Porsche 356 Generation Guide
Today we begin an overview about Porsche. This guide is for both those new to the German performance car maker and for those who want to know just a bit more of the marquee’s history and nomenclature.
Over the next few weeks we’ll have articles covering:
- The Early Years, Porsche 356
- The Legendary 550 Spyder
- The Air-Cooled 911s
- The Entry Level Porsche, 912
- Porsche And VW Have Some Mid-Engined Fun With The 914
- The Front Engined Four Cylinders, 924, 944 and 968
- Porsche’s First V8, The 928
- The Water Cooled Mid-Engined Boxster
- Enter The Cayman
- The 911 Gets Water Cooled
- Porsche Makes an SUV, The Cayenne
- The Panamera Performance Sedan
- Another SUV, The Macan
- The Supercars, 959, Carrera GT and 918 Spyder
- Porsche in Motorsport
To start out this guide we’ll start by going over the production road car that started it all, the 356.
The Early Years, the Porsche 356
Before Porsche started producing the 356 the company which had originally done consulting work on a number of design projects, including the Volkswagen Type I (a.k.a. Bug). It should then be no surprise that the 356 incorporated a number of VW parts to help reduce manufacturing costs in the early cars. However, overtime it became a better performing more refined sports car.
Porsche 356 pre-A
The first Porsche 356 was a mid-engined prototype, however partly due to budget constraints the production car would end up rear-engined. The earliest cars are known as Gmünd cars for the town in Austria where they were first produced. Production would remain in Austria from 1948 until Porsche moved to Zuffenhausen, Germany in 1950. The Gmünd cars featured aluminum bodies with the 356 going to steel bodies when production moved to Germany.
The early cars were powered by an 1100cc air-cooled flat-four engine. The motor was mated to a four-speed manual transmission and the early cars used some Volkswagen suspension parts. Brakes on the 356 were of the drum variety through much of its production. Until late 1952 the 356 features a split windshield design which was later replaced by a V-shaped unit.
In 1951 two more powerful engines where introduced with a 1300cc and 1500cc unit becoming available along side the existing 1100cc. The new power plants offered a considerable power bump. In 1953 the 1100cc flat-four was removed from the model lineup and the S (a.k.a. “Super”) was introduced with a 1300cc power plant.
In 1955 the US received the Continental which was the brain child of the sole Porsche importer of the time, Max Hoffman. The stripped down roadster featured a cut down windshield and minimal equipment. He wanted the car to be called the Continental because he thought that folks in the States would respond better to models with names instead of number designations. The model only lasted the year as Ford would file a lawsuit about the name because of their Lincoln Continental. Thanks to this 356 Continentals are quite rare and fetch a very high price.
Porsche 356 A
For the 1955 model year Porsche introduced the 356 A. The model received the internal designation of Type 1 and when a refreshed happened in 1957 that car was known by enthusiasts as the Type 2.
Over the pre-A models a number of changes occurred. The biggest of which was the availability of the four-cam Carrera engine as an option on the 356 A. Until 1955 the engine had only been available in the Spyder race cars.
Engine options started with the 1300cc flat-four, the 1500cc and 1600cc. The most powerful versions of the 356 A came in the form of the Carrera 1500 GS (available until 1957), Carrera 1500 GT and Carrera 1600 GS.
The 356 A saw the introduction of the legendary 356 Speedster. The Pre-A Continental is often referred to as a Speedster. While it isn’t technically as Speester, it is this car that led to the A Speedster being produced. Production of the lightweight open-aired vehicle continued until the 1959 model year.
Porsche 356 B
For the 1960 model year the 356 B first appeared. The B was a more refined automobile with a more powerful engine options. The base model capacity was raised to 1600cc. The entire lineup had a motor with the displacement, except for the Carrera 2 GS which received a 2-liter power plant.
The 356 B saw the replacement of the Speedster with the Convertible D. The B also introduced the Roadster in 1962. The roadster allowed folks to purchase the open-aired version of the vehicle with the more powerful 1600 cc Super 90 engine.
In mid-1962 the Type 6 (a.k.a. T6) cars made their appearance replacing the Type 5 (T5) Bs that first appeared in the 1960 model year. The T6 got a large amount of changes, including disk brakes on the C and SC models, twin engine lid grilles, an external fuel filler in the right front fender, a larger rear window in the coupe, variable speed wipers, adjustable seats, and an anti-theft lockable shifter.
Porsche 356 C
The Porsche 356 C replaced the B in model year 1964 and was around for just 1964 and 1965. It was replaced by the 911 in February of 1965. However, especially in the United States, many people chose the remaining 356 stock over the 911 in the early days due to its lighter weight.
The C once again only had 1600cc and 2-liter options. The 1600cc motor in the SC made 95 horsepower which was quite a bit of power for the push-rod air-cooled flat-four of the time, especially when you factor in the low weight of the 356. The 2-liter engines were available for the Carrera 2. The 1966cc engine offered 130 horsepower and extra cooling vents to help prevent overheating.
Unlike the 356 B T6 models with the 356 C all models received disk brakes on all four wheels. The 356 C represents the pinnacle of the model’s development and a fitting way for the model to go out.
Interestingly the last ten 356s ever produced where cabriolets that were bought by the Dutch police and used as patrol cars. While 356 production stopped in 1965, a version of its flat-four engine lived on in the later 912.
The 356 is the production car that helped form Porsche into what it is today. It is also the car whose styling became the Porsche look. With a few exceptions every production car made by the German performance car maker has design elements that show its DNA going all the way back to the 356.
What do you think of the 356 and which variation is your favorite? Scroll down and let us know in the comments. Also, to make sure you don’t miss an article get notifications of our latest posts sent to your email daily using the below form (handy in a multipart article series like this one).
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Picture sources: Alf van Beem, Mr.choppers, Allen Watkin,High Contrast