Porsche had great success racing 356 Carreras in many different venues. In 1961 at Sebring, Porsche had two class wins with the Carrera 2: the GT class with Ben Pon and Joe Buzzetta, and the Prototype class with Don Webster and Bruce Jennings. After Joe Buzzetta’s win, he remarked of the Carrera: “If I had a choice of any one of the Porsches I’d raced to keep for a road car, it would be that one.”
The Carrera engine was by far the most technologically advanced powerplant produced by Porsche for the 356. As the Carrera engine not only added more power but was heavier as well, Porsche asked Reutter to build a series of lightweight bodies, which resulted in the GT designation.
The extra power and tail-heavy weight distribution made this a demanding car to drive. The plain-bearing 2-liter engine would happily rev past 7,500 rpm, but Porsche warned customers against exceeding 6,500 for a long period due to excessive fuel consumption and engine wear.
The stunning and rare example pictured here is finished in silver with lightweight blue competition seats, plexiglass windows and a factory-fitted roll bar. Weight-saving modifications of the GT body include aluminum hood, doors, deck lid and deletion of the radio and heater. With 44,000 miles from new, there are less than 500 miles since a complete rebuild. It is totally original except for the paint and some carpeting.
This example’s original type 587/2 160-bhp GT engine was replaced at the factory with a 587/3 904-spec engine in April 1964, as noted on the factory Kardex. This 180-bhp 904-spec power plant remains in the car today. It has recently had a tune-up by well-known four-cam expert Bill Doyle. All numbers match the Kardex for this Carrera, including the 904 engine upgrade.
Richard Freshman purchased the completely original car in 1986. His goal was to preserve this exotic piece of Porsche history, and he worked with well-known 356 expert and historian Ron Roland to do so. This example is eligible for the popular Tour Auto Retrospective.
In 1960, Uli Wieselmann wrote: “Already an enthusiast’s carriage of the first magnitude, the Carrera will one day be found only in a few isolated examples in the hands of real connoisseurs. They’ll care for it, polish it, and drive it amongst everyday cars secure in the knowledge that they possess a product of technical delicacy that’s enveloped in romance. No matter how perfect, refrigerators and typewriters can never so aspire.”
|Vehicle:||1963 Porsche 356 GS/GT|
|Number Produced:||approx. 445|
|Original List Price:||$9,095|
|Tune Up Cost:||$2,000|
|Chassis Number Location:||On horizontal bulkhead under front lid|
|Engine Number Location:||On rear-most engine case|
|Club Info:||356 Registry, 27244 Ryan Road, Warren, MI 48092|
|Alternatives:||Alfa TZ-1, Ferrari 355 Challenge|
This 356 sold for $173,250, including buyer’s premium, at RM’s Santa Monica sale on May 23, 2002. This price, $150,000 more than a decent 356 coupe is worth, was well above “typical” 356 Carrera 2 coupe prices as well. Nonetheless, it represents a fair market value on what is one of the rarest late 356 cars, the Carrera 2 GS/GT. The explanation of value comes down to what “Carrera 2 GS/GT ” means in mechanical terms.
Early Carrera engines were taken straight from the highly successful 550 and RS/RSK mid-engine Spyder cars and placed in standard 356 and 356A coupe (and Speedster) bodies starting in 1955. This was a highly sporting car for the street, with a roller bearing crankshaft, four cams driven by a nightmarishly complex set of bevel gears, and true racing power produced high in the rpm range. This same type of motor even powered Porsche’s F1 engines in the late ’50s and early ’60s.
But the roller-bearing bottom end was not well suited for the street. You had to keep the rpms up or risk lugging the engine, which could cause the roller pins to wear very rapidly. Frequent rebuilds were the norm.
Porsche answered this in 1958 with the first plain-bearing bottom end for a four-cam engine, first in 1500- and 1600-cc sizes. In 1962 the first 2-liter Carrera engines were developed, hence the suffix “2.” These Carrera 2 engines were by far the best of the lot, and were selected for the fearsome 904 race car, producing 130 DIN hp in GS trim, 160 hp for the GT version, and 180 hp in the 904 GTS.
Carrera road cars are called GS-for “Grand Sport”-and were meant to be the ultimate street car. The GT designation means the car has special lightweight body panels for racing purposes, as well as an engine in a higher state of tune.
A copy of the factory build sheet (the Kardex) is a requirement when dealing with a 356 of this value. Also required is proof the engine is in good running order, as there are just a handful of mechanics in the world able to effectively rebuild a four-cam, and only then at significant expense.
In some ways this is a 356 with all its innate simplicity removed, which now demands V12 Ferrari-levels of maintenance hassle and expense. But to a handful of Porsche purists, these four-cam cars are among the most interesting vehicles ever produced by the factory, drawing their engines and inspiration from the world-beating Spyders. As the price paid here indicates, there will always be a strong market for these exotic pieces of Porsche history.-Jim Schrager