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1955 Porsche 356 news, pictures, specifications, and information

Cabriolet
 
As the 356th design study by Dr. Porsche, the 356 reigns as one of the longest running body styles. Out of the ashes of WWII and on the 'heels' of his successful Volkswagen design, Dr. Porsche invented an icon. The 356 went through iterations A, B, and C before ultimately being replaced by the 911 model. The shape of the 356 led to its nickname, the 'bathtub' Porsche.

In 1955, Max Hoffman was the sold US importer of Porsche products. He convinced Porsche that Americans did not buy cars with numbers for names. Hoffman created the name 'Speedster' for the stripped-down 356 and 'Continental' for the coupe and cabrio. The 'Continental' name was short-lived, as Ford Motor Company insisted that Porsche drop it, as it conflicted with the name of Ford's newest division. The Continentals were recalled and badged as 'Europeans.'

The car shown was severely damaged during the summer of 2006 when its trailer crashed into a guardrail, flattening the passenger side and folding the suspension under the car. Fortunately, the Detroit area is home to a very active Porsche community and the best body shops. The car was taken down to bare metal and hammered back to perfection.

'Racy Elegance, Styled by a Delicate Hand' -- in 1955 the sole importer of Porsche products, Max Hoffman, convinced Porsche that Americans only bought cars with identifying names. Hoffman convinced Porsche to badge the cars 'Continental' or 'Speedster'. Ford Motor Company objected to the name 'Continental' so it became the 356 'A' for 1956. The Continental was the luxury version of the 356. Coachwork for the 1955 Porsche was made exclusively by Reutter of Stuttgart, Germany.

The 1955 Porsche Continental has a Flat 4, 1500cc, 55 horsepower engine. Only 100 Porsche Continentals were imported to the United States.
Coupe
 
This 1955 Porsche 356 was highly modified by a former owner to compete in the LA Carrera Panamericana. These modifications include: a Type-4 high performance 2.0 Liter 914 engine with stinger exhaust, Plexiglas side and rear windows, full roll cage, GT speedster seats, fuel cell, front oil cooler, braided oil lines and many other GT options. The car was never raced, but has been shown extensively with great success.
Coupe
Chassis Num: 54089
 
Sold for $159,500 at 2007 RM Auctions.
This 1955 Porsche 356 Special Coupe was offered for sale at the 2007 RM Auctions where it was estimated to sell between $100,000 - $150,000. The car is powered by a 1507cc four-cylinder overhead camshaft engine capable of producing 137 horsepower. There is a 901 four-speed gearbox with custom gear ratios and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes with Brembo calipers.

The car has been treated to a restoration, modifications, and updates since new. The engine is a 911 four-cylinder unit with a pair of Weber 48 IDA downdraft carburetors. The body has been modified to reduce aerodynamic drag. The interior has been strengthened with a 1.75-inch tubing roll cage. To reduce frontal area and improve the handling and performance, the suspension had been modified and lowered. Non-essential items have been removed from the interior, reducing the vehicles overall weight.

At the 2004 Brumos Porsche Octoberfest Concours, the car won first place. It has set an unofficial one-way E/GT class speed record by traveling 151.52 mph.

At auction, the car was sold, selling for $159,500 and surpassing the vehicles estimated value.

By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2007
Coupe
 
The 356 was Porsche's first production automobile, and was built from 1948 until 1964. Its name came from the fact that it was the 356th project to come off the Porsche design desk. But in late 1954, sole U.S. importer Max Hoffman convinced Porsche that Americans would not buy cars with numbers as names. So all Porsche coupes and cabriolets exported to the U.S. wore the 'Continental' designation. This label was short lived because the Ford Motor Company claimed possession of the name and threatened legal action.
America Roadster
Chassis Num: 80741
Engine Num: P-84239
Gearbox Num: 6573
 
Porsche built their sports car in 1939. It had a VW-derived engine placed ahead of the rear wheels and never went into production due to the outbreak of World War II. The hand-built Porsche project 356 began in Gmund, Austria in 1948. In the spring of 1950, Porsche moved to Stuttgart.

