Coming a generation before the more fêted 911, the 356 combined everyday usability, with (relative) practicality and handling that the 911 could match, but not better.
Dismissed by some as a tarted-up VW, the 356 in fact shares little with its more mainstream cousin and, while the Beetle is cheap and relatively simple to fix, the 356 is neither.
So much so that a full restoration can cost upwards of £100,000 and consume 1200 man-hours on the body alone. It featured leaded joints, voluptuous curves and rust traps that make corrosion the 356’s biggest enemy. In fact, the dreaded rot can strike anywhere from the waist down and it is rarely a simple fix.
Another potentially pricey problem is the engine, a new four-cam unit will cost £70,000 to buy and even the simpler pushrod powerplant can cost £10,000 to rebuild.
If that doesn’t give you enough to think about, the next question is which one? While a ‘Dame’ 1600-engined 356 provides a modest 60bhp, the more sought-after Carrera GS2000 produces more than double that.
Finally, you can pick from the coupé or one of the various drop-top versions.
Choose the right one, though, and you’ll have a classic that defines the name, complete with space for luggage, children or a little of both.
For just $37,500 you could have this machine, but don’t for one minute think that is the all you will spend. With noticeable bubbles on the paintwork and a description that reads ‘a good candidate for restoration’ the repair bill for this ’50s sports car could be huge.
It may be better to pay (quite a lot) more for a restored car. Having been treated to a total restoration, this fantastic looking 356 leaves us in no doubt as to why the little Porsche’s prices have rocketed. Meanwhile a rebuilt engine and gearbox mean this car should go as well as it looks. Sadly, the price for this peace of mind is a not inconsiderable £79,995.
But you could easily spend even more by opting for a Roadster. This example’s owner is looking for $179,500, but it comes with everything you could hope for in the form of a full restoration, a Porsche Certificate of Authenticity and an engine that was newly built in 2000.
It could be easy to feel sorry for the 356: perfect in almost every way, usable too, but somehow overshadowed by its 911 son. Buy one, though, and you’ll be getting yourself the authentic German sports car. Use our free buyer’s guide while you do it and you are more likely to bag yourself a good one.