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Porsche 356 History

Porsche Super 90 Engine

Porsche 356B coupe
The Porsche 356B coupe with the Super 90 engine did 0-60 mph in 10 seconds.

Sports Car Graphic reported that the Porsche Super 90 was “tamer in traffic and [in the] lower speed ranges than the 1600 Super. Getting off the mark fast from a standing start takes some practice, as the big carburetors can’t be dumped open too fast. Once the biggest chunk of inertia is overcome, you can [floor the accelerator] and start moving out very fast indeed. In fact, one of the most impressive things about this engine is the feeling of torque -- the sheer push in the shoulders -- that one gets on booting the throttle...”

Objectively, the Super 90 was quick: under 10 seconds 0-60 mph in SCG’s test. Bendel, however, managed only 12.5 with his Roadster. Still, he found “the level of performance...remarkably close to that of the Carrera, though...the acceleration times are not quite as good as those of lour [1958] Super Speedster...because the new body is heavier and because 4th gear is now 3.78 instead of 3.91.”

Testers generally praised the B’s handling, especially in 1961 when Koni shock absorbers became standard for both Supers, matched by suitably lower spring rates. More significant was a reduction in rear roll stiffness via 23-mm torsion bars (one mm thinner than previously) and the addition of a transverse leaf spring -- sometimes called a “camber compensator” -- as standard for S90s (optional elsewhere). “Normal procedure,” said SCG, is “letting the front end plow to compensate for the rear coming out ...[which] net you a trip through the tules. It must be set into a high drift attitude before the corner and varying amounts of power applied.” This was on German Dunlop Sports tires; with harder racing tires, handling was more like what Porsche drivers were accustomed to.

Porsche Super 90 Engine
Unique features of the Super 90 Engine appealed to performance-minded drivers.

Nevertheless, R&T’s Bendel stated, “the present chassis remains practically neutral up to very high cornering speeds. This means the driver is in control of a most responsive car, which goes around corners with deceptive ease and stays on its course even when the road surface is decidedly bumpy and/or cambered. The springing is a good compromise between firmness and comfort, damping is good and [the suspension] never bottoms...The steering is wonderful, highly accurate and yet light...It gives superb contact with the road without undesirable feedback...”

Super 90s could be revved about 800 rpm higher than other 356B 1600s thanks to a special cooling layout that gathered in more air, plus nitrided crank and cam-bearing surfaces, a lighter flywheel, stiffer valve springs, light-alloy rockers, larger-diameter (by 5 mm) main bearings, and cylinders lined with Ferral, a coating of steel over molybdenum. S90s also had a unique oil pickup system that allowed the engine to draw lubricant from the sump’s full side in hard cornering, thus ensuring proper lubrication at all times. It was an important advance that Porsche racers had wanted for several years and was especially welcome in the high-performance 90.

Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:

Porsche 356

Porsche 911

Porsche 914

Porsche 924, 944, 968

Porsche 928

Porsche 959

Porsche Boxster

Porsche Cayenne

Porsche Cayman

For more information on Porsche and other exciting cars, see:

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  • Muscle Cars: Check out 1960s and '70s American muscle cars.