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Porsche 356 History

1957 and 1958 Porsche 356A

Porsche’s workforce continued to grow, but so did output per worker. Yet there was no compromise in the by-now-famous Porsche workmanship. The Germans’ painstaking attention to detail must have been as mind-boggling to the British as it was to Americans, perhaps more so. For example, all steering mechanisms were run-in “on the bench,” lock-to-lock, for the equivalent of 5,000 kilometers. Trim, upholstery, and paint were a noticeable cut above the norm even for Porsche’s price class.

Porsche 356A Speedster front view
The Porsche 356A got detail changes during 1957 and bigger alterations for '58.

The Autocar made this conclusion: “The superbly controllable Porsche brings back to motoring some of the joy that those privileged to drive sports cars in the earlier spacious days must have experienced. At the wheel one feels to be one up on the other fellow in all the things that matter in driving for its own sake. The imposition of duty and purchase tax make the total price formidable for British buyers [and Americans, at $5,300 for the 1600 coupe] but the car remains, nonetheless, highly desirable.”Having made such a long leap, Porsche was content to let the 356A carry into 1957 unchanged, then made some detail refinements in the spring of that year. The speedometer exchanged places with the combination gauge, the four round taillights gave way to horizontal teardrop types, the license plate/backup-lamp bar moved from above to below the plate, and padded sun visors became standard.

Evolution was again the watchword on the ’58 models, designated T-2. Vent wings appeared in cabriolet doors, and coupes could sprout extra-cost windwings on the outside of their window frames. Larger rear windows improved top-up vision in Speedster and cabriolet, and both open models were offered from late ’57 with a lift-off fiberglass top as a factory option (made by Brendel in Germany for Europe, Glass-par in California for America).

Exhaust tips on all models now poked through the lower part of the vertical rear bumper guards, and a double-bow front bumper overrider replaced the former single-bow design. Though controversial, that Cadillac-style exhaust routing was practical in that it better protected the tips and raised exhaust-system ground clearance.

On the mechanical front, the 1300 engines were dropped, the 1600s reverted to plain bearings, and cast-iron cylinders returned on the 1600 Normal to reduce both cost and noise for what was basically a touring Porsche. Carburetors were now Zenith NDIX devices. A Hausserman diaphragm clutch replaced the coil-spring Fitchel & Sachs unit, and the shift linkage was reworked for shorter throws. The old worm-and-peg VW steering gave way to a Ross-type mechanism by ZF and, from late ’58, progressively wound single valve springs replaced dual springs in all pushrod engines.

Along the way, Porsche also instituted better door locks, a one-piece aluminum transaxle (ousting cast magnesium), redesigned oil coolers and, for the 1600N, offset-wristpin pistons (to eliminate cold-engine piston slap) and fiber camshaft gears. Later came racing-homologated gear ratios and a 5.17:1 final drive. Convenience and appearance were served by repositioned heater controls, new outside door handles and inside window winders, revised rear package shelf, optional gasoline heater, slim-back bucket seats, larger-diameter steering wheel, and new hubcaps bearing the Porsche crest.

Porsche 356A Speedster rear view
This 356A Speedster shows the bumper, exhaust, and taillamp changes for 1958.

­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:

  • Consumer Guide Porsche new car prices and reviews
  • Consumer Guide Porsche used car prices and reviews
  • Consumer Guide Premium performance car prices and reviews
  • Ferrari: Learn about hundreds of road and racing Ferraris.
  • Muscle Cars: Check out 1960s and '70s American muscle cars.