Japan Car Direct

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Porsche that started it all. The Porsche 356.

Before the Porsche 911, there was the Porsche 356 sports car with rear mounted engine and raised round headlights. It was Porsche’s first production car and set the stage for all Porsches to come.

The Porsche 356 was developed by Ferry Porsche, son of founder Ferdinand Porsche who was imprisoned in France at the time. Its body was based on a design by employee Erwin Komenda and it shared many components with the Volkswagen Beetle. The first 49 units were fully handmade in Austria and required two years to construct (1948-1949). The remaining approximate 76,000 vehicles were manufactured in Germany between 1950 and 1965.

The beautiful aerodynamic body of the Porsche 356 changed little over the years despite nearly annual performance upgrades. Various coupe and convertible models were available throughout the 17-year production run, but Porsche found few reasons to modify the styling that everybody loved.

From the start, the Porsche 356 was successful in major rally competitions such as the 24 hours of Le Mans and Carrera Panamericana because of its excellent handling, aerodynamics and response. Models favored for racing over the years included the super lightweight 356 SL, A Carrera GT, Super 90 and 356 B Carrera GTL Abarth coupé.

The rear-mounted air-cooled 4-cylinder boxer engine features a Volkswagen Beetle engine case, but produces twice as much horsepower as the Beetle thanks to higher performance components and the use of two carburetors. Carrera versions of the Porsche 356 available from 1955 onward further increase power by replacing the pushrods with four overhead camshafts and adding a dual ignition system.

Depending on model and year, the engine displacement ranges from from 1.1 to 2.0 liters and horsepower ranges from 40 to 130 hp, which is powerful enough to accelerate the lightweight Porsche 356 from 0 to 60 mph in around 10 to 12 seconds. These figures may not be impressive by today’s standards, but the Porsche 356 still feels fast and easily keeps up with modern traffic. Acceleration is especially strong above 50 mph and the top speed ranges from 100 to 120 mph depending on model.

The Porsche 356 is fun to drive thanks to its quick response and agile, precise handling. The steering is tight, with solid feedback. A Beetle-like stick shift provides solid control of the 4-speed manual transmission. And the hydraulic drum brakes (upgraded to discs in 1964) deliver surprisingly good braking performance. However, one must remember not to push the 356 too hard around corners since the combination of rear-heaviness and rear swing-axle suspension can lead to sudden oversteer.

The cockpit is classic in every detail from the flat instrument panel with separate meters to the three-spoke steering wheel and chrome detailing all around. The build quality is excellent throughout the interior and the thick, beautiful leather seats provide lasting comfort despite the stiff ride. On convertibles, the soft top folds down neatly behind the tiny rear seats that are just large enough to fit small adults. They can be folded flat to provide storage for groceries that don’t fit in the shallow front trunk.

Demand for the Porsche 356 has been growing in recent years. Some can still be purchased at auctions for as little as 20,000 US dollars. But the current average for desirable SC, Super 90 and Speedster models in pristine condition is well over $100,000 and Porsche 356 Carreras with DOHC racing engines are selling for as much as $250,000.

This stunning black 1961 Porsche 356 B with original 1.6-liter engine has been lovingly cared for and maintained in Japan. It brought 81,000 km of joy to its owners over the years and we simply couldn’t resist purchasing it when it came on the market. Beautiful to behold, practical for commuting and a thrill at the racetrack, it will bring pride and joy to the fortunate enthusiast or collector who purchases it from Japan Car Direct.

At Japan Car Direct, we have the right connections with used car dealers, specialty car dealers, collectors and auctions throughout Japan to find the secondhand model you are looking for at the best possible price.

Our honest, hard-working staff members simplify the entire process of searching, inspecting, purchasing, communicating and directly importing your dream car from Japan.

Why not give us a call today and take advantage of the unrivaled opportunities in Japan for purchasing used Porsches, Italian supercars, German luxury cars (LHD and RHD), JDM performance machines and just about any vehicle you can imagine at prices that put your local dealers to shame.

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