True bliss in life is the ability to park your high dollar ’65 356 coupe on the street in early April during one of the worst winter/early spring seasons Michigan has seen in decades. I have to salute the owner of this final-year 356 for ignoring the snow pack in the background (deceiving: it was 60 degrees outside) and going out for a ride, running an errand. If I had a 356 coupe, I’d be champing at the bit, too.
First things first: I’ve never understood the whole Porsche fascination thing, probably because I have little experience with them. Second things second: 356 coupes are, however, on my “Great 28” list of cars I want to own. It’s the only German car on the list, and it’s certainly one of the unobtainable ones. My personal favorite 356 is the ’62/’63 coupe, with drum brakes and their complementary wheels. This 356 obviously sports later 911 wheels, a look that meshes well with the “bumperettes,” or whatever one calls those insignificant rods jutting from the tail of the car.
Anyway, my only ride in a Porsche was in one of these, when I was eight. Dr. Bob, a family acquaintance, had one, knew I was a car kid, and took me and my dad for a ride. It was 5-speed equipped, and was easily the coolest thing I had ridden in up to that point. He got that egg-shaped spaceship up to 85 or so on a country road, and I was sold! Luckily for me and my wallet, that kind of ride was uncommon, so Porsches never really got under my skin.
It was really Peter Egan, the incomparable columnist from Road and Track, who turned me on to the 356, at least from afar. Of his myriad vehicles, the 356 coupe stood out. I never warmed to the roadsters or convertibles, and later 911s looked fun, but not really my style. This was just right. The close coupled interior seems spacious, even for six-footers, and this one even comes with the requisite hula dancer on the dash. This person’s fun!
At the Meadowbrook Concours one year, I heard a guy refer to another guy’s 356 convertible as a “Custom-Bodied Volkswagen,” which I thought was funny. It’s true in a way, but obviously the 356, for all its Beetle origins, is no Volkswagen. The 1965 was the last of the 356 models, and even though there’s a hint of VW in the profile, I think it’s handsome and well-proportioned. The squared off trunklid and dual hood vents were, to me, improvements over earlier coupes.
This grayish-blue ’65 is the “base” C model, rocking a 75-horsepower version of the 1600-cc flat four. Our featured car is an SC, which took over for the earlier “Super 90.” The SC actually produced 95-horsepower, and could power a 356 to a top speed of around 115 miles per hour. Not bad for 1965, especially when 25+ miles per gallon economy was attainable with judicious driving. Of course, the Carrera model went a step further with overhead cams, more expense, and more complexity, but either pushrod choice would have filled the bill for me in fine fashion. No big hurry here.
This ’64 356 C is basically identical to the above ’65s, but it appears that someone cranked in a little negative camber in the back. I’m not that familiar with the specific mechanics behind the 356’s rear suspension, but Porsches have a tail-happy reputation, especially with swing axles, so this owner may be attempting some corrective geometry.
By most accounts, Porsches make satisfying daily drivers. I think I suffer from Porsche overload; modern car magazines gush, and Road and Track and Car and Driver seem to prominently test a modern 911, Boxster, or Cayman every two issues or so. Then I look at their as-tested prices, including $300 colored keys and $5000 wheel and tire packages, and I can’t relate.
Even if modern Porsches have become so bloated and complex that they hold no interest to me, I’d love to cruise to work in a ’60s model, as the above advertisement suggests. They, too, have become somewhat overpriced, so I’ll have to enjoy them from afar.
If you have the wherewithal to enjoy one though, take a lesson from the owner of our featured car and enjoy it as much as you can. And don’t worry too much about the Volkswagen jokes.
Looking kind of outlaw with those Fuchs and bumperettes.
As with yesterday’s Cobra, are we sure that this isn’t also a kit?
Not so sure of B and C kits, especially coupes. Speedster A is the only 356 kit I can think of.
There are several companies making 356 coupe replicas, some with Subaru or Honda engines even if you so desire. All in all probably a much better driver than getting a real one anyway.
makes sense given where the prices of originals are going. cheers.
Indeed very fun cars ! .
I enjoyed hard driving the ’54 much more than I like driving my ’63 356 .
There was a custom – bodied Volkswagen. It was called a Karmann Ghia
I like those, too. 🙂
+1 my favourite Art teacher Miss Turner had one til the tinworm saw it off
I know I’ve told my 356 sob story before, but here it goes again. Back in 1972 and ’73, I was running a Sunoco station when a local fellow brought in a 1960 Porsche 356B, white like this one. It was lovely, complete and without a stain of rust anywhere. All it needed was a tune up and an oil change. As he was paying the tab, the customer remarked that he wanted to sell the car. The price? Only $1000. In those days, a grand to me might as well have been ten grand, so I passed. Of course, I’ve kicked myself ever since.
These guys make a great replica 356.
I drove up to Vancouver BC to take a look at their Kubelwagen replica. Very nice.
