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Owned Since ’79: 1956 Porsche 356A

If you’re going to a buy a car that was made over a few different generations, one of the better strategies I’ve seen is to buy the earliest example you can afford. My general rule of thumb is either the earliest or latest production examples, with the latter being a good strategy for finding a car with most of the flaws worked out; however, early models almost always carry more of a premium due to rarity. This 1956 Porsche 356A listed here on craigslist isn’t the earliest era of Porsche’s iconic sports car, but it’s close. The asking price is $74,900.

Thanks to Barn Finds reader T.J. for the find. Now, the most valuable of the so-called “early” models is the bent windshield variety, but those are few and far between (and such a model would cost far more than the advertised price here.) To me, this Ruetter-bodied coupe makes an awful lot of sense as it’s far more special than a later 356 but represents good value compared to a Pre-A or a Speedster. The body has its share of flaws and the respray is pretty awful, but this is still a very good platform for an outlaw build or complete restoration.

The listing notes this 356 has been in the same family’s care since 1979, when they likely purchased this car for a very cheap price. The late 70s and early 80s is when these air-cooled coupes would have been hitting max depreciation and there was likely no telling at the time that that values would accelerate significantly in the early 2000s. The seller notes the original color was maroon and you can still see traces of it in the door jam. When it was repainted, they clearly wanted a thorough job considering the dash and speaker grill kick panels were also done.

The seller notes it still runs after being exhumed from long-term storage, though the running gear is from a later 1600-powered 1958 model. That further confirms for me that this 356 just became a cheap and cheerful runabout at some point, after it became the sort of car you wouldn’t worry about putting a numbers-matching engine back info (I wonder if the modern-day 996-chassis cars will someday have the same feel – Well, it was just a cheap enthusiast car, why would I have held onto the numbers-matching engine? Respray it in the original color of burgundy and then just drive and enjoy.


  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    If this car is rust free underneath it’s worth the asking price in the present market. Finding any of the pre 911 cars without rust is very rare as thousands of folks, like me, used them for daily transportation. This car is going to be expensive and time consuming to restore to original because of the paint job, but in the end, done properly, it will be a great car.

    Like 12
  2. Steve R

    Posting deleted. While the ad was still active, did someone notice where in the Bay Area it was located?

    Nice looking car. There are lots of cars in the Bay Area from this era like this, that have been rat holed away in the back of a garage for decades.

    Steve R

    Like 3
  3. Dan

    Agreed, Jeff, respray this in the original color. But that’s moot since the posting was apparently deleted. Did the seller actually got this sold, got cold feet or did he take out an ad in Hemmings like he should have for a car of this caliber.

    Like 2
    • Steve R

      Likely sold. It was listed in the San Francisco Craigslist. There is a strong following for vintage sports cars in the Bay Area. See the 66 Mustang GT on this site from a few days ago, the dealer selling that car specializes in 356’s and early-911’s, they are centrally located, within an hours drive of the majority of the metropolitan area. Not to mention any number of exporters and brokers dealing in local cars that pop up on a regular basis.

      Steve R

      Like 2
  4. justpaul

    I have little doubt that this thing sold at full asking price, and probably went to the first person to get there with the cash in hand. Even if it wasn’t all that it was claimed it was a great starting point for a full restoration. There are people who can bring one of these back from well beyond the grave.

    And yeah, Mr. Lavery, I too remember the early 80s, when you could buy these cheap and didn’t because we all wanted “the better car that replaced it”, the 911. If I had a dollar for every time I declined an opportunity to buy something that later skyrocketed in value I could have bought this car.

    The folly of youth, I guess.

    Like 4
    • bobhess bobhess Member

      I didn’t hesitate nearly enough in buying up 356s. They ranged from great daily driving condition to a rusty speedster that had at least 75 percent of the metal rusted away. Total in 30 years was 24. Then there was the rust free ’59 Convertible D that hit a pole head on at a great rate of speed……

      Like 6
  5. Somer

    This was listed on several dealer sites and later marked as sold. Someone probably lifted the images?

    Like 1
  6. Jack Quantrill

    Back in the ‘60’s, I bought a ‘56 356A 1500GS Carrera coupe for $1350. The 4 cam engine was difficult to keep in tune and I replaced it with a 1600 Super. Can’t imagine what it would be worth today in the original configuration. It even had Rudge chrome wheels with knock off center hubs.

    Like 3
    • Darryl fling

      Well that is a shame, talk about a gold mine.
      But I get it. If you had ever been to Denny Akers house ( very well known NW 356 guy ) he used to host a big bbq every summer. Anyway, he had 4 cam motors all over the place at his house. When I asked why? He said back in the day, when his customers got tired of dealing with the problematic 4 cam. They would tell him. Yank that damn thing out, and give me a pushrod motor. So he would keep the 4 cams. He even had one installed in his VW Beatle, that he used as a daily driver for years.

      Like 2
      • Jack Quantrill

        The 4 cam engine was in pieces, in boxes, wrapped in oil-paper. It took the shop 4 months to put together. They gave me a deal if I let them work on it during slow times. Meanwhile, I motored around with a VW engine in the car.

        Like 1
    • Darryl fling

      Just the Rudge knock off wheels alone would buy you a nice car. Not a 356 or aircooled 911. But a Boxster, 996

      Like 0
  7. Frank Barrett Member

    In 1968 in Connecticut, I bought a ’52 356 Coupe with the 1500S roller-crank engine for $400. It didn’t run, so I stashed it away for future restoration and began buying any pre-A parts I could find. They were rare, but nobody wanted the early cars then. In 1988, I sold it and a pickup full of parts to help pay for another restoration. Today, restored well, it would be worth over $300,000.

    It’s interesting to look at cars and consider their value in 50 years.

    Like 2
    • Garry

      Frank, was that the split windscreen model?
      One took part in the 1953 Redex Trial. It finished, and two pints of mud was found in its sump!

      Like 0
  8. Jeff Zekas

    We don’t buy or advertise on craigslist anymore, because over half the listings are fake, at least in the bay area. My brother used to deal in classic cars, and most of the time he would answer one of these ads, and it would be a vacant lot in Oakland, with three big gangbangers, smiling and waiting at the corner.

    Like 2
  9. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member


    Like 0
  10. MrBZ

    Double H Glass in pic across the street could be 12 St in Oakland, not that it matters now.

    Like 0

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