1956 Porsche 356
Year of manufacture1956
Delivered new to Prinz Friedrich zu Furstenberg
1956 Porsche 356A 1500 GS T1 Carrera Cabriolet
Chassis no. 61163
Engine no. P90821
"The people at the Porsche factory had a different outlook on car manufacturing compared to most factories. To them motoring was something to enjoy and the Porsche was a car to motor in... A whole new scene was growing, of smooth, quiet well-sprung, comfortable sports cars that really went and really handled." Denis Jenkinson, Porsche 356.
The evocative 'Carrera' name first graced the flanks of a Porsche in 1955 applied to the Typ 356A, the second version of the German manufacturer's iconic sports car. The work of Ferry Porsche, that first Porsche road car - the 356 - was based on the Volkswagen designed by his father, employing a similar platform-type chassis with rear-mounted air-cooled engine and torsion bar all-independent suspension. Having commenced manufacture with a short run of aluminium-bodied cars built at Gmünd, Porsche began volume production of the steel-bodied 356 coupé at its old base in Stuttgart, at first in premises shared with coachbuilders Reutter and then (from 1955) in its original factory at Zuffenhausen.
In 1951 a works car finished first in the 1,100cc class at the Le Mans 24-Hour Race, thus beginning the marque's long and illustrious association with La Sarthe. Constant development saw the 356's engine grow first to 1.3 and then to 1.5 litres; the original split windscreen replaced by a one-piece; and a Porsche synchromesh gearbox adopted. 1955 marked the arrival of the 356A, the newcomer being readily distinguished by its rounded windscreen and 15" wheels.
Top of the range was the newly introduced Carrera 'homologation special', which was powered by a slightly less ferocious version of the racing 550 Spyder's 1.5-litre, twin-overhead-camshaft, roller-bearing engine (Typ 547/1) designed by Dr. Ernst Fuhrmann. The name had been adopted to capitalise on Porsche's victories in the Carrera PanAmericana in 1952 and '54. Dry-sump like the racer's, the four-cam Carrera engine produced 100bhp (compared to 60bhp for the standard 356), some ten horsepower less than in race trim. Nevertheless, this was good enough to propel the 356 Carrera to over 193km/h, making it the fastest 1.5-litre production car of its day and a formidable racetrack competitor. Significant developments included a capacity increase to 1.6 litres in 1958, maximum power increasing to 105bhp, and the adoption of a plain-bearing crankshaft at the same time. A 1.6-litre, 115bhp engine with conventional shell-bearing crankshaft was standardised for 1958, and then in October 1961 a 2.0-litre unit and disc brakes debuted on the Carrera 2.
Cabriolets had been manufactured right from the start of 356 production, but the first open Porsche to make a significant impact was the Speedster, introduced in 1954 following the successful reception in the USA of a batch of 15 special roadsters. Porsche sub-contracted cabriolet body construction to a number of different coachbuilders including Drauz of Heilbronn, d'Ieteren of Brussels and, of course, Reutter.
Only 430 356A Cabriolets were manufactured in 1956, very few of which would have left the factory equipped with the Carrera engine like this example, which is one of only 26 to have the T1 body.
Chassis number '61163', the car offered here, was supplied new in Germany to Prinz Friedrich Zu Furstenberg, who raced it. Prinz Friedrich and his brother-in-law Philipp Constantin Graf von Berckheim were frequent competitors during the 1950s in motor sports events such as the Mille Miglia, Carrera PanAmericana, 12 hours of Sestriere, etc. It is believed the engine (number 'P90617') broke and was replaced early in its life. The type-correct Carrera 1500 GS Porsche 547/1 engine currently fitted is number 'P90821'. The accompanying Porsche Certificate of Authenticity reveals that the Carrera was originally finished in 'Azurblau' over 'Acella Bast' interior and left the factory equipped with a Blaupunkt Koln radio and antenna; chromed wheels; one Speedster seat; two fog lamps; and Speedster type side mouldings. A copy of the original factory Kardex is on file also, recording services up to June 1961.
The second owner was Mr Hans Peter Stihl, of the eponymous German garden tools company Andreas Stihl AG, who confirms his ownership of this car in a 2015 letter. How long the Porsche remained in the Stihl family's possession is unclear. Recording the next owners (seven in number), the car's original Kraftfahrzeugbrief registration document covers the period from 1963 to 1967 when the car was shipped to the USA by Martin Eppich, an interpreter working for the American Army.
The Carrera was subsequently owned by Bill Brown and later traded with George Wilkie. In 1993 George Wilkie sold the car to Ross Collins, who carried out a complete restoration in 1993/1994, the engine being overhauled by specialist Bill Doyle. The Porsche subsequently appeared at various Concours d'Élégance events in the USA.
In 2012, the car was brought back to Europe by the current vendor, who commissioned an extensive restoration that was carried out by classic Porsche specialists Siemerinck of Ijmuiden, Holland. The engine was serviced by Carrera specialist Karl Hloch of Schorndorf, Germany while French specialists Duval restored the convertible hood. The car was painted in Azure Blue, its original colour. A copy of the Porsche Kardex (showing recorded services at the Factory up to 1961), restoration photographs and details of a recent engine service are on file.
Cabriolet versions of the Porsche 356 are much rarer than the coupé, while the Fuhrmann Carrera (the fastest 1.5-litre production car of its day with an impressive 40hp more than the pushrod engine of the same capacity!) is rare in either form, making this exceptionally rare high-performance Porsche soft-top of especial interest to discerning collectors.