You have summed up my feelings on both these cars and Porsches in general. I have warmed a bit more to them after riding in a co-worker’s 1985 911 a few times. It’s red, of course. I guess I find it hard to separate the Porsche cult from the Porsche cars.
Excellent find. Isn’t it amazing how exhilarating it can be to find a cool car out on the street at the end of our midwestern winters.
Especially after THIS winter…man, it dragged on forever! They use a lot more sand in northern MI, so it was pretty safe taking it out…I actually took this picture in early April.
Yes, Porsches make very nice daily drivers. Comfortable, reliable, makes you wonder why certain Italian marques (all Italian marques?) can’t do the same. Every time I dream of a Ferrari, sanity kicks in and I look for a Porsche.
I’d love to cruise to work in a ’60s model, as the above advertisement suggests
The full sequence doesn’t seem to be on Youtube, but the opening scene of the (rather weak) 1978 rock-radio comedy FM — now remembered mostly for its title song by Steely Dan — has its DJ protagonist leaving his house for work in an open 356 at the last possible second. He roars the little Porsche through LA, with his radio tuned to his station (no static at all!), finally making it into the studio and getting behind the microphone as the previous DJ’s record fades out, in the nick of time for him to begin his shift.
Some of it can be seen in this trailer:
I’ve always been hot or cold with Steely Dan’s music. I like some songs, hate others, with very little in-between. “FM” is a hate, only because it gets stuck in my head too easily.
Also, imcdb.com has some screen grabs.
Changing the subject, what happened to Peter Egan anyway? Did he fully retire?
Indeed 356’s look like fun cars. Unfortunately their value has escalated into un-fun territory so they’re pretty much out of reach for the non-wealthy.
Luckily we still have MGB’s, 944s, Miatas and VW Beetles.
Mr. Egan is retired from his monthly columns, but is an occasional contributer to R&T. I miss that man…
The only person left in American car magazine publishing that I follow is David Freiberger. He mostly does the Roadkill thing on YouTube now but his writing in alot of the publications he edited was alot of fun.
“The squared off trunklid and dual hood vents were, to me, improvements over earlier coupes.”
I prefer the look of the later models too. It’s like the Beetle vs. Super Beetle thing where folks usually have a strong preference for one or the other. The later bumpers looked perfect but the nerf bars as shown are sexier.
Have you ever heard the door closing sound on one of these? Like a Benz.
Great find thanks for posting.
Nerf Bars yes.
replacement wheels no.
Winning Lottery Ticket, pretty please.
I’m not a Porsche fan but this one is especially nice.
If you want to see true endurance in a Porsche 356, take a look at the following article.
This is just me, but I wouldn’t want to spend almost a million miles behind the wheel of a vintage Porsche. The guy’s car is still running.
Thanks; great story.
Brilliant cars. I’ve never driven or ridden in one, but it just has that *something*. While based on looks I prefer the purity of design of the early examples, these late ones would make a great driver. As has been said, too bad the price has risen faster than a hot-air balloon.
Glad this one’s owner actually drives and enjoys his classic!
Are they really that valuable now ? .
Mine was just sitting and some guy offered me $10,000 for it , so I jumped , told my son who said he wanted it so I gave it to him instead .
I paid well under $10 K for it in driveaway condition , all original , working Blaupunkt AM/FM/SW radio etc….
I’d call that a good buy! I’d take one in a heartbeat for that…I might even trade my Dart for it. 🙂
@Nate – when was that? They are worth WAY more than $10k… more like $25-30k in driver condition from what I understand.
I bought it some time back , gave it away a couple years ago .
I also had a decent looking but actually rough ’57 Coupe with a seized engine I sold for , uh $1,500 or so about 5 years ago just to be rid of it when I realized I was all done with the Air Cooleds .
My Son had some fun with the ’63 , took the bumpers off and ran it in POC Auto Cross events a few times , drove it up to Laguna Seca and camped out of it in the campground above the race track , I’d told him of my doing so back in the mid 1970’s….
He was the _only_ car of any kind in the camp ground….
The tranny began to sing a bit so he took it apart for bearings & synchro rings , hasn’t yet re assembled it .
Who knows ? maybe he’ll loose interest in it and I’ll take it back and make it road worthy again .
I really did like driving the 1967 912 5 gauge 5 speed Coupe he gave me , much more .
I’m shocked they’re getting $20K + for unrestored cars .
20 yearsago one of my used parts suppliers offered me a really nice survivor 1959 Convertible D for $12K , original wool carpets were worn but not a speck of rust anywhere..
I don’t like rag tops much and so passed on it .
Wow; two of my all-time favorite cars here today!
If I start talking about the 356, I’ll never be able to end. It’s a vehicle that I bonded with intensely as a very young child, and I feel somehow deeply connected to it, as if it was a blood relative. I know; sounds odd.
