Fair money for a car that can't be restored economically in today's market

Porsche is famous for the careful development of its machines, so it is no surprise that the 1965 356C, the last of the 356 series, is a highly sophisticated automobile. By this time, any shortcomings in the design and execution of the 356 had years to be identified, analyzed and eliminated. It has been written that the warranty costs for the 356C/SC models were the lowest ever experienced by Porsche.

The Porsche flat-four was as close to bulletproof as Teutonic determination could make it. Revisions to the rear suspension had long since refined and perfected the handling characteristics, rendering them nearly flawless. Construction had matured until the cars' fit, finish and function set the standard for which other manufacturers strived.

The production Porsches existed in parallel with their racing counterparts, benefiting from the innovations of racing but pursuing their own course toward meeting and exceeding the expectations of customers.

This 356C Coupe is nicely equipped with chrome wheels, period Blaupunkt radio and Dunlop tires. Its appearance is that of an older restoration with red paint requiring buffing. The tan leather interior shows well along with fully functional gauges and the correct steering wheel. The engine bay and chassis remain clean and all chrome elements are in good condition.

The Porsche 356C is as distinctive today as it was 35 years ago, a refined automobile of impeccable taste and of the highest quality, designed to do its job with timeless style and efficiency.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1965 Porsche 356 C
Years Produced:1964-65
Number Produced:13,508
Original List Price:$3,990
SCM Valuation:$20,000-$25,000
Tune Up Cost:$400
Distributor Caps:$26
Chassis Number Location:On horizontal bulkhead in front of gas tank under front hood
Engine Number Location:On engine block between generator pulley and crankshaft pulley
Club Info:Porsche Club of America, 5530 Edgemont Dr., Alexandria, VA 22310
Alternatives:Mercedes 230SL four-speed, Alfa Romeo Sprint GT Veloce, Jaguar XKE Series I coupe
Investment Grade:B

This Porsche 356C Coupe sold at the RM Meadow Brook auction on August 2, 2003 for $15,951, including buyer’s premium. While at first blush this seems like a low price, I would call it fair money for a car that can’t be restored economically in today’s market. The best use of this car would be for a low-cost enthusiast refurbishment or, with a bit of luck, to just be driven and enjoyed as is.

As the final derivation of the 356 model, the C is frequently touted as the “most refined.” Yet only two features elevate the C above the late B (1962-63), the different torque characteristics of its engines and disc brakes. Otherwise, the C is nearly identical to the late B, both cars wearing the same “T-6” body style.

There is much debate among 356 aficionados, especially those relatively new to the marque, about how much of a value premium a higher horsepower engine (in this case, the SC) brings to a coupe. For knowledgeable 356 buyers, condition is a greater motivator than engine size. This is because regardless of horsepower, any 356 is great fun on the road, if properly set up. These were never fast cars, but provide balanced enjoyment with a supple ride, great brakes (whether disc or drum), roomy interior and superb build quality.

An example like the red car here reminds us that the current value of less than pristine coupes remains low. Even at an optimistic price of up to $30k for a very nice T-6 356B or 356C coupe, the cost of a correct restoration is almost always well above the value. So forget about picking up a tired coupe, farming out some engine and bodywork, then selling for a fat profit. While mechanically robust when new, 356s do not tolerate cut-rate replacement parts such as Chinese-made cylinders, mismatched and maladjusted Weber carbs, VW distributors and the like. Add a tired transmission and a host of negligent body and chassis work to the mish-mash of engine parts, and you end up with a very expensive project, one best avoided by most.

Today it costs upwards of $10,000 to have a 356 engine rebuilt with no excuses. A trans can easily exceed $3,000, an interior runs $4,000 in original materials, and body and chassis repairs can be a bottomless pit.

But let’s look on the bright side. This 356C Coupe had an honest feel about it, and let’s assume the mechanicals don’t need anything major. I would do the following: fully tune the engine and change all fluids, at $400, rebuild the suspension with fresh front-end bushings, at $500 (these are always bad at this stage in a 356’s life), flush the brake system ($100) and put some Hide Food on the seats (essentially free if you do it yourself).

So, for a total of $16,951 including purchase price, you could end up with a car that will bring you a lot of pleasure and be worth about what you have invested when you go to sell.

In fact, as the cost of restorations continues to soar, used cars like this one, which can be left as used cars, are developing their own appeal.-Jim Schrager

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