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Rejuvenating a 1965 356C

FINDING A CAPABLE PORSCHE MECHANIC to work on a 53 year old car is a problem since most specialist mechanics are now retired and parts are no longer available. Fortunately, Porsche has recognized the deficiency and the new “Porsche Classic” division is here to address this previous shortcoming.

The story of my ailing 356 started when I was a teenager and art student. It was not uncommon in 1958 to see 356s driving around the streets of Toronto. I was smitten by the uniquely gorgeous shapes of both the cabriolets and coupes. My curiosity and determination to test drive one came after spotting a red 356 on a used car lot. I can clearly recall to this day the indelible impression of that exhilarating drive.

I knew that one day I would be pursuing a Porsche, probably a 911 since 356’s had virtually vanished by the time I was financially ready.

That day arrived, unexpectedly, in 1983 when I took my car in for service at the Cedarbrae VW dealership in Scarborough. To my amazement, I saw an original 356, red in colour, parked on their lot. As luck would have it, this 1965 Porsche had just arrived that day to be prepared for sale.

While showing me several photos of the car, I noticed tears in his eyes. He told me it would require a special person to take over the stewardship of this car.

The owner was the VW service manager, an elderly German gentleman who, due to ill health, was reluctantly selling his cherished 356. In his office he detailed its California history and the car’s driving characteristics. While showing me several photos of the car, I noticed tears in his eyes. He told me it would require a special person to take over the stewardship of this car.

I had no doubt who that person was and two days later I drove it home. I was a little unprepared for this sudden acquisition of my long-time dream vehicle. At the time, my house had no garage in which to store and protect this rare and valuable vintage car. I immediately converted the carport into a small garage where it resides to this day 35 years later.

The 356 still shows well in its 12 year old repaint, a deep and polished burgundy red. Today with 138 k miles, the 356 is in desperate need of major mechanical work. Unfortunately, over the past 3 years, the 356 has become annoyingly unenjoyable to drive. Oil seals are leaking, the carburetor butterfly shafts are worn and unadjustable, first and reverse gears are near impossible to engage and the gear shifter is spongy.

Porsche Classic prepared a complete cost assessment of the work needed to correct the mechanical problems. 

With no intention of ever selling the car, and in order to continue an enjoyable driving experience for many more years, I agreed to proceed with the required work. Another consideration was that a 356 in good running condition is a valuable asset. 

The intoxicating sound as the RPMs rise always encourages sportier driving. I once reinstalled the original muffler where the exhaust pipes exit through the bumperettes. The muffled sound felt soulless devoid of that familiar noisy aural rumble. The original muffler was promptly removed and placed back in storage.

Although many 356 parts are in stock, many are scarce and some unavailable. Porsche Classic will be sourcing out parts from Germany, California and Ohio for my 356. I shipped the Zenith carburetors to a 356 carburetor specialist in Arizona myself for a complete refurbish.

Since the 1600 cc boxer with 88 HP needs a rebuild, I considered the possibility of upping the HP with a larger bore and a racing cam. The 356 seems disappointingly underpowered compared to many modern drivetrains. Porsche advised me to keep the engine’s original specs as is and I agreed. The 356 is torquey enough and does well at highway speeds. The Zen of driving a slow car fast certainly applies to this vintage vehicle. The 4 pot boxer produces a distinct exhaust note enhanced by an aftermarket sport muffler. The intoxicating sound as the RPMs rise always encourages sportier driving. I once reinstalled the original muffler where the exhaust pipes exit through the bumperettes. The muffled sound felt soulless devoid of that familiar noisy aural rumble. The original muffler was promptly removed and placed back in storage.

As a driver’s car, this aging 356 is solid and accident free, it retains the original interior, headliner, floor pans, chrome, matching numbers, tube radio, tool kit and manual.

I am anxiously looking forward to the first drive in the rejuvenated 356 when I pick it up this Summer from Pfaff Porsche Classic. It will be sporting new tires ready for the driving season to again make every 356 journey an undiminished thrill.

Enjoy your drive. </>

By Roy Wright, UCR Member

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