It’s a vehicle that has just always spoken to me in the most sympathetic way, and its abilities, shape, priorities, and engineering would make me an eminently suitable 356 owner. I guess I waited a bit too long to act on it.
But that’s ok; I can appreciate its every detail, inner and outer, without having to actually own one. But that would be nice too.
Nice find and article on the ‘latest and greatest’ original old school Porsche.
I bonded with this Porsche 356 as a child – I think my cousin and I received these toys (his was red) for Christmas @1955 when we were six years old. It’s the famous tin toy Distler Porsche Electromatic 7500 – battery-powered, you could steer it and it came with a key in a leather case that fit into the dash. With the exception of the key (long lost) I have most of the parts but the car needs to be restored. Much later my cousins’ kids battered it and left it out in the rain – hence the missing parts and rust. It still has the steering wheel with the Porsche emblem and the floor shift. Those were the days of very detailed toy cars.
I loved these cars when I was a kid. One person (father of a friend) in our small town in the midwest had one and was badly hurt in a collision with a large truck in it – both legs broken, among other injuries. Their other family car was a 59 Cadillac so they had all bases covered.
My cousin-in-law has a 2011 Carrera 4S – quite a different beast but fun.
The most famous Porsche 356 around here is the 1964 356C owned since new by Sheila Kuehl, former actress (Zelda Gilroy on the old Dobie Gillis television show) and successful California state politician, currently running for LA County Supervisor. She claims to have driven it over 500,000 miles. I’ve seen it around town – still looks great.
@CA Guy –
Have you ever heard of Guy Newmark from Seal Beach? He’s got a ’64 C that has close to a million miles on it. Still has the original engine and transmission.
Had not – amazing! I’ve never seen reference to the maintenance on Sheila’s car but it is clear the 356 is one tough automobile.
@CA Guy –
Mr. Newmark’s 356, known affectionately as “Blue,” was stolen from his home garage last August. The vintage Porsche community, from what I read, quickly rallied to find Blue and it was recovered within 3 days. Mr. Newmark said he literally started breathing the minute it was found.
As of last month he was up to 985k miles. He and Ms. Kuehl have shown us that these old cars can accumulate very high mileages.
Is it safe to call the 356 series the Volvo 240s of the Porsche world?
I dont care how ‘not correct’ they are…those Fuchs mags look AMAZING on this car.
2 356 stories in my life.
1. A friend of mine, his dad was the guy with the farm full of dead vehicles. His prize possesion though, was a silver 356 coupe. I knew them for YEARS and never knew he had it. One day (we were cleaning up the yard, we had 6 semi loads of dead cars hauled away) he showed me in the barn-lots of dead farm equipment and his 356. He took it off the road because he backed into something and left a tennis-ball sized dent and broke a taillight. It had sat from the late 70s to the late 80’s, so it was a little mouse-chewed but complete. Less than a year later, the barn burned down and took everything with it.
2. Early 90’s, I saw a 356 convertible for sale on my way to work. I came back after my shift (on payday, no less…) to check it out. It looked nice, red with black interior. The guy got in it to start it up for me, and his seat went thru the floor. Needless to say, I passed. Beautiful car, though.
The ‘custom-bodied VW’ comment was probably not a joke, but fact. Lots of ‘Speedsters you see these days are actually kit cars, with replica ‘Porsche’ bodies on VW chassis/running gear.
Though not real Porsches, they can be nice cars, for lots less money than the real thing.
This example was actually in the concours, so it was real. 🙂
I think the 356 is brilliant, and would make a much better ‘fun’ car than a new 911 for the simple reason that a 911 is too fast to drive quickly on public roads. You can only floor it for 3-4 seconds before you are in license losing territory, cornering speeds are too fast to be safe on blind corners, etc. Obviously for a daily driver things are different and the safety and refinement of the new car would matter, but otherwise the old car is the way to go. As a bonus – no depreciation!
When I was 14 in 1983 I had a ride in the back seat (sitting sideways) of a very cool 1956 356 Cabriolet with the top down and my Dad’s buddy driving and my dad in the passenger seat. You could feel the rear step out in corners and it had a great exhaust note and I thought it was so great.
Fast forward to 2003 and I was considering buying a 1982 911 with 100,000 miles and a new engine. I love to drive it, but I couldn’t get over the non-matching engine. They had a restored 356 coupe (I think it was a 1965 356c…) for sale for the same money and I convinced the salesman to let me give it a try. It was such an incredible disappointment! There was something wrong with the shifter, the lever was loose and would just spin around on itself, making it nearly impossible to find the right gear, the seats in the car put me directly next to the salesman, with our shoulders practically touching, and there was almost no feel to the steering.
I’m sure if I’d had time alone in the car and the shifter were correct I could have found my bearings and enjoyed it but I realized at the time how old that car was. I’ve never driven any other car older than 1974, and the 356 was designed in 1948. It was definitely not a modern feeling car, the little bit I could tell in that short test drive.