Bent Window Barn Find: 1953 Porsche 356

When it comes to Porsche 356s, it’s hard to find an era of the air-cooled coupe that isn’t desirable, and priced out of reach of mere mortals. But, if should you want to buy even more exclusivity, there’s always the iconic Speedster. Beyond that, you’ll want to look for a model like this, a 1953 model known as a “bent window” Pre-A coupe. While we’ve featured the Pre-A before, I can’t remember profiling an example that left the factory with the 70 b.h.p. 1500S motor. Sadly, the numbers matching engine is gone, but there’s plenty of options for an upgrade that looks like it was meant to be there. Find the 356 here on the RM Sotheby’s website, with a pre-sale estimate of $50,000-$60,000.

The 356 has been tucked away for 30 years, stored inside and seemingly in fair condition despite its years of dormancy. The car left the factory with a very attractive color combination of Palm Green paint over green vinyl upholstery. If you Google the color, prepare to be mesmerized by a distinct shade of green that really does look somewhat tropical. Thankfully, there’s still traces of the original paint left in the door jams, and the auction house estimates it’s been painted at least once, and possibly twice. Note the optional fender mirror still attached – that’s a detail I’d guess is oftentimes lost when a respray occurs. Why do you think the car was parked and the special-order engine removed?

The interior is more or less complete, save for the passenger seat. The floors look plenty rough, and although the seller doesn’t detail specific rust issues, it’s likely that anyone bidding on this bent window coupe plans to restore it, and fresh floors will be necessary. The dash retains an original Telefunken radio, which is huge win for the next owner who won’t have to try and track one of those down in the proverbial haystack. I imagine it will be difficult to find a matching right-side bucket in the same green color and with the right amount of sun fading to match the driver’s seat, but it could also be an excuse to install all-new upholstery. Given the backseat and driver’s seat still present fairly well, I’d try to find a good used bucket.

So, what about an engine? The purist will want to track down a correct 1500 “Super” engine, but there’s plenty of good options out there that don’t require years of searching and a likely rebuild. This is the Emory-Rothsport Outlaw-4, and it presents classic Porsche owners with plenty of build options from mild to wild. This particular engine features a twin-plug design that can be configured with distributor and carburetors or crank-fire/coil-on-plug and EFI with proprietary ITBs. You can even request that it be turbocharged! Whatever you choose, the final budget tally will extend well beyond the purchase price, but you’ll end up with one of the more desirable air-cooled Porsches ever made – is that so bad?

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  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Big piece of automotive history here. Think about it. The world’s automotive industry recouping from years of war with limited facilities. 1953: VW, Porsche, MGs, Austin Healeys, etc., start of the Japanese imports, all from war torn countries. The US converting from building airplanes and tanks for war to starting a massive effort to produce the widest range of automobiles and trucks that, with some changes, exists today. Our first Porsche was a ’57 Cabriolet that was basically sound but needed rebuilding. As I went through the 3 years to restore it the presence of history was always there, even though I had nothing to do with the war years. Another thought… In 1953 the Corvette was born. How many of us have participated in that particular piece of history as we go through the Barn Find listings?

    Like 10
    • Smokey Member

      Oh Yeah Bobhess……….I share all that automotive history with you!! My first was a 1955 roller crank equipped red 1500 Speedster. It was picked up at the Stuttgart factory and driven around central Europe for about a month. A leaky, windy, cold and uncomfortable little tub. And, NOISE??……omg, a probably illegal Abarth that the factory really didn’t want to install. But she was my fun car for the next 17 years. Sold t then and got a newly new 1965 C Coupe, I know, shudda kept the Speedster. Don’t remind me what its worth today.

      Like 9
  2. Steve R

    Although I’ve never had the slightest interest in owning one, even when they were affordable in the early-1980’s. I always thought they were great looking cars, based on the strong following of diehard enthusiasts they had much to offer.

    Steve R

    Like 4
  3. bobhess bobhess Member

    Smokey, I feel your pain. Mid ’73 we bought this one time rusty ’59 Convertible D rolling chassis for $85 that was on it’s way to a scrap yard. Needed a race car so that’s what it became. Great car, lots of fun, and fast with a 912 modified engine in the rear. Recently saw an auction where a street version sold for just shy of 300K. How times have changed! Also had a ’64 and ’65 C for basic transportation for years. Great road cars.

    Like 7
  4. Cliff Crabtree

    That Telefunken radio is awesome !!. It’s like 50’s steampunk version of modern infotainment display !!.

    Like 5
  5. Lance

    Well at the very least it’s going to need major pan work, new brake line and tires. Kidding, this is going to be a major restoration project but boy oh boy. It sure will be a nice car when finished.

  6. George

    I think whoever buys this car for $50K to $60K in this condition with no motor needs to have their head examined. They had better plan on spending that much to retore it. While this may be a special barn find worth a great deal of money in a showroom condition. There is no way I would spend that much on this one in the condition it is in now.

    Like 1
  7. Steve Clinton

    Looks like the Porsche that was found at the bottom of a lake in Europe.

    Like 1
  8. Bob

    OH my goodness. It would take some large $$$ to get it back in shape. The folks who would do the restoration would all need to certify they have a current tetanus shot, just in case! Looks like all the trim has been scavenged too,

    Like 1
  9. Mark_Mitchell Member

    When I started playing with 356’s, the Pre-A cars were considered the “bottom of the barrel” as far as desirability goes. Funny to see how things have changed… Glad I kept my 356A Convertible D all these years (45!).

    Like 7
  10. GLK

    That’ll easily take six figures for a concours restoration. I suppose it’d be worth it to Jerry Seinfeld, but it’s too much time, money and work for me.

    • Steveo

      Buy it for $75k, put $125K into it and sell for $250k – $300k in a couple of years. Mortgage the house at 4% to do it. Costs you $16k in interest. Not a bad return. I think they will still be a market for it in a few years.

  11. Sid Member

    Leave it as-is except…
    Repro speedster seats with tattered leather
    Fix the floor sufficiently to support the new seats.
    Tie the doors and frunk shut with baling wire
    Hopped up 912 engine.
    Clean the dust off the windshield.
    Drive to Emory Campout 2021
    Sell for $130k to someone who is wanting a beater outlaw.

    Like 2
  12. Bruce Baker

    Mid-‘60’s- I had a ‘60 Bugeye that was traded for a ‘57 Speedster and $100.

    But I needed a beater for college. Bought a ‘53 nicer than the one shown here for $275 but it needed a windshield. Called around and a junk yard had one for $15.

    I rushed to get it and they had already broken it taking it out. “OK, how much for the car?”……..”How about $75?”

    Bought a $25 oval rear window VW to get the 36 hp engine for the first of the Porsche’s so I could rebuild those 1500’s.

    Great mileage and those ‘53’s were sisters: 51604 and 51605. ALL now long gone due to a lack of a crystal ball.

    Like 1
    • Mark_Mitchell Member

      I also had temporarily installed a 36HP VW engine into my ’59 Convertible D so I could still drive it while the Porsche engine was out for a rebuild. The acceleration was pathetic, but the gas mileage was spectacular! My 36 HP motor had been used to power a sailboat and was positioned sideways with one of the transmission swing axles through the hull attached to a propeller!

      Like 1
  13. Ganjoka

    That sure looks like a 911 engine to me. It would take some serious modifications to tuck that into a 356 but it can be done. Just not sure you would want to with this car.

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