The evolution of the 356 would continue throughout the years. The Speedster was created in response to US Importer Max Hoffman who recognized the specail needs of the US. It was a minimalist vehicle designed to fall within the $2,995 East Coast POE price. The top and seats were both small and it was void of luxury amenities such as rollup windows. A heater even cost extra. Where it excelled was in its performance; it was lightweight, had great braking and acceleration, and excellent road dynamics.

During the four year production, there were 4,822 Speedsters built which was 56% more than 356 Cabriolet production over the same period.

This example is an early bent-windshield Pre-A which original was painted red with black leather upholstery. Its full ownership history is unknown though it has spent twenty-five years of its life in storage. It was given a restoration which took three years and completed in 2007.

In 2008, the car was brought to the Hilton Head Sports & Classic Car Auction presented by the Worldwide Auctioneers. It was estimated to sell for $140,000 - $180,000. Bidding failed to reach those estimates and the lot was left unsold.

By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2008
Cabriolet
Chassis Num: 80879
Engine Num: 60493
 
Sold for $137,500 at 2010 Gooding & Company.
This early model Speedster was completed in Stuttgart in July of 1955 and is believed to have been destined for the US market. The early history is a mystery until 2004, when the current owner purchased it for the first time from Dr. Robert Wilson of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, shortly after Dr. Wilson had re-painted and restored the car.

It was shown at the 2006 Speedster 50th Anniversary event in Monterey, California. It was purchased from Diane Landers by Robert Trinkle of Alabama, who eventually traded the car to European Collectibles, a classic car dealership specializing in Porsches in Costa Mesa, California. Ms. Landers re-discovered the 356 Speedster in Hemmings, and re-purchased the car. A repaint was commissioned with the work being completed in early 2009. It is now finished in ivory over a tan interior.

In 2010, this Porsche 356 Pre-A was offered for sale at Gooding & Company Auction held in Amelia Island, Florida. The car was estimated to sell for $130,000 - $160,000. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $137,500, inclusive of buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2010
Coupe
Chassis Num: 54126
 
Sold for $129,250 at 2012 RM Auctions.
This German car was in the care of single-family ownership for 25 years. It is a matching numbers 'bent-windshield' Pre-A 356 Coupe powered by a 1500cc engine with twin Solex 32 PBI carburetors and a four-speed manual gearbox. It is finished in factory-original colors of Silver Metallic with blue upholstery. It was given a restoration in 2002 and 2003. The car retains its original tube-type Telefunken radio, correct set of 15-inch wheels and tires, and a recorded mileage of 75,000 kilometers. There is a partial tool kit, a roadside kit, spare tire, copy of the owner's manual, and the Porsche Certificate of Authenticity.

In 2012, this vehicle was offered for sale at the Amelia Island sale presented by RM Auctions. It was estimated to sell for $100,000 - $150,000. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for $129,250 inclusive of buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2012
America Roadster
 
The sleek 356 Speedster was introduced in 1954 and was the idea of Porsche importer Max Hoffman who was based in New York. It was a less-expensive or Spartan model with a rudimentary top and side curtains. Ferry Porsche did not like the concept but nearly 5,000 American customers did for it was loved especially by Hollywood movie stars, racers, and Southern Californias who did not have to worry much about rain. Raked windshield that could be readily removed for racing and bucket seats were stock, the option list could add some create comforts, but more to the point is that the Speedster was 'tunable.'
During the war Ferdinand 'Ferry' Porsche and a handful of his proven, faithful employees had started work on development number 356 in their workshops moved to the town of Gmünd in Kärnten. The first design drawings were completed on 17 July 1947 and on 8 June 1948 the Kärnten state government issued a special permit homologating the car. Returning home after being held by the French as a prisoner of war and bailed out of custody by his family, Professor Dr.-Ing.h.c.Ferdinand Porsche, Ferry's father, stated right away that 'every single bolt was just right'. No 1 was then followed by a small series of 52 additional cars built in Gmünd, production in Stuttgart from 1950 - 1965 subsequently amounting to 78,000 units of the 356 model Porsche No 1, a mid-engined roadster, is completed and homologated in the Austrian town of Gmünd. The engine displaces 1131 cc and develops maximum output of 35 bhp(26 kW). The first few 356 coupes are made of light alloy.
The Porsche 1500 S ('Super') was launched in 1952 and was capable of producing 70 bhp.

