Black Plate 1961 Porsche 356 Super 1600!

I recently had a reader ask why California Black Plates are so popular with collectors and why it’s so special. Well, that’s a good question! Besides looking so much cooler than modern license plates, they proved an easy way of tracing a car’s history. If the car still retains it’s original California black plates, you can determine the year it was licensed in California and whether it has stayed in the state throughout its life. This 1961 Porsche 356 is said to have been parked since 1988 and is still wearing it’s Black Plates, so it’s a good bet that it’s been in Pasadena for much of its life. You can find this dusty Porsche here on eBay in Westminster, California.

This car wears plate number ZZD 053, which if my research is correct means it was licensed in 1969. Chances are it lived out of state prior to that, but it isn’t unheard of for cars to have remained on a dealer lot for a few years before finding a home. Whatever the situation was, it was clearly well cared for prior to being parked. It received a new paint job at some point in its current metallic brown, but was originally painted black (color code 701). Apparently the original color is quite rare, but given the lack of AC, I don’t blame the owner for the color change.

We’ve featured a number of Porsche 356s here on Barn Finds and most of them have had some serious rust issues. This car doesn’t look to have the rust problems that many of those cars have had and should prove to be a fairly simple project to get back on the road. There’s no word on the condition of the engine, but these air cooled boxer engines are dead simple to work on. As long as the engine isn’t seized and hasn’t suffered some catastrophic failure, it should be simple to get running.

Based on the condition of the interior, I can’t help but wonder if the interior was redone prior to the car being parked. Things just look a little off to me. It’s nice, just off, but at least is isn’t as dusty as the outside. A good cleaning would go a long way to making it a nice driver!

As much as I enjoy seeing the car in its found state, it would be nice to see it cleaned off. I’m sure once you clean it up, you will find some scratches and dents you currently can’t see. If you are in the market though, it would be worth contacting the seller to see if they would clean it up and take more photos!


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  1. Horse Radish

    You still need the inspection of the car and corresponding paperwork to prove these are the plates issued for that car.
    Plate number ZZD053 indicates about a 1969 or 1970 registration.
    That means this car could have been back East or in Europe for nearly a decade before arriving in CA…..
    …long enough for the tin worm to have wreaked havoc on this car.

    • Skip Middleton

      Exactly my thought. My ’69 Roadrunner’s plates started with ZYZ, so this car was licensed after mine, late ’69 or very early ’70. (Blue plates started to be issued in ’70.) So it was under a different plate for 7-9 years.

      • jimbunte jimbunte Member

        They were doing the old “CAL 56” gold/black plates until 1963, when the black/golds were initiated. If it were in California, it would have worn those. Many people replated after the black/golds came out; I had a 1962 Healey 3000 Mk II that had LTH (1965 or so) plates, but had been the earlier plates. Weird that DMV allowed those changes back then.

      • Steve65

        Our 69 Beetle was ZDR 536. But you can only guesstimate the issue date of the plate from its position in the sequence. They were shipped in batches to local DMV offices. So the first plate in one batch would have been issued long before the last in the preceding batch, even though they’re adjacent sequentially. And the volume of registrations at a given office will affect it as well. The only way to know for sure when a given plate was issued is to have the first year registration paperwork.

      • Mountainwoodie

        On the plate issue in California, my late P car was 633 BSW…..original California blue plate car. You track the plate issuance by the letters not the least the blue plates. So a plate with a B as the first letter was issued early in the blue plate run after obviously all the ABC etc had been used up.

    • John Newell


  2. ROAR

    Engines that sit for long times usually need at least their main and rod bearings replaced. gas used to have sulfur and condensation introduced H2O which creates H2SO4 ACID!! Oil doesn’t spread all over a journal, it beads forming small pools of acidic oil which eates the babbitt decreasing the bearing area significantly. The engine will seem good even tho these air cooled engines are known for sounding like a thrashing machine at their best which will mask the damage until too late. UNFORTUNATELY you can’t just drop the pan but have to pull and split the engine in halves etc! over all a very big project costing lots unless your among the .00001% that know how to do these. These are deep pocket cars!!

  3. Chuck Sibio

    For $50K, who cares ? Would you leave it as is ?

    • jw454

      No I’d wash it.

    • BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member


  4. jimbunte jimbunte Member

    Yep, 1969 plate just prior to the changeover to blue/gold plates in 1970.

    • HBChris

      When black plates came out in 1963 you had to surrender your yellow plates, this was the last time the DMV required this. Yellow plates reappeared when the DMV initiated the Year of Manufacture (YOM) program, which now also applies to black as well as blue plates through 1980.

  5. Rex Rice

    I am constantly shocked at the prices these 356 cars sell for. Having owned and driven them for many miles back in the 60s, I know all the short comings and there are some. The bottom line for me: They are just a car. Fun to drive but there are others just as fun for much less $.

    • olddavid

      Agreed. It seems that merely being the object of some desire makes it more valuable. Doesn’t make them any easier to live with on a daily basis.

