One of only 299 Pre-A cabriolets built in 1955

A 1,488-cc OHV Type 546/2 flat 4-cylinder engine with dual Solex 32 PBI carburetors that makes 55 horsepower at 4,400 rpm

Spectacular Terra Cotta-over-Ochre color scheme

Delivered with rare factory options and accessories

Faithfully executed, show-quality restoration.

Documented matching-numbers engine

A perfect entry for leading concours and marque gatherings

Offered with Kardex, tool kit and owner’s manual

An exceptionally attractive and significant early Porsche

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1955 Porsche 356 1500 Continental Cabriolet
Number Produced:1,698 Pre-A Cabriolets; 299 model-year-1955 cabs
Engine Number Location:On engine case under generator stand facing rearward
Club Info:356 Registry, 356 Club
Alternatives:1955 Triumph TR2; 1955 Austin Healey 100/4; 1955 Chevrolet Corvette

This car, Lot 131, sold for $310,750, including buyer’s premium, at Gooding & Company’s Scottsdale auction on January 13, 2013.

One of this reporter’s eagerly anticipated Scottsdale auction cars was this stunning 1955 pre-A 356 Continental cabriolet that I closely examined in May 2012 at its owner’s car barn in San Diego.

It was serial number 60873 with (factory build sheet) Kardex-matching numbers including a Type 546/2 1,500-cc Normal 55-horsepower engine, serial number 35295, with gearbox 6438H1. It also featured Kardex-matching colors and a short list of interesting options. This cab was in a desirable color, Terra Cotta #5409, with a factory-specified Ochre (yellow with a slight green tint) interior, top and boot.

Pre-A cabriolets are fairly scarce by 356 standards. Total 1953 production was 615 cars, but with the advent of the iconic Speedster in 1954, cabriolet production softened in 1954 and 1955 to 144 and 299 cars, respectively. Given the rust proclivity of 356s — and the decades-long lack of interest in these early cars — it is likely that fewer than half of those produced still exist, perhaps many fewer.

Interest in pre-As began to grow with the new millennium and has continued to mount — albeit at less-than-breakneck pace — and some major collections have added examples over the past 10 years.

A name badge doesn’t make a model

The Continental name badge deserves an explanation. Max Hoffman, the U.S. importer for Porsches at the time, wanted model names in the Detroit idiom.

Hoffman proposed both “Continental” and “America” to the Factory. For a while, Porsche complied by producing cars with the Continental script, and those cars were sold in the U.S. and Europe. Famously, the use of the Continental badge came to a screeching halt when Ford Motor Company objected, citing prior use and registration — and in anticipation of their revival of the name on the über-luxury Continental II in 1956. There is nothing significant in terms of build specs about the Continental nameplate on a 356. It was just a piece of body trim — albeit one used for a very short time.

It is unusual to have a fully restored pre-A cabriolet cross the auction block, and pre-A 356 enthusiasts watched this car very closely. Joe Harris restored this car to a high — but imperfect — standard.

Harris has a strong following and is well regarded, with his name often specified in auction listings and ads for cars he has restored. This cabriolet featured very good and consistent gaps and edges, but some plastic was used to achieve those results.

Some of the obvious branded and numbered trim pieces were original restored items attributed to trim-meister Victor Miles of Ventura, CA. The optional leather interior similarly represented a lot of time and attention to detail. The engine was detailed, and the bottom, suspension and wheelwells demonstrated a thorough restoration.

Small flaws added up

For a “show-quality restoration,” however, there were some errors, admittedly nit-picky, on the car. According to Cam Ingram, this writer’s favored pre-A guru, these errors included:

Six-prong gold Porsche scripts were on the front and rear vs. the correct five-prong aluminum versions; ditto the gold 1500 engine designation on the rear deck.

The paint preparation had some minor flaws.

The bumpers and rockers had poor quality reproduction trim. The antenna was not the original 90-degree version. The sun visors were relatively poor reproductions.

The case finish was off, and the engine case bolts were not the correct black oxide. The engine compartment also had incorrect sound-deadening vinyl.

Up front, both the spare-tire strap and the fuel-sending unit were incorrect, and the trunk sides had carpeting, where the vast majority of 1955s have one of two different vinyls. We have heard of one reportedly all-original 1955 with carpeting in the trunk.

The saving grace is that most of these quibbles are fixable without spending much energy or money.

Full of rare, desirable options

A distinguishing characteristic of this car was its desirable option list: rare chromed bumpers, hood handle delete, an unusual (on a 356) Becker Mexico radio, the accompanying special shifter necessitated by the Mexico radio, and lap-belt brackets.

During restoration, some accessories not on the Kardex were added, including body-mounted fog lights (although the restorer reportedly found the correct holes in the front panel), whitewall tires and louvered wheel trim rings. A nice toolkit, a key fob, and most of the owner’s manual kit components rounded out a fine presentation. The car reportedly had traveled about 300 miles since its restoration. It had never been shown.

When is a lot of money not a lot of money?

The car hammered sold at $282,500 — and it totaled $310,750 after buyer’s premium. After Gooding’s sales commission, the net realized was close to the private sale price set on the car almost a year ago, so perhaps this was a fair deal from that perspective.

Pre-A aficionados were conflicted, however, because there were expectations that this striking cabriolet might hit $350,000. A Texas dealer reportedly bought this cabriolet, and it may be back on the market soon at a higher price. Let’s call this one slightly better bought than sold ?

(Introductory description courtesy of Gooding & Company.)


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