In 1953, the Porsceh 1300 S producing 60 horsepower was added to the Porsche line-up. This was also the year the Porsche was introduced to the Únited States. The split windshields are also replaced by bent windshields during this year.

1954 marked the production of the first 200 Porsche Speedsters.

In 1955, the Speedster becomes a genuine sales success. Production of the 356 A series starts in autumn wîth the proven 1300 and 1300 S power units soon joined by the 1600(1582 cc, 60 bhp/44 kW), 1600 S (1582 cc, 75 bhp/55 kW) and 1500 GS -the first Carrera marking the introduction of the new sports engine wîth four overhead camshafts - (1498 cc, 100 bhp/74 kW). The 1100-ccengines are dropped from the range.

During the 1956 model year, Porsche produces its 10,000th 356 model.

In 1957, the sporting and Spartan Porsche 1500 GS Carrera is joined by the more comfortable 1500GS de Luxe model.

In 1958, output of the Porsche 356 A 1500 GS Carrera GT is boosted to 110 bhp/81 kW. The Speedster is replaced by the Convertible D wîth a larger windscreen and winding windows at the side. The 1300-cc engines are dropped from the range.

In 1959, the Carrera receives extra power and is now called the 1600 GS-GT, wîth the sports version offering more output (1588 cc, 115 bhp/85 kW) than the de Luxe model (105 bhp/77 kW). The 356 B series is introduced in autumn, the Convertible D being renamed the Roadster.

Source - Porsche
The Porsche 365C has been named the number ten on the list of Top Sports Cars of the 1960s by Sports Car International in 2004. The Porsche 356 is still widely regarded as a collector car that has capably stood the test of time.

There is some debate over which vehicle was the first official Porsche, the pre-war Porsche 64 being actually a VW racing automobile. The 356 was a sports car designed by Porsche that sold from 1948 through 1964 and was Porsche's first production automobile. A prototype for the 356, the 'Number 1' had a mid-engine. The name for the 356 was chosen as it was the 356th project off the Porsche design desk. In 1949, production officially began in Stuttgart, Germany.

Designed and fabricated by Ferdinand 'Ferry' Porsche (the son of well-known Dr. Ing Ferdinand Porsche, founder of Porsche motors), the Project # 356 concept was then styled by Irwin Komenda. Bailed out of custody by his family, Professor Dr.-Ing.h.c.Ferdinand Porsche was a held as a prisoner of war by the French. During the war, Ferry Porsche and a small handful of his faithful employees began work on the 356 in their workshops moved to the town of Gmünd in Kärnten. On Dr. Porsche's return to his family, he stated right away that 'every single bolt was just right'.

On July 17th, 1947, the first design drawings were completed, and it was an entire year later when the Kärnten state government issued a special permit homologating the car on June 8th, 1948.

Komenda, born in 1904 in Austria, was also responsible for contributing substantially to the construction of the Volkswagen, Cistalia, Auto Union racers, and other vehicles of the day. Joining Porsche's design bureau in 1931, Komenda held various positions at Steyr, Daimler-Benz and other coach shops in both Austria and Germany. He is responsible for contributing to a variety of other designs in Porsche's history, and was the chief engineer and head of Porsche's coachwork from 1955 until he died in 1966. The 'confidential clerk' for Porsche, Karl Peter-Rabe became the chief business manager, after Dr. Ing Albert Prizing, until 1965. Prizing was a business manager who is famous for bringing 37 orders back to the factory following one importer's conference in Wolfsberg in 1950.

