1958 Porsche 356A Coupe
|Engine||Flat four-cylinder, 1582cc|
Porsche’s remarkable 356 put the Zuffenhausen company firmly on the automotive map in the 1950s, with Dr Ferdinand’s original design - a somewhat basic sports car closely based on Volkswagen’s Beetle - evolving into a technically advanced, beautifully resolved machine over a production life spanning more than fifteen years. The earliest Gmünd-built cars were somewhat underpowered and primitive in terms of equipment but the 356 matured into a sophisticated sports car by the late 1950s, with the 356A introduced at the 1955 Frankfurt Motor Show heralding the biggest changes yet. Gone was the so-called bent window (a legacy of the original split screen bodywork), replaced with a single curved piece of glass, along with a revised interior (including a decent heater), new suspension settings, a steering damper and 15-inch wheels and crossply tyres. Available with both 1300cc (Normal) and 1600cc (Super) engines, the 356A was both more powerful and reliable than earlier models thanks to a new three-piece crankshaft and revised cooling system. In addition to the coupe and cabriolet models, the stripped-out Speedster continued to prove popular in North America. In 1957 a revised, so-called ‘T2’ body appeared, with teardrop tail lamps, a repositioned lamp for the licence plate and reshaped seats. Mechanically Porsche dropped the 1300cc engine and replaced the Solex carburettors with Zenith items; the 1600 Normal developed 70bhp at 5000rpm, while the Super extracted an additional five horses. For those customers wanting even more power or to compete on the track, Porsche also added the legendary Carrera to the line-up, using a version of the complex four-cam motor found in the 550 Spyder. Hugely popular in America and at home, relatively few 356s were made for right hand drive markets like England and Australia, where taxes and import duties made them prohibitively expensive. Local distributor Norman Hamilton was patronised by a small band of well-heeled customers and the 356A was an unfamiliar sight on the roads of Sydney or Melbourne in the 1950s, with several appearing at Bathurst and elsewhere.