Courtesy of Silverstone Auctions
Courtesy of Silverstone Auctions
In September of 1959, Porsche revealed their fully updated 356 known as the 356B. This had a completely revised body that was more suitable for the American market. The 356B used the new T-5 body style, which raised the front and rear bumpers nearly four inches. Furthermore, the headlights were also repositioned higher to meet American regulations. Inside, Porsche fitted a new deep-dish steering wheel and deeper front seats. New to the model was the Type 616/7 Super 90 engine, which was an indirect replacement for the Carrera de Luxe models. The engine was fully revised with a new intake manifold, a larger Solex 40 PII-4 carburetor and the Carrera air filters. Other detail changes included 9.0:1 pistons, stronger valve springs, and a different crankshaft with 55-mm main bearings. In August of 1961, Porsche revealed the updated T-6 body with larger windows for the coupe and twin engine grilles on the rear deck. These had a much revised front trunk with a different gas tank that was accessed under a filler lid on the fender instead of the middle of the trunk. In 1963, the 356C marked the third and final update to the 356 model. This left-hand-drive 1962 Porsche 356B Super 90 cabriolet is finished in one of the sleekest color combinations of silver with blue leather interior and blue hood. The body was subject to a restoration in 2006 and was purchased by the current owner in Monaco. The paintwork today presents well and has been recently treated to a bare-metal respray. The hood is in excellent condition and the interior a true delight, complete with original radio and clock. There are a number of bills in the history file from Porsche Monaco and the car has a current U.K. registration certificate. The 356 Super 90 Cabriolet was produced in very limited numbers, and only 600 of all T-6 cabriolet variants were manufactured in 1961/62. This attractive open-top Porsche looks a very reasonable ownership proposition.  

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1962 Porsche 356B T-6 Super 90 Cabriolet
Number Produced:14,564
Engine Number Location:On engine-case boss under the fan
Club Info:356 Registry, Porsche Club of America
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 137, sold for $184,921, including buyer’s premium, at Silverstone Auctions’ Salon Privé Sale in London, England, on September 4, 2014.

Up front, I was slightly surprised at the result. As one of the pundits advising that most Porsche 356s are approaching a market top, I would not have forecast this price, especially for this specific example. More about that later.

An avalanche of 356s

The 356 market faces an enthusiast base that is aging and selling off cars — with few Gen Xers flowing into the breach. Porsche built 356s for 17 years — promoting youthful dreams for just one extended generation. Please consider the 911, some 42 years young, to appreciate the difference. And Porsche built 77,957 of the upside-down bathtub-shaped beasties. In collector car circles, that’s an avalanche of 356s.

Let’s quickly contrast the collector reception for four-cam Type 547/692/587-engined 356s, built about 1,350 strong, and 1954–58 pushrod Speedsters, with 4,145 built. Both of these 356 subsets have transcended Porschephiles to become mainstream market darlings. Many a general car collection has one or more of either model or both. Some collectors are gathering as many 4-cams as possible, one eye firmly on the upward-trending price charts, while easily grasping the math of 1,350 out of 77,957. As a result, million-dollar 4-cams are the norm and half-million Speedsters are well upon us.

Is that avid reception for four-cams and Speedsters now driving lesser pockets of the Porsche 356 market? If so, which models and how much future appreciation would be nice to know for an effort to buy into a rising tide. You’d be correct to start with open cars, followed by sunroof coupes, then non-sunroof coupes — with options and colors affecting it all. Scarcity and desirability drive the market. On open 356s, we would guess a pecking order along these lines:

1952 America roadsters: 18 built, including two unique specials

1954–59 Speedsters with pushrod engines: 4,145 built, all engine types

1950–52 Pre-A cabriolets (split windshield): 640 built

1953–55 Pre-A cabriolets (bent-glass windshield): 1,058 built

1962 “Twin-Grille” roadsters: 249 built

1964–65 356 SC cabriolets with the 95-horsepwer SC engine: 4,087 built of all engine types; there are no data on exactly how many were SCs, but market availability would suggest plus or minus 20%

