Having commenced manufacture with a short run of aluminum-bodied cars built at Gmund, Porsche began volume production of the steel-bodied 356 coupe at its old base in Stuttgart. The work of Ferry Porsche, the 356 was based on the Volkswagen designed by his father. Like the immortal Beetle, the 356 employed a platform-type chassis with rear-mounted, air-cooled engine and torsion bar all-independent suspension. In 1951 a works car finished first in the 1100-cc class at the Le Mans 24-Hour Race, thus beginning the marque's long and illustrious association with Le Sarthe.

Constant development saw the 356's engine grow first to 1.3 and then to 1.5 liters; the original split windscreen replaced by a one-piece; and a Porsche synchromesh gearbox adopted. 1955 marked the arrival of the 356A, the newcomer being readily distinguished by its rounded windscreen and 15-inch (down from 16-inch) wheels. There was a choice of 1.3- or 1.6-liter engines, or the four-cam Carrera. Production lasted until 1959 and the introduction of the 356B, by which time a little fewer than 21,000 had been built.

Originally registered in England, this right hand-drive 356A Cabriolet subsequently relocated to Northern Ireland where its owner was Lady Berry, and was purchased by ex-McLaren Formula One driver John Watson in 1989. We are informed that, apart from a replacement engine, the car has no departures from original specification, and comes with factory hardtop. Finished in blue with beige cloth interior, the car is offered for complete restoration and without documents.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1958 Porsche 356 A
Years Produced:1956-1959 (356A)
Number Produced:3,361 (356A cabriolet)
SCM Valuation:$26,000-$32,000
Tune Up Cost:$150
Distributor Caps:$22
Chassis Number Location:Horizontal bulkhead in front of gas tank
Engine Number Location:On rear-most vertical engine case, between generator pulley and crankshaft pulley
Club Info:356 Registry, 27214 Ryan Rd., Warren, MI, 48092

This project sold for $8,350 (converted at $1.65 per pound) at the Brooks sale in London on December 3, 1998. The car had unusual pre-sale publicity, with a photo and article appearing in the popular British magazine Thoroughbred & Classic Cars.

To my eyes, after having just completed a ground-up restoration on a 1965 356 SC Catriolet, this car looks rather rough and seems a long way from ever being a #1 car. For starters, it certainly hurts that the engine is wrong. In addition, the hood gap is very poor; it’s logical to conclude that it is from another car. Porsche people like to see original panels on their #1 cars.

Although a factory hardtop is included, what’s needed instead is the nearly irreplaceable soft-top frame. If it is gone, plan on spending several thousand to replace it. Cabriolet hardtops saw little use when new and are today worth as little as $300.

It’s hard to justify spending $40,000 or more to bring this car to concours condition, as with the wrong motor, it will always sell at a discount to full #1 money. Further, it can be very difficult working with a car taken apart by someone else. There is no telling how much pain you will endure hunting down all the miscellaneous bits and pieces which are no doubt missing.

To buy this car to part out (or “break,” as the British would say) you will have to find other worse A Cab being put back together, not a trivial risk. The engine, from an early 1964 C with 75 DIN horsepower, is worth about $1,200 as a core.

In spite of all these problems, this car would have sold for about the same price here in the U.S. as it did in England. Any open 356 has a price floor below which it will not fall, no matter how rough the condition.

The best use for this car is as a hobbyist project, fully realizing that the finished car will never be more than a #3 or perhaps #2 driver. I hope an intrepid enthusiast takes the time and effort required to bring this A Cab back among the living. However, to either give it a professional restoration or or part it out would be difficult to justify financially.

Market opinions in italics by Jim Schrager.

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