Lifestyle

Super Porsche Roadster


The 1960 Porsche 356B Super Roadster was not as dashing as the Speedster it replaced but it proved to be far more durable and practical

When Porsche introduced the improved 356B in 1960, the Speedster was succeeded by the Roadster. This was a change in name, even though both cars, and the interim Convertible D in between, remained at the bottom of the Porsche price schedule.

In addition to the new name, the 356B delivered meaningful changes to the chassis, body, engine, and transmission. Larger Alfin brake drums were standard, there was a new transmission and shift lever design, and the 356B bodies had raised headlights with more serious bumpers. Engines were both improved in reliability and power, with a new pushrod variant, the 90-hp "Super-90" joining the 60-hp "Normal" and the 75-hp "Super."

The Roadster offered here has recently undergone a two-year comprehensive restoration that began with the dismantling and examination of all the parts and components. The car was then stripped to bare metal and installed on a rotisserie. Doors and lids were fitted to the body panels, epoxy-sealed, painted, color-sanded and polished. All rubbers, seals, and gaskets were replaced. Trim was replaced or replated while new floors, battery pan, and longitudinals were also installed. The engine and transmission were rebuilt utilizing new German hardware and the exhaust system was replaced.

The interior received the same attention as well, with all electrical components restored or replaced, including the fitting of a new wiring loom. All instrumentation was rebuilt. The interior features correct German carpeting, vinyl, and leather. The seat frames are powder-coated and match other interior trim pieces. The silver paintwork and red interior are both in overall excellent condition. The engine and bay are very tidy, as is the underbody and front compartment. All in all, this is an exceptionally restored example that could not be duplicated at its offered price.

The Roadster is one of the rarest body styles, with 2,902 built from 1960 to 1962. This particular Roadster serves as a perfect example of the marque.

The SCM Analysis

This 356B Roadster sold for $88,000 at RM's Vintage Motor Car sale at Amelia Island, FL, on March 10, 2007.

This sale represents either a solid value in the fast-appreciating open 356 market, or a sign that the market is settling down a bit. It is neither a fantastic bargain nor a world record, but if the market continues to appreciate, this will be a good purchase in about a year. If not, the downside should be modest.

Among the 1960-61 356B cars (known as the T-5 body style), the Roadster has emerged as one of the most desirable. Don't confuse Roadsters with Cabriolets, as both are open cars, but the Roadster has a host of small changes that end up making a big difference in the way the cars appear. The easy way to tell them apart is at the windshield, which is chrome-framed and removable for the Roadster (and for the Speedster and Convertible D), but stamped out of steel and painted body color for all Cabriolets. All 356s with chrome-framed windshields have different doors, rear cowls, tops, and interiors from the Cabriolets. These distinctions have made the sportier open cars more desirable than the heavier, all-weather, and somewhat less handsome Cabriolets.

Roadster versus Speedster debate continues

The Roadster versus Speedster debate is never ending. While some favor the recklessly dashing profile of the Speedster, the Roadster is a far more usable and durable car. So if you are a bit more practical or live outside the Sun Belt, the Roadster, with its real top and roll-up windows, makes more sense. The continual mechanical upgrades that came in large measure at the introduction of the 356B series also help to make the Roadster the better car to drive. Nonetheless, the market has long chosen the Speedster, in spite of nearly twice as many being produced, as the more valuable car. This relationship has caused Roadsters, nothwithstanding their excellent road manners and improved mechanical durability, to be available for about 30% less than similar Speedsters.

This example was finished in the very desirable Metallic Silver livery with a red leather interior; however, we are not told if this is the original color combination. It would be unusual if it were, as most Roadsters were not built to customer order but were purchased by dealers to sell to those looking for the lowest-cost entry point into 356 ownership. As a result, most Roadsters were specified in the "safe" colors of the day--Ivory or one of the two reds (Signal, a light, bright red, or Ruby, a deep, dark shade). Think how many 996s you see in Metallic Silver, today's color du jour, and you'll understand how the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Original paint and engine unknown

We also don't know if the engine and transmission were original to this car. This does have an effect on value, and generally, when no mention is made of originality, it is fair to assume the numbers do not match. In today's hectic 356 market, a car done to "better than new" standards can still do very well, in spite of non-original colors or components. But cars less than perfect do suffer a discount for being at odds with original specifications.

Lately, 356 open cars have been on a tear, and world records are being set frequently. It's too early to tell if this is the market catching its breath, if there was a thin Porsche crowd at the auction, or if we have coasted over the top. My guess would be there is life left in Roadsters, as they remain one of the ultimate pushrod 356 cars for knowledgeable Porsche buyers. So if this car turns out to be in its original colors with a matching-numbers drivetrain, let's call it well bought. If not, and it's just a handsome restoration, it's a fair deal for everyone. Not a bad set of choices for this outcome.

Years Produced: 1960-62

Number Produced: 2,902

Original List Price: $3,600 (1960)

SCM Valuation: $65,000-$75,000 (at time of print)

Tune-up Cost: $200

Distributor Caps: $15

Chassis #: 87485

Chassis # Location: On horizontal bulkhead under front hood

Engine # Location: Stamped below generator on third piece of alloy engine case

Club Info: 356 Registry, 27244 Ryan Road, Warren, MI 48092

Web Site: http://www.356registry.org

Alternatives: 1963-68 Alfa Romeo Giulia, 1954-64 Mercedes-Benz 190SL, 1955-61 Triumph TR3,

Investment Grade: B


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