This B Cab had tools, a Carrera horn ring, Hirschmann antenna, Blaupunkt radio, headrests, and its original engine

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Hot on the heels of the recent Monterey auction results, I received an email, which asked the following question:

“I just saw that nice black 1962 356B Cabriolet sell at Gooding in Monterey for $176,000 and I need your advice. I have a nice car very similar to that one, and although the condition isn’t quite the same, my car is a survivor once previously restored to a decent standard.

It’s ivory with a black interior, a 1600 Normal, in good but well-used condition. The paint is older but can still shine with some elbow grease, the interior is getting a bit tired but is all there, the engine runs well but uses some oil, and the brakes pull to the left. I was thinking about selling it and would like your advice how close I can come to getting a similar value for mine? It seems everyone wants one of these today and I’d look to get well over $100,000 for mine.”-JB.

I don’t think you are being realistic. When valuing a regular production Porsche, think about three things-condition, condition, and condition. More than originality, condition trumps all in today’s market.

The Porsche that blew the roof off at Gooding was a regular production car made rare by its top-of-the-world condition and the highly unusual original colors of black with a red leather interior. In addition, it was a certified winner in both major Porsche venues-the Porsche Club of America, where cleanliness, authenticity, and originality are key, and the 356 Registry, where pure beauty and charisma matter the most. Very few cars win both places.

Lots of rare stuff

This 356B Cab had been tended to by one of the best vintage Porsche preparers, Dennis Frick. You may remember him as the fellow who rewrote the PCA concours rules. He not only knows as much about old Porsches as anyone, he runs one of the finest restoration shops in the U.S. Cars completed by him are cars of the highest quality. But wait, there’s more.

This B Cab came with a complete set of tools, something we hardly see outside of cars traded privately between Club members. It also had the rare and desirable Carrera chrome horn ring, a correct red-tipped Hirschmann antenna, Blaupunkt radio, headrests, and its original engine-and a Super at that. It was, in all ways, a great car.

There were a few things I would have done differently had it been my car. After the concours wins, a front disc brake conversion was installed. The good point here is that it still uses the original “wide-5” bolt-pattern wheel. The bad point is there is nothing at all wrong with the original brakes if properly set up and maintained. This modification, while it doesn’t hurt the car for driving, really adds nothing and detracts a bit from the originality. I also don’t like that it is fitted with the fake VW reproduction chrome wheels in the wrong size, but that is an easy bolt-on change. In dollars and cents, it is a rounding error on a car this valuable.

Do I think this was a good value? It depends on what you want. You could be driving down the road in a very decent 356 Cabriolet for less than half this price. Or you could buy one of those cars and try to make it this nice and most likely end up with lots of time and even more money invested. If you wanted to own a “winner,” this was easily the most painless way to do that, even though it was a world-record price.

Not cheap but immediate

If, on the other hand, being involved with the restoration is a part of or in fact most of the fun, then this car wouldn’t be the best value. Or, if you like to drive your car regularly, many of us would find it hard to submit something this special to the rigors of use. This isn’t a car for a driver-owner.

If I wanted a car like this, a known national winner in unusual colors that I didn’t plan to drive much, this was a quick and easy way to end up with one in my garage. No, it wasn’t cheap, but it was immediate, and as that great observer of the human condition Benjamin Franklin noted, “Time is money.” For the rest of us with perhaps a bit more time than money, this might not be the ideal purchase.

If you want to see what more “typical” Cabriolets are selling for, even in the supercharged Monterey atmosphere, here’s a quick sampling. (Recall that there is a large difference between what the new owner paid and the seller got, as the seller generally pays around 10% of the hammer price as a selling premium, plus the costs of prepping the car for auction and transporting it to Monterey. In other words, an $80,000 hammer price might lead to an $88,000 purchase price by the new owner, but would lead to a $72,000 check, with expenses not deducted, to the seller. Keep these numbers in mind when you price your car for sale.)

RM sold two 356 Cabs, both As that these days bring a bit more than Bs. One was ivory and seemed to have good panel fits but average cosmetics. It sold for $71,500. A Meissen Blue Cab did a bit better at $77,000, but had issues with both hood and door gaps.

Russo and Steele and Gooding both sold early B Cabriolets (single grille cars built 1960-61) at $85,800 and $81,400, respectively. They were in better condition than the A Cabs above-and that is critical-but of course nowhere near as nice as the black and red B Cab that went for such big money.

Christie’s sold an exceptional 1965 SC Cabriolet at the same price as the national winner B Cab, $176,000. In theory, most buyers looking at a Cabriolet, rather than the prettier and sportier chrome-windshield-framed cars (Speedster, Convertible D, Roadster), would rather have an SC than a B, due to the more powerful engines and disc brakes. The body is identical for every Cab made from 1962 to 1965, which includes both late Bs (1962-63) and the C/SC cars (1964-65); however, the C/SC models have upgraded engines and disc brakes. The Christie’s car was highly unusual in that it had about 75% original paint. This helped it to achieve an exceptional price.

Condition, condition, condition. That tells most of the story in today’s wild 356 market. Very special cars sell at very special prices. Most of the other cars tag along behind, often well behind. There are values to be had in many different places, depending on what you plan to do with your prize. And luckily for those of us who value driving our cars above all else, an older restoration, in good driving condition, can still be found for half the price of a “don’t touch me” concours example.

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