The Porsche 356

Speedster, T-5, pre-A, Convertible D, Carrera 2, SC, Roadster, 356 B, T-6, S-90, cabriolet, GT coupe, Continental.

All of the above are meaningful descriptions of various types of the Porsche 356 automobile. For the uninitiated however, they usually make no sense at all. To the untrained eye, all 356s look the same and determining whether one is looking at, say, a 1954 or a 1964 model is generally the result of a lucky guess rather than a logical conclusion following the observation of specific characteristics.

This article is meant as a “spotter’s guide”, i.e. it will hopefully enable you to pick up a number of major evolution reference points so that once you’re on your own at a car show or at a 356 meet, you will be able to know what kind of 356 you’re looking at and what model year it is. Please note that this article deals only with the street cars, and that any reference to a specific year means the model year, which does not necessarily correspond to the year of manufacture.

Finally, some helpful advice for differentiating between these cars. If you’re not sure, try to work by elimination using major reference points. Imagine you’re looking at a 356 coupe and you’re trying to determine the year. It could be anywhere from 1950 to 1965. So what you do is narrow down until you can’t go any further. For instance you look first at the windshield: that will tell you if the car was made before or after 1955. Then you look at the front fenders: that will tell you if it was made before or after 1960. Then you look at the front hood: that will tell you if it was made before or after 1962, and so on and so forth. Good luck and have fun.

Background

Except for the excessively rare 50 Gmünd cars manufactured in Austria for about two years, the Porsche 356 was built in Zuffenhausen near Stuttgart from 1950 to 1965. This is the first major reference point: 356 = 1950-1965.

Over those 15 years, four major model types are recognized: Type 356, Type 356A, Type 356B and Type 356C.

Type 356 is often called pre-A. This is not an official Factory designation but rather a convenient way of avoiding confusion and being generally more accurate when talking about the early cars.

In addition to these four major type designations, three additional ones are sometimes used: T-2, T-5 and T-6. These refer to different body types (not to be confused with body styles, i.e. coupe, cabriolet, etc.), but only the last two are commonly used for model identification.

Finally, body style is another confusing point. There are two basic 356 body styles: coupe and cabriolet. coupe is generally no problem as everyone knows that a coupe is a car with a fixed metal top. Things get a little more involved with the soft top version of the 356, as it can be a cabriolet, a Speedster, a Convertible or a Roadster, with often a combination of those in the same year (and in addition there can be a soft top with a hard top.). Are you getting really confused yet?

Engines basically follow a steady evolution from small displacement and adequate power to bigger displacement and more power. Except in the case of the Super 90 and the SC, engines are usually not relevant in identifying a model year, as other characteristics on the car will tell you more about the specific vintage.

This article deals with the different types of 356 in historical progression, i.e. pre-A (1950-1955), A (1956-1959), B (1960-1963) and C (1964-1965).

 

Car Type Body Type YEAR Body Style Body Style Body Style Body Style
Pre-A 1950 coupe cabriolet
Pre-A 1951 coupe cabriolet
Pre-A 1952 coupe cabriolet
Pre-A 1953 coupe cabriolet
Pre-A 1954 coupe cabriolet Speedster
Pre-A 1955 coupe cabriolet Speedster
A 1956 coupe cabriolet Speedster
A 1957 coupe cabriolet Speedster
A T-2 1958 coupe cabriolet Speedster
A T-2 1959 coupe cabriolet Convertible D
B T-5 1960 coupe cabriolet Roadster
B T-5 1961 coupe cabriolet Roadster Karmann Hardtop
B T-6 1962 coupe cabriolet Roadster Karmann Hardtop
B T-6 1963 coupe cabriolet
C T-6 1964 coupe cabriolet
C T-6 1965 coupe cabriolet

PORSCHE 356 1950-1965

Type 356 (pre-A) 1950: Split windshield. “Body” bumpers. “Crash box” transmission. 16-inch wheels. No hole hood handle. Inboard front turn signals. One round and one rectangular taillight (each side). Shine down license plate light. Single engine lid grille. Wood trim on top of doors.
Type 356 (pre-A) 1952 : Bent windshield. Interim bumpers. Hood handle with hole. No more wood trim on top of door.
Type 356 (pre-A) 1953 : Syncromesh gearbox. A-style bumpers. Turn signals moved directly below headlights. 2 round beehive taillights on each side.
Type 356 (pre-A) 1954 : Horn grille with front turn signals.
Type 356 (pre-A) 1955 : Bigger hood handle with crest (A type)
Type 356 A 1956 : Curved windshield. Flat rocker panel. 15-inch wheels.Redesigned dash.
Type 356 A 1957 : Overrider tubes added on bumpers of U.S. models.
Type 356 A Mid 1957 : Beehive taillights replaced by single teardrop unit on each side. Shine up license plate light. Split rear overrider tubes on U.S. models.
Type 356 A 1958 : T-2 body. Exhaust through bumper guards. Front turn signals mounted on wedge base. Ashtray under dash. Rounded door handles.
Type 356 A 1959 : Higher overrider tubes.
Type 356 B 1960 : T-5 body: in the front, bigger and higher bumpers with big bumper guards. Higher headlights and nearly straight fenders. Flattened hood with larger chrome handle. Revised horn grille and turn signal, with additional grilles under bumper. Last year of front mounted Porsche script. Vent windows on coupes. In the rear, bigger and higher bumpers also, no license plate/back-up light assembly, but 2 license plate lights on bumper and back-up light integrated in body under the bumper.
Type 356 B 1962 : T-6 body: slightly different roof line due to larger windshield and rear window (coupes only). Larger engine lid (coupes only). Twin-grille. Air intake at base of windshield (except Roadster). Squared-off front hood. Gas filler trap on right front fender.
Type 356 C 1964 : Disc brakes. Flat hubcaps.
Type 356 C 1965 : End of production