Whatever the auction catalog may say about the early 356Bs adding to the Porsche legend, at the time of its introduction, Porsche fans were aghast


Launched in 1948, the Porsche 356 employed a platform chassis with a rear-mounted, air-cooled engine and torsion bar independent suspension. In 1955 the 356A was introduced, readily distinguishable by its curved, one-piece windshield, a wider range of engines, and 15-inch, rather than 16-inch, wheels. Announced at the 1959 Frankfurt Motor show, the 356B T-5 enhanced Porsche's reputation as builders of one of the finest small-capacity sports cars, continuing the commercial success of its predecessors.
Improvements were focused on handling, ride and refinement, as well as the addition of a more powerful 90-hp, 1600-cc engine. Cosmetic changes included a higher nose, raised front fenders and higher and stronger bumpers. Inside, the dash featured a black, dished steering wheel with brushed steel spokes, and black plastic switches. The seats were lowered to increase headroom and ventilation was improved with front quarter windows.
Exported new to the U.S. and re-imported to Germany in 2001, this very presentable 1961 Porsche 356B in Light Ivory is fitted with a tan interior, radio, and chrome wheels. In original left-hand drive and generally in very good condition, these practical and historic cars are currently acquiring a special level of interest, being ideal for continental rallies.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1961 Porsche 356 B T-5 1600
Years Produced:1960-1961
Number Produced:8,559
Original List Price:$4,400 (1960)
SCM Valuation:$15,000 -$18,000
Tune Up Cost:$200
Distributor Caps:$15
Chassis Number Location:on horizontal bulkhead under front hood
Engine Number Location:stamped just below generator on third piece of alloy engine case
Club Info:356 Registry, 3359 Kings Mill Rd., North Branch, MI 48461
Alternatives:1954-1964 Mercedes 190SL, 1963-1966 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint, 1967-1970 BMW 1600
Investment Grade:C

The SCM analysis: This 1961 Porsche 356B T-5 1600 sold for $21,004 at Bonhams’ Beaulieu, U.K., auction, held Sept. 11, 2004.
This sale represents the continuing premium paid for U.S. cars with minimal rust that are brought back to the Continent. On our shores it would be hard to get this kind of money for a T-5 B in like condition. To understand why, we need to know a bit of history on the early 356B model.
Whatever the auction catalog may say about the early 356Bs adding to the Porsche legend, the fact is that at the time of its introduction, Porsche fans were aghast by what was the first major redesign of the 356A. Response to the 1960 356B was no less vehement than when the water-cooled 996 911 was introduced in 1998.
The B jettisoned the 356’s trademark low bumpers and dramatically wind-shaped nose and fenders. Worse, especially from the back, was that the small rear window and high bumper just seemed wrong. The 356B looked too modern, and it had lost the squished Porsche shape. There was even talk of a revolt among the stalwart Porsche Club of America members-never ones to keep their opinions to themselves.
While the new Super-90 engine was welcome, the prevailing opinion was that Porsche’s best years were behind it. It had destroyed its masterpiece, and the blame could be squarely leveled at the stupid Americans, who needed those higher bumpers because of their propensity for ramming their giant land barges into petite Porsches.
Aesthetic concerns were largely remedied with the 1962 356B T-6, which became the 356’s final body style. The T-6 provided a redesigned hood, and more importantly, larger front and rear windows. The car again looked right, perhaps not as swoopy as the A, but good in a different way.
All this makes the stylistically challenged 1960-1961 T-5 B Coupes among the least valuable 356s. They are still great cars to drive and enjoy, it’s just that most of the 356 Porsche world wants either the modern lines of the 1962-1965 T-6 B and the later C, or the classic A of 1955-1959.
The 1961 356B T-5 1600 pictured here seems to be what most of us would call a “driver,” with its VW repro chrome wheels that never look quite right, due to their incorrect vent holes, and the so-so fit at the bottom of the driver’s door. These are signs of a well-used Porsche, one restored with an eye toward economy rather than correctness. This is fine for a car to use, and more and more, 356s of all types are being enjoyed for the wonderful drivers they are.
The car is fitted with the “1600” engine, which means it has the
lowest output (60 hp) available at the time. But don’t get the idea that this engine, also known as a “Normal,” isn’t fun to drive. A properly sorted Normal is a lively, torquey motor that surprises almost everyone who has never driven a good one. These 356s were-and should still be-great cars to drive, just like any real Porsche.
In buying a 356, one should never overlook the performance of the car, something that can be difficult to determine at an auction. Your best bet is to look at the rest of the car’s originality for clues. Documentation helps, as does a discussion with the previous owner.
Some 356s accelerate with all the determination of a VW Beetle, as altogether too many have been bodged by well-meaning but cheap and often misguided former owners. When the values of 356s were so low as not to allow an engine rebuild without the owner becoming buried in the car, many took shortcuts, using el cheapo piston and cylinder sets, which not only stole performance, but also adversely affected durability. Weber carbs were often slapped on the engines as a cure-all, when in fact they usually do far more harm than good.
Assuming the 356B T-5 pictured here drove as well as it looked (that is to say, just so-so), this sale would be near its market value for Europe, where 356s are harder to come by, as few were sold there in the first place. But it’s pricey in the U.S., where there are simply more to choose from. It isn’t a pristine, highly desirable or unusual example, so there’s no need to keep it on a trailer or in a heated garage. The new owner will get the best return for his money here by simply taking the car out on all sorts of roads, in all sorts of weather, and driving the heck out of it.
(Historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.)

Comments are closed.