    • Alan Brase

      Rex Rice, maybe you are right.But having sat in a 1951 Porsche coupe when I was 16 and it was 15, I was hooked. The owner was my boss. He had a pretty good outlook on life: “Porsche is a hobby shop.” “never agree to fix a French car”.
      But still, they are more evolved than most cars and are brilliant in some ways. Do they deserve SIX digit prices? I dunno. It says something about the true value of the dollar. And build quality and pride of ownership. (I suppose one might mention “investment”, but that is what has ruined this hobby.) And whatever goes up, goes down. How’s the Model T market these days?
      But, PLEASE, do give me a list of the cars that we could buy that give more fun for less. Early Mustangs, maybe?
      Keep in mind, these were not at all maintenance intensive and many would go 150k miles or more. Unlike Alfa Veloces for instance.
      They ARE pretty easy to live with on a daily basis.
      I guess one thing better might be a Porsche 912. At about 1/2 the price.

      • Dominique

        …”…more fun for less money…?”…my answer: a Citroen 2cv

  6. Dolphin Member

    Just when you think there aren’t any more undiscovered 356s left that aren’t swiss-cheese-rusted…..

    This car looks terrific, especially the interior. And, amazingly, nobody has rubbed the body or glass so that the abrasive dust that’s all over the car will damage the paint and glass. These sellers seem to know what they’re doing, as shown by not washing the car and by the 39 bids to more than $46K in 2 days, with a reserve that hasn’t been met.

    These engines might be easy to work on but good original parts will be scarce, and expensive when you find them. Fortunately the engine looks like it’s probably intact. But if it ends up needing a rebuild better get a well known, reputable shop to do the work to maintain the investment you will have in the car.

    I would quibble with the description “very original” and “has all of the original and correct components”, what with the metallic brown replacing the original black paint, and “the interior looks like it was replaced”, and “the front right fender was replaced”.

    And what are we to make of “Engine and Trans are from 1961 and are correct to the car but do not match according to the Kardex”? Sounds like there was some musical components way back when.

    Well, it is a nice car, one of the few P-cars that I would seriously want to own. But I would want it put back to its original black. With any luck, paint, replacing the battery pan, and a thorough service might be most of what you need to do to get it to driver status. We’ve seen worse 356s on these pages…..

  7. j0eg

    Agreed, the interior has been completely replaced. The seat covers are missing the “but crease” that cuts perpendicular to the cushion seams.

  8. Sparkster

    I have a 1969 Cutlass with purchase date Aug 24th , 1969 with black plate ZPV

  9. Clinton

    And now you can get black and yellow stamped plates in CA that are new issue. For any model car. I’m working here and see them on every other car. Pretty cool they are made from the same dies as the original:

    They’re made from the same molds the original were — molds the DMV discovered at Folsom Prison, where the classic plates used to be made.

    The new ones, Gatto’s office said, are still being made in Folsom Prison, where a team of 110 inmates produces a total of 8.5 million license plates a year.

    The new plates will still be distinguishable from the old in one way, though: The new ones will feature reflective yellow paint on the letters and numbers, as is now required by law.

    • Steve R

      The new black plates differ from the originals in other ways. They will either come with seven digits or personalized, neither of which was part of the original run.

      Steve R

  10. DrewP

    …and I doubt there’s a significant temp change from black to dark brown, just sayin’.
    And, yes, I had to say it.

    • Trickie Dickie Member

      Yes, color of the car so important in hottest California areas. One can’t even touch a black car surface here on a hot day. Interior temps can go up to over 160f when left parked out in the sun, windows up. A white car surface is barely warm to the touch.

      • Dominique

        …I agree about black versus white in hot climates, it’s a given; yet, I live part time in AZ and to my surprise a majority of the expensive cars are black….SUV included.

  11. JP in WI

    Year of manufacture plates or appropriate to the time frame of the vehicle if clear in California can be registered for any vehicle.. This is the reason black CA plates have gone up in value.. You can buy plates and slap them on a jalopy from the rust belt and make whatever claims you want–FYI..

  12. Jack Quantrill

    My 66 912, was Black plate SMM 255. Wish I knew where it is now!

    • Alan Brase

      Well, If you know the VIN to your 912, it may show up in 912 VIN webpages.
      WRT this 1961 Porsche T5, I’m surprised no one here mentioned it seems to be a sunroof. This is an enormous big deal. Gives some advantages of an open car and all those of coupe. Adds a LOT to the value.

  13. Milt

    Stop it you guys. All this plate talk is making me hot.

  14. Will

    I have never understood Californian’s affectation for black plates. Still don’t.

  15. BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

    Could care less if it has whatever plates. I wanna care if it starts & stops. I wanna drive it, in the winter, in the snow, with window cracked ’cause of the crappy heater system or with a gas heater that’ll burn your legs off. I wanna flog the thing with as much cane as it will take because only then will it’s true value be understood.

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