The Overview

As Dr. Ferdinand Porsche’s first automotive offering to the world, the 356 didn’t have much to live up to. It was unique, fresh, and new in every way, giving the public an entirely new concept in the world of sports cars. The layout of the 356 was to be the DNA that would grow Porsche into the cutting edge company it is today, and ultimately sealing its fate in automotive history. When first debuting in 1948 the 356, then built in Gmund, Austria, was a small town sports car just gaining traction. It was a raw, 1,100CC Flat Four powered split windscreen coupe that embodied simplicity and lightweight performance. By 1954 Max Hoffman was well established as Porsche’s Sole US Importer, the company was growing fast, and as a result changes were made. These “Pre-A” (as they would come to be know, later) examples lost the “V” in the windshield and had a simple “bent” appearance, the motor was now 1,500CC and an options list was ever growing. While these cars eventually evolved into the 356A in 1955, the early cars still embody Porsches most extreme original design, and today are coveted amongst collectors as the most interesting and pure examples.


The example on offer here, a 1954 Porsche 356 Pre-A Coupe, Chassis # 52476 is a Ruetter bodied example built in August of 1954. According to its Porsche Certificate of Authenticity this example was delivered as presented; in Pearly Grey (Code 5407) over a Blue Leatherette Interior with Grey Corduroy Inserts. While there is little information on the car’s early years, we do know there was a long term owner for 30+ years in Connecticut before its barn-find discovery in the early 1990’s by a collector; also from Connecticut. Upon discovery in the early 1990’s the car was in need of total restoration. It was missing its drive train and the rare 16” wheels were long gone as well. The services of well known Porsche expert Peter Brittingham of Canaan, CT were entrusted to complete a total nut and bolt restoration to show quality standards. The restoration entailed a total strip down to the shell and totally rebuilt in every way. Every last component was tended to and either rebuilt/restored or sourced as new. The original numbers-matching motor had long disappeared as is common with these cars due to the weak magnesium engine casing used at the time. As such, a potent type 616/1 motor from a 356B was built by Brittingham to provide ample power for the newly restored example. It was mated to a 356 B transaxle and mechanically was dialed-in to be a reliable performer. While deemed non-matching numbers, it was however mechanically built to the highest possible standards and is very correct appearing. The idea had always been with this restoration to cosmetically present it exactly as new, highly correct, but provide the driver with the performance of a 356B which is considerably more than that of a Pre-A; the ultimate combination in many ways.


Upon the completion of the restoration in the early 2000’s the car was seldom used but regularly shown accumulating only 477 miles since completion. It was well kept as part of a collection and serviced as needed over the years by the owner as well. Always a prized possession and an important part of Porsche history, the owner was careful to keep the car in a climate controlled setting. Today, it shows extremely well as expected with minimal use and a lot of care since the completion of the restoration.


The paint shows very well throughout with no major blemishes noted. The finish is very consistent and if there are one or two little chips or imperfections, they have been touched up and are minor. Nothing stands out as needing refinishing to any degree. The bright work is nice in some areas, others presentable but some items are showing their age and are likely original. It is one area of the car that could benefit from attention. The rubber throughout is newer and in good condition as is the glass, though the windshield does show one blemish in the form of a wiper scoring the glass. The body is straight down the sides with excellent panel fitment and the body number “76” can be found stamped on both the front trunk hinge as well as the deck lid in the appropriate places.


The interior has been completed to match the quality of the exterior and ultimately the consistency of a show car. Finished in its original combination of Blue with Corduroy inserts, it has very few miles on it and as such shows as nearly new, as does the rest of the interior. The headliner, rear seats, door panels, dash top and fascia, rubber mats and surrounding carpeting (Square Weave) is all the correct type per original standards and shows very well. All knobs, pulls, switches etc… are the correct Bakelite type plastic, some appears newer, others are originals. The original, correct and rare Telefunken radio is still present as well which really completes the correct appearance of the interior. Overall everything is nicely finished and was clearly tended to by an expert.


As with any Porsche the questionable areas are that of the trunk, underside, and engine bay. The number one places a restoration can be overlooked. The restoration of this car was extremely thorough and the effort was to save the car and bring it back to being a respectable show car that could also be used. It is evident through inspection that the front trunk pan and floor plans have all been replaced; likely due to rust from its long term CT slumber. Thankfully the restorer used exact and correct pans in place of the originals and the metal work is excellent throughout to mimic the original Porsche welds and assembly procedures. As such we have a rust free example today with a tidy front trunk, showing as very correct and well done. The rubber matt is a top the bulk head and the original VIN Plate is still intact and untouched. The floor pan is straight, solid, appearing correct and also clean and new in appearance. The engine bay has been covered with leatherette type wrap as is correct on early 356’s. And the 356B power plant has been finished to be correct in appearance, but for a 356B. As such some may be able to point out that the motor is not original.


The entire package and idea behind this restoration was to save an important early Porsche. For the onlooker with the desire for purity of line in an early 356 but also the yearning to actually drive this piece of art, this car provides exactly that with the necessary upgrades. Early cars have long been known for being very slow and taxing to drive as a true sports car. As such, they have always remained concours pieces and collector’s items. This example can give the best of both worlds and would be ideal for rallies and real use, all while looking fantastic. It starts easily and runs strong with very quick throttle response. The gear box operates well as does the clutch and it makes excellent power, even for a 356B motor. The brakes are not as effective as later brakes but they work well none the less. The steering works without play and overall it is a pleasure to drive, even at speed.


This Porsche 356 Pre-A Coupe is one to be seriously considered for any collector looking to add an important early variant of the 356 to their stable. Show worthy but also very capable as a touring car, this Bent-Window 356 will provide the platform of not only years of fun but will be a very smart and worthwhile investment while the Porsche marque continues to soar in value.


Available Documentation: (Click on the links below to view the file)