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Porsche 356 Classics

Broadcast date : 6th August 2006

Ferdinand Porsche designed many famous cars, including the Auto Union Grand Prix machine in the 1930ís, and of course, the Volkswagen Beetle. But the first car to bear his name was the 356, first built in 1948 in Austria.

It was unsurprising that this car was very much based on the Volkswagen Beetle.
They used an air-cooled flat-four engine, and similar transverse torsion-bar front-suspension and swing-axles at the rear.

Those first 356ís were rather modest cars, producing just 40 horsepower, and displacing 1100 cc.

Early engine sizes increased to 1500, and later to 1600 cc, with the advent of the 356 A, which had a slightly less-rounded shape.

Production moved to Stuttgart, Germany, after 1950. Throughout the 356ís life, the car was improved.

A total of 82 000 Porsche 356ís were built, and production ran right up until 1965, over a year after the Porsche 911 had been introduced.

During that time the car was constantly improved, to the point where the last 356 C models are still very drivable cars today, easily able to keep up with the traffic.

The Porsche 356 interiors are delightfully simple, but use the highest quality of materials, which is why they last so long. 

The same simplistic approach is applied to the later 911, which was the logical successor to the 356, but interestingly used not a single common part from its predecessor.

Porsche 356ís came in various guises, including coupťs, cabriolets and a low-windscreen Speedster.
Peter Dorfer is South Africaís foremost expert on Porsche 356ís, and operates Carrera Motors, a Randburg firm that does beautiful restorations of these famous cars. 

Carrera Motors has been in operation for over two decades, and specializes in all Porsches, from the 356ís, through 911ís, to the front-engined 944ís and 928ís.

During our visit to Carrera Motors we were fortunate to see work being carried out on a 356 Carrera 2, one of the most sought-after of all Porsches.

The four-cam Carrera motor scored notable competition success in the late fifties and early sixties with reported horsepower figures of 150, and as high as 200 brake-horse-power.
A very special Carrera version was offered, and its successor was the 911 2,7 Carrera RS, produced in the early 1970ís.

Its flat six-cylinder motor was inordinately powerful, but still displayed the same basic layout as the Beetle-based 356 engine. Although Porsche purists would be horrified at this suggestion.
The 356 SC95 was a very special rendition of the first Porsche series, and Peter Dorferís daughter Martina canít imagine a life without a 356 presence.

The B version of the 356 is distinguished by a narrower bootlid opening, and a single engine-lid vent, as well as distinct hubcaps.
The C was the last of the line, and has the widest luggage lid or bonnet opening of all. 

This one, once owned by Car Magazine editor John Bentley, now belongs to the 356 register co-ordinator, Simon Woodland.
And so to the oldest car at Kloofzicht, George Boschís 356 A. All sixty horsepowerís worth, and still going strong after half a century.

And still capable of cruising at well over the legal speed limit. Itís this excellence of engineering, this essential toughness that makes owning a Porsche 356 so worthwhile.

This is why even the most hopeless basket case is seen as something worth saving.

The parts are available from Germany - at a price, and like the 911, 356s are so strong, you can even use them as everyday transport.

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