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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

1957 Porsche 356A - One of the finest in the world?

1957 Porsche 356A LHD - Original Arizona Barn find.

10 years ago and I was looking for a 356A to buy. I had bought a RHD car on ebay and it was so rotten that Bruce Cooper at top 356 restorer Sportwagen had suggested looking for a Californian car that we could use as a donor vehicle to convert to right hand drive.

I had placed an advert on the 356 registry website and had lots of replies but everything I was offered was poor. 

One day out of the blue I received a phone call from Don in Scottsdale, Arizona, who told me he might have what I was looking for.
Apparently he had been going to look at a pickup in the Arizona Desert and whilst viewing the pickup, noticed that the owner had a porsche in his Barn. On enquiring further it turned out that the owner had inherited the car from his brother and it had sat there ever since. Yes it was for sale and so Don returned home with a Barn find 356.

Car in Dons Garage.

It had received some front end damage and had been parked up for many years. However it was still wearing its original paint - porsche orange a special order colour in 1957 and although the engine was in several boxes it was number matching. It was also one of the rare type 1 1/2 cars that were produced after the beehive model and before the later models with lower door slams and under dash ashtrays.

Don decided to restore the car and the first task was to strip it to bare metal and get the dents pulled out. This he had undertake and to his surprise and pleasure, the shell turned out to be virtually rust free.
Stripped to bare metal and dents pulled.

Rust free door.

Even the battery box was rust free and intact as were the longitudinals and door bottoms. 

Don then had the car sprayed with primer to preserve it while he considered what to do.

Unfortunately at this point in time Dons wife was diagnosed with Cancer and his priorities quite rightly changed. He had seen my wanted advert on the registry website and picked up the phone to me. 
After a short conversation and having seen some photos of the car, I was on the next flight to Scottsdale to seal the deal for the car.

A long weekend in Scottsdale was spent packing the car for transport to the UK and then when we had some time left over Don took me to the Scottsdale car auctions, an amazing experience.

With the car packed for transit I returned to the UK to await its arrival.

Packed and ready to go.

England - March 2008 

The car was shipped by Kingstown shipping limited who were excellent and to be recommended if a car needs shipping. I then had it brought from the port to my home in a covered transporter.

Arriving in Dorset

New home!

It was now a question of unpacking all the boxes to see what I had got and more importantly what was missing.

The car was pretty complete and more importantly was number matching. Engine, Gearbox and body panels all matched up.

However it was going to be a challenge putting it all together into a running car!

I had decided that the body restoration was to be done by Sportwagen in Essex who have the reputation of being one of, if not the best 356 restorers worldwide.

The running gear and mechanicals were to be done by Paul at  PR Services also in Essex, again a top 356 specialist.

For the engine and gearbox I chose the late Barry Curtis who was known in english 356 circles as an engine guru and mechanical wizard.


The body was delivered to Sportwagen later that year complete with all the parts they would need to restore the shell. I was still toying with converting the car to RHD but when Bruce saw the shell he declared it far too good to be converted and strongly recommended I keep it original LHD. He also commented that he had not seen another car with so little rust!

First job was to strip the shell of its primer and to check for any metalwork that needed doing. There were some pinholes in the outer longitudinals and Bruce also recommended replacing the door bottoms, even though there was no obvious rust, as they always harbour rust when opened up. He was right!

Door bottoms after opening up seam.
Peppering of the outer longitudinal.

Car after stripping - note original floor pan and battery box.

Underside of car on rotisserie.
The shell was restored by Bruce and his team over the next few months:

The photos of the restoration can be seen here:

Engine and Gearbox

As previously mentioned the engine went to Barry Curtis for a full rebuild. 

Engine as found.
It had an iskaderian racing cam fitted.
Original roller bearing crank.

The decision was made to replace the notoriously unreliable roller bearing crank with a normal crank which was reground to first under. Crank and flywheel balanced. New bearings throughout.
New rod bearings and nuts fitted.
The existing cylinders were rebored and fitted with new 83.5mm shasta pistons and new rings.
New valve guides and valves were fitted.
New pushrod tubes.

The cam was uprated to a slightly higher performance cam by webcams.
Cam followers were refaced.
A new aluminium high performance oil cooler was fitted.
The fuel pump was rebuilt.
The distributor was rebuilt by Glen ring in the USA:
The original date stamped Zenith carburettors were rebuilt by Carburettor rescue in the USA:
New clutch.

For a comprehensive blog of the engine rebuild follow this link:


The Gearbox is number matching and required no work. However the decision was taken to replace the synchromesh rings while it was out of the car.

Further images of the gearbox are available here:

Running Gear.

The running gear was rebuilt by PR services. All parts were powder coated and rebuilt as necessary.

Please follow this link for photos of the running gear restoration: 


A new leather interior and correct headliner were fitted. These came from Autos International Inc.

Correct German square weave carpet was fitted.


Instrument cluster with original small steering wheel.

The Speedo and Rev / Tacho were restored by North Holywood Speedometer company in the USA.

Number matching and originality

Original gearbox with matching number

Gearbox ratios

Original Lemmerz date stamped baby moon hub caps
Original date stamped Lemmerz hub caps

Correct wing mirror

Bosch headlights

Reutter badge

Date stamped wheel rims

Date stamped rims

Bosch distributor

Case number - all 3 numbers match

Date stamped Fuel sender

Original tyre valve holders

Lemmerz rims - all date stamped 57

Original Bosch regulator

So there you have it. Probably one of the best, if not the very best 356A available.

For more information please contact Paul at PR services.

P.R Services Ltd
Dunlop Garage
London Road
Essex, CM12 9HP
Company No. 04256834
England, UK
Tel: 01277 630099
Fax: +44 (0) 1277 630099