1959 Convertible D: 1,330 built

1960–61 roadsters: 2,653 built, all engine types

1964–65 C cabriolets with the lower-horsepower C engines (see numbers above)

1956–59 356A cabriolets: 3,298 built

1962–63 T-6-bodied cabriolets: 3,177 built

1960–61 T-5-bodied cabriolets: 2,085 built

Normal and Super

Starting in 1952, when Porsche added 1,500-cc engines to its earlier 1,100-cc and 1,300-cc units, they also initiated a parallel higher-horsepower series and introduced the nomenclature of Normal and Super. In 1960, a new engine was introduced with 90 horsepower, and it was dubbed the Super 90. In this era, the Normal was 60 horsepower and the Super was 75 horsepower.

For current collectors, the engine selection is a prime determinant of value. Buyers will pay up for a Super engine in a pre-A or a 356A, especially in Speedsters, where the Super is relatively rare.

Among 1960–63 356Bs, Super 90s are on yet another price scale, along with the 1964–65 SCs, the successor to the Super 90. The C engine is basically a Super. In 1964-65, the C was 75 hp and the SC was 95 hp, both DIN.

I regularly advise a 15%–20% premium for the era’s top-of-the-line engine.

Any time there is a price premium associated with an engine selection or with options, cars will be restored to that specification — or sometimes just to the appearance of that spec.

Taking a closer look

Let’s get back to our subject car, a 1962 356B T-6 Super 90 cabriolet.

The auction catalog copy does not specify matching numbers for original engine and gearbox or original colors, so it’s safe to assume that none applies. When considering a 356 at auction, always ask the auction house for their copy of the Kardex (the factory build card) or a Certificate of Authenticity. Any serious seller has it available. If not, you should suspect the worst — and accept that if you bid you are gambling on the build specification.

You can help yourself by careful investigation.

To determine a 356’s original paint colors, look under the dashboard (lying on the floor with a flashlight, naturally). Some original factory overspray likely remains.

To guesstimate on the engine numbers, have a reference book at hand — or at least an expert at your side. Our subject car gave itself away in an instant: The engine number 614944 was not a correct number for any 356 or 912 engine, although it was patterned like a number for a Normal. It was not close to a Super 90 serial number, which for 1962 started with 804001 and went up.

The engine was clearly not a Super 90 physically. The most visible telltale was the Zenith carburetors. Super 90 engines had the essential Super 90 Solexes with their wire-mesh Knecht air cleaners.

Furthermore, the tachometer had the 5,000–5,500 rpm red zone of a 1600 Super, not the 5,500–6,000 rpm red zone of a Super 90. Finally, the Super 90 insignia on the rear deck was correct for an earlier T-5 car but not a 1962 T-6.

More worries arise

Other issues existed, none as important as the Normal engine. From the auction catalog photos, we can see:

The seats had the too-large pleats of a lesser repro interior kit.

The top boot was not cut correctly.

The front rugs were not cut correctly.

The steering wheel was a 1970s aftermarket reproduction in the wrong size.

The spare-tire wheel was a reproduction — and thus it was likely that the road wheels were as well.

The fuse-block cover was the repro white plastic piece intended for a 356C.

The speakers were updated and had incorrect fabric on their covers.

The hood and the driver’s door did not fit correctly, and the front bumper rode too low on the passenger’s side.

The engine compartment was dirty, with broken decals and old finishes.

None of those items were deal killers, but were they indicative of a restoration with the goal of “flipping” the car at auction? Usually, yes.

Paying the price for ignorance

It is possible that at the event, the auction company announced the incorrect engine specification in the catalog. If so, kudos to them. If not, some knowledgeable collector should have notified them. And if not, shame on the buyer for being gullible. He paid a super-premium price for a not-so-super Super 90 356B Cabriolet. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Silverstone Auctions.)

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