The prototype was taken various times by Ferry, often with just the rolling chassis without body, up the steep mountain roads surrounding the city to test its agile handling and durability. Ferdinand Porsche went on to live a long life, and died on March 27th, at the age of 88. Contributing to the handling of the prototype was the gearbox and suspension specialist Karl Frolich.

Evolving through several updates through the years, the 365 was originally available as a coupe, a cabriolet and finally a roadster. The vehicle changed from mid-engine to rear, along with a myriad of details that evolved over the 22 year run of the model, though the recognizable shape of the vehicle remained the same, a timeless classic. The most desirable versions were the Porsche 356 Carrera, which came with a special racing engine, and the 'Super 90' and 'Speedster' models. The same price as a Cadillac at the time, the price of a late 1950's Porsche was nearly $4,000. Today, a 356 Carrera model can sell for well over $150,000.

The very first Porsche sport car was hand built in Gmünd/Kärnten, Austria. The entire aluminum body was hand beaten over a wooden buck. Without the benefits of a machine shop, all of the engine and drive-train components were made completely. Over 50 Gmünd cars were built and sold primarily in Austria and Germany. To be closer to parts suppliers, the Porsche Firm, located to Zuffenhausen, Austria, near the Reutter coachworks following the war. The only Porsche to ever have the engine mounted in front of the rear axle, the 356/1 was open top 2-seater. Designed with a tubular chassis, the vehicle was air-cooled and came with a 110 cc engine that remarkably light and quick for the times. Following this first ever radical design, every Porsche 356 to follow was constructed with the engine in the rear, behind the axle.
The Reutter Company, located in Stuttgart Germany, was given the assignment in late 1949 to construct 500 body works for an adjusted model of the 356 unit. This classic 356 was capable of reaching a speed of 140 kph. Under the belief that selling more than 500 units was an impossible feat, it was a pleasant surprise on March 15, 1954, car no. 5,000 left the factory.

Over the years, the 356 was updated with various mechanical refinements, though the basic shape was retained and remained instantly recognizable from year to year. The final 356B Roadster was built in early 1963, while both Coupe and Cabriolet models continued to be built every year up until 1965.

With a top speed of over 85 mph (135kph), a total of only 4 models of the 356 were produced in 1948. The 356/1 came with a 1.1 liter engine that was capable of making 40 horsepower. Less than 60 units were produced during 1949 and the earlier part of 1950. These very rare and unique models are known today as the Gmünd Coupes. The tiny sport cars continued to be built during 1950, but now at a factory in Stuttgart where Porsche moved production. A total of 298 units were built and delivered to their owners by the end of 1950.

One year later, three engines, all of them were flat-4's 'boxers' that were air cooled and were available from the factory. They were available at the 1,100cc, the 1,300cc, and the 1,500cc. The 1500 Super was the top power-plant during late 1952, which came with a synchromesh transmission. That same year the America Roadster was designed and created. Only a total of sixteen models were produced, and all units were an aluminum cabriolet body that came with a removable windshield. In 1992, this vehicle inspired the 40th Anniversary 1992 911 America Roadster.

Under the advice of Max Hoffman, the sole importer of Porsches into the U.S., the 356 'Speedster' was introduced in late 1954. The idea was to produce a lower cost vehicle that was a racier version that would appeal to the American market. Proving to be an instantaneous hit, the Speedster came with a low, raked windshield that was easily removed, bucket seats, and a minimal folding top. In 1954, the Speedster was available for $2,995. This unit was available in a variety of six different engine types, the 1100, 1300, 1300A, 1300S, 1500 and 1500S. The 1500Super was the top of the line model, while the Coupe and Cabriolet wore the 'Continental' badge designation. In 1955 the 1600 motor went into production.

