floor mats, a nice period touch.
The 356A is among the most spacious of all 1950s sports cars. The Porsche factory went to great lenghts to extol its long distance touring capabilities. Comfortable front bucket seats have been upholstered in red leatherette; there's plenty of head and leg room, even for very tall pilots.
Rear bench with folding seatback looks inviting. Everything, from the seat cushions to the pleated side panels, appears flawless, exuding genuine German Gemütlichkeit. New carpeting throughout passenger compartment consists of the expensive imported oatmeal wool Haargarn Schlingenware with tan beading.
Ready for a test drive?
So are we, but before we leave, let's take a good look at engine compartment and undercarriage.
Lifting the single-grille deck lid reveals a very clean and tidy engine bay. Just like in the trunk, the original sound deadening material is still present.
The engine itself, # P*69314*, is a correct 616/1 T2 unit. Featuring a three-piece case and topped with the corect 32 Zenith NDIX carburetors and original Knecht air cleaners, it puts out 60 Teutonic horses at 4,500rpm. She's not a leaker nor a smoker and runs very strong, indeed, without any unusual mechanical noises.
Dry as a desert storm: this engine doesn't need diapers!
Click on any of the above images for a full-size view
Additional detail pictures. Everything looks very, very nice down here!
Monday, November 29 turned out to be another lovely winter day in our old mission town of San Buenaventura. Looking forward to exercise our little Coupe, we were not disappointed, to say the least!
Driving this exhilarating Porsche will really elevate your heartbeat! First off, this 356 always starts easily, without huffing and puffing. Throttle response is crisp, the engine sounding great as it revs to redline, abundant power signaling a thoroughly healthy state of affairs.
Wherever you take this car, public exclamations of admiration and excitement are guaranteed!
This Porsche corresponds with you, talks to you, urging you to rev up the engine and go fast. You are the Maestro, der Kapellmeister, creating music of a different kind, inconceivable to those who lack experience or understanding. Close to redline, this Porsche sounds incredible; it makes you want to get up early on a Sunday morning, just to hear it in full song, hurtling down some deserted backcountry road.
In the realm of vintage sports cars, apart from these early Porsches, perhaps only a vintage 12-cylinder Ferrari possesses this much soul . . .
Returning home, we have come to the conclusion that a 356A must be the ideal collector vehicle for folks who actually drive their cars. This one doesn't have any bad habits; lights, switches, and gauges all work; it's a true get-in-and-drive automobile.
Here is one of the most desirable sports cars on the planet, boasting of fantastic appreciation rates, exotic-looking, with present-day performance, and yet, it's utterly reliable and simple to maintain; definitely not a primadonna. "Classic car ownership in its purest form" -- if you are ready to participate, here's a prime opportunity. Don't let this fabulous 356A Coupe get away!
We sold this beautiful Porsche in December 2010 to a collector in California.