While the $85,880 price realized at Bonham seemed fair for a driver-quality 356B cabriolet, it was “all the money” for a non-original car

One of the all-time great sports cars, the 356 was the work of Ferry Porsche, who based it 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 all-independent torsion bar suspension. Introduced in 1948, the Porsche 356 set a new standard for small sports cars and proved adaptable to all forms of motor sport, including circuit racing and rallying. In 1951 a works car finished first in the 1,100cc class at the Le Mans 24-Hour Race, thus beginning the marque’s long and illustrious association with La Sarthe. Cabriolets had been manufactured right from the start of 356 production, but the first open Porsche to make a significant impact was the Speedster, introduced in 1954 following the successful reception in the USA of a batch of 15 special roadsters. The Reutter-bodied Speedster was dropped in 1958 and replaced by the more civilized Convertible D, which differed principally by virtue of its larger windscreen and winding side windows. Porsche sub-contracted some body construction to a number of different coachbuilders, Convertible D production being undertaken by Drauz, of Heilbronn.

By the time the 356B arrived in September 1959, the car had gained a one-piece, rounded windscreen and 15-inch diameter wheels, and the newcomer’s introduction brought with it further styling revisions. The engine, now standardized at 1,600cc, was available in three different stages of tune, the most powerful - apart from the four-cam Carrera - being the 90 bhp unit of the Super 90. Roadster production was now at D’Ieteren of Brussels. The 356B represents significant advances in drivability and comfort over earlier 356 models, and is a pleasingly quick way to enjoy the traditional Porsche values of quality, reliability and mechanical robustness.

The left-hand-drive 356B Cabriolet offered here was sold new in Italy and imported into the UK in 2002. Attractively finished in Bali Blue with beige interior, it is described by the private vendor as in perfect mechanical condition, while the dark Navy Blue hood contributes to the well-balanced appearance of this much- sought-after model. The car is offered with original driver’s manual, a quantity of expired MoTs, various service bills from Porsche of Italy, current MoT, and Swansea V5C registration document.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1962 Porsche 356B 1600 Cabriolet
Years Produced:356 from 1948-65 356B T-6 From 1962-63
Number Produced:356Bs 8,727
Original List Price:4,535 Normal, 4,785 Super
SCM Valuation:55,000-65,000
Tune Up Cost:300-600
Chassis Number Location:Next to plate at front lip of trunk panel under plastic liner
Engine Number Location:On engine case under generator stand facing rearward
Club Info:356 Registry, P.O. Box 356 Stillwater, MN 55082
Alternatives:1962 Jaguar XKE convertible, 1962 Alfa Romeo 2600 Convertible, 1962 Austin Healey 3000

This car sold for $85,880, including the buyer’s premium, at Bonham’s Collectors’ Motor Cars at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in Chichester, England on July 2, 2010.

1948 through 65 Porsche 356s have become iconic and collectible, with some excellent investment-potential vehicles amid an array of interesting and pleasurable drivers. Among the former are all early Porsche racing cars, four-cam Carrera street cars, Speedsters, and perhaps the 1964-65 SC-engined 356s, especially sunroof and cabriolet body styles. Most other models offer excellent prospects for driving fun with the potential for long-term financial break-even or possibly better.

Those prospects can be slanted your way by determining that the tub is solid, rustfree, and preferably all-original. Repairs to the longitudinals or inner body structure need to be carefully inspected, although battery boxes and floorboards are an easy and non-critical fix. It is also helpful if the relatively simple flat 4-cylinder engine is fresh. While relatively straightforward, total engine rebuilds are nonetheless $10,000 to $15,000, depending on parts needs and local specialist rates.

After that, it is all about originality for 356 aficionados, who are famous for being picky about details. The more bits that are original or new old stock replacements, the better. Reproduction-but-correct parts pass muster on drivers, but not on concours or investment cars. Incorrect parts are never acceptable.

The 1962 356B cabriolet that Bonhams sold at Goodwood fell way over onto the “driver” side of the great divide. On the plus side, the car was a cabriolet, which is typically a 20-25% bonus over a sunroof coupe and perhaps 35-40% over a nonsunroof coupe. Also potentially helpful was the car’s Bali Blue paint over a tan interior, which is a favored color combination. Bali Blue was an attractive special-order color and is relatively rare.

Also a potential plus was the 75-hp Super 1587cc engine, the middle-ranked of Porsche’s pushrod units, flanked by the 60-hp Normal, which was falling out of favor by 1962, and the 90-hp Super 90. The 130-hp Carrera 2 four-cam engines are on a completely different price curve.

Detractions on this cabriolet concerned its originality and condition. This reporter pulled a Kardex, the car’s factory build sheet, which revealed that originally it was champagne yellow with a black interior. Further, the car lost original engine P609917 in August 1967 and received factory-replacement engine KD-P605622. Both its original engine and the KD replacement were Normal 60-hp units, not the 75-hp engine now in the car.

Detail photos reveal that the body was reworked. The hood was slightly proud. Panel fit was somewhat variable. The paint had obvious preparation issues. The padding inside the engine compartment was an incorrect throwback to the early 1950s. Some engine finishes were incorrect, and a later voltage regulator was fitted. The interior was presentable but with some obvious incorrect materials. The very desirable (slightly earlier era) Nardi wood steering wheel shown in pre-auction publicity was taken off before the auction and replaced with a standard-issue black plastic wheel.

While the $85,880 price realized at Bonham seemed fair for a driver-quality 356B cabriolet, it was “all the money” for a car with many changes from the original—and with substantial needs. Even that assessment assumes that the car’s inner structure was solid, and the car was mechanically sound. Our verdict is “well sold.”

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