In 1956, the 356A was unveiled to the world, and had an all steel body, curved windshield and smaller wheels. When the cars were introduced, numerous subtle differences in the shape of the body and features were highlighted. In 1956 the 10,000th 356 unit rolled off the assembly line. The 356 Carrera was introduced at the same time, which came with a 1500GS engine. Before being replaced in 1959 by the Convertible D model, the Speedster peaked at a total of 1,171 units produced. In this same year, the 1300 engine was dropped from the line. A new project was the result from continued improvements to the 356A, the Type 2 or 'T-2', now with a new transmission, the 644 replaced the earlier 519 with an improved shifter, better synchros, dual nose mounts and a split case design. A higher horsepower is achieved in 1958 as continuous improvements were made in the Carrera engines.

The D model featured more comfortable seating, along with a more practical windshield, and glass side windows. In an attempt to boost sinking sales, around 1300 of these models were produced. While previous models were developed by Reutter coachbuilders, the Convertible D model was developed by Drauz, which is what the ‘D' stands for. The D model falls somewhere between a Speedster and a Cabriolet in both luxury and lightweight appointments. In the later months of 1959, the Convertible D became a roadster with the new T-5 body style. Today to the convertible D is considered very desirable, due to the low number of units produced.

In 1960 the 356B offered the S90, or 'Super 90' motor as an available option. The vehicle also had a counterweighted crank, sodium-filled valves and Solex P40-II carburetors. The Karmann Coachworks were employed in 1961 to produce the 'Hardtop', a Cabriolet body with a fixed hard roof. The nickname 'Notchback' was affixed to these cars because of their profile. Nearly 1750 of these vehicles were produced during the two years of its production.

It was one year later when the 356B was introduced, updated with an entirely new body and Super 90 engine. In 1962 and 1963, the engine was once again revised, and changed body styles. A very small number of 356B 4-seater coupes were produced by a Swiss company. Though rare, several models are still around today. Next was the introduction of the Carrera 2 in April of 1962, and only around 450 models were produced in both Coupe and Cabriolet form. In the same year, Karmann produced 2170 coupes, and Reutter produced 4100. The production for the year topped 7900 when the almost 1600 Cabriolets are added into the count. The discussion is broached by Porsche with Reutter to purchase the coachmaker, and finally, after 12-years of co-operation, the successes are consolidated. 'Christophorus', a customer magazine filled with news and background on the Porsche lifestyle is launched by the Porsche factory.

Finally the 356C, the final model, known also as the Type 6 (T-6), was available in 1964 with an engine that came from the same lines as previous Spyder engines, the most powerful pushrod engine Porsche every produced, was cable of producing 130 horsepower. Offering the 1600C, 1600SC and Carrerra 2 engines, the 356C featured 4-wheel disc brakes. Both the C and SC were available for purchase in either Coupe or Cabriolet form.

In 1964, a total of 14,151 356 units were produced. Porsche had achieved a production rate higher in that year alone than the entire line production of the first 10 years of the Porsche 356. The 911 was introduced at this time, presaging the end of the 356 run. Through the end of 1965, the company continued to sell the 365C in North America as a lower-cost vehicle.

Achieving a victory in the 1100cc class during its first outing, the original 356-001 vehicle was raced at the Innsbruck city race. In Austria, on the 8th of June 1948, the Porsche was homologated by the state government of Kärnten. Frequently touring the world for special car shows and historic events, the original Porsche '001' vehicle is in the Factory Museum.

Near the end of 1965, more than 76,000 Porsche 356 models were produced and sold. Following 17 years of production, the model 912 eventually took over the 356's stance in the market. The push-rod engine from the 356 was reused to power the 'entry level' 912 model that was produced from 1965 to 1969.

The Porsche '901' was introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1963. Later after a protest by Peugeot, the name was changed to '911'. In 1964 the Porsche 911 began production.

By Jessica Donaldson
For more information and related vehicles, click here

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Arrow Right 1955 Porsche models
Porsche 550 RS Spyder
Porsche 550 RS Spyder Replica

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Average Auction Sale: $127,635

 
Porsche: 1951-1960
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356
550/718 Sports Racing Cars
597
904
906
907
908
911
912
914
917
918 Spyder
924
928
934/935
936
944
956 and 962
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Image Left 1954 356
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