Rare Early Model: 1956 Porsche 356

This 1956 Porsche 356A is a desirable early model, and while it’s not the exceedingly rare “Pre-A” examples that command even more respect on the auction block, it’s easily the next best thing if you’re hunting for one of the older models but don’t have the kind of scratch that affords you a Speedster or Pre-A roadster. According to the seller, it has belonged to his family for quite some time, as his father started the restoration process but never completed it. It’s now offered up here on eBay with bidding over $32,000 and the reserve unmet.

The early 356s, just like the early Beetles, had all sorts of subtle design differences than the later cars. One of the most recognizable are the classic “bee hive” taillights, a style of lens that took many forms between VW and Porsche products (like the “bullet nose” Buses and Karmann Ghias.) As we can see by this photo, this isn’t the only early 356 in the seller’s stash, and that the one up for grabs sports a license plate straight out of 1956. I love this generation of the 356, and that goes for either flavor: OEM-correct or total rat rod.

The interior appears to be in reasonably good condition, with the seller noting many original details still present and accounted for. These include the original glass, dashboard, Banjo steering wheel, window and door handles, and more. The listing also mentions the original “baby moon”-style hubcaps are included, which is a great look on these older 356s when paired with a set of OEM steel wheels. The seller does not disclose the condition of the floors or the sills, two areas that are vulnerable on almost any era of 356.

The engine is noted as being non-matching, and interestingly, it was replaced way back in 1962 with a 1600 cc unit. Now, normally we tend to deduct a point or two for cars with non-matching drivetrains, but this example feels like it should be absolved of those sins due to the engine swap occuring eons ago, relatively speaking. Perhaps it is a factory replacement, offered to the previous owner if the 356 still had an semblance of warranty left when the original mill blew up. Early versions of iconic sports cars will always be in demand, and it will be entertaining to see where this well-worn 356A ends up.

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  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Our first Porsche was a ’57 Cabriolet with a rare roller bearing engine. The engines were an option to the standard crankshaft bearing engines most of us are familiar with. The cranks had a tendency to break if there was any wear at all in the bearings. This car could have had the engine replacement due to this or the desire for more power. While in the Air Force in the ’70s we got transferred to the NATO headquarters in Norway and took our ’64 356C coupe with us. While there the factory contacted us and said they had one more 912 based engine for sale for $1,800 installed at the factory. We didn’t need a new engine but the chance to have work done on the car at the factory itself was too good to pass up. While there for the two days to make the installation the factory let us into the warehouse where their museum cars were stored while the new building was under construction. Pretty much got to see every square inch of the factory and race shop, that in itself worth the $1,800 dollars. Car is presently in California and the last sale number a few years back didn’t indicate the non matching engine numbers did anything to it’s value. One reason why cars are fun.

  2. Keith

    Way too much money for an unrestored Porsche, bidding is currently at 35k (reserve not met) and it will cost at least 20-30k more to restore depending on how much rust is discovered in hidden areas. Nah I’ll pass.

    • Tort

      Preparation for the paint job may cost 20-30k.

  3. TB

    It’s art. It’s just that simple.

    • Ken Jennings

      Yeah, “art”. Just like some dude spitting paint on a canvas, calling it some crazy name, and getting thousands for it. He laughs all the way to the tavern where he buys the crowd a double, and tomorrow, he will create more “art”.

      • Tempo Matador Ray

        Hey bobhess,
        Good story shared. I too am an early, aircooled fan ( split/ oval vw, pre-A Porsche as well as early coachbuilts ). I also believe in upgrading the powerplant and brake system when making these road worthy. There’s nothing like old fashioned analog driving, especially along the Northern California coastal route…👍🍻 I’m green with envy at the lineup in this ad. These folks appear to be good custodians of these units…

      • CVPanther Member

        I love reading these old Porsche listings just to see how triggered you get, Ken (or smda). It’s a blast. I suspect some guy with a Porsche stole your girlfriend more than once.

  4. TimM

    Lots of money for a car that needs total restoration and probably the whole car skim coated with bondo due to the pitted metal from rust!! This at any price is a pass for me and I love these cars!!

  5. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Comments on it’s true value aside, I wish my father had one of these in the garage that could be left to the family.

  6. pugsy

    It sure takes a whole lot of money to buy a whole lot of ugly.
    Just doesn’t matter what it is, is if it’s an ugly car, why the insanity to own one?

  7. Mike

    Lots of “I don’t get it” people out there. What is there to not get? They’ve been selling at crazy prices for decades and people spend big $$$ restoring them. You don’t need to wrap your brain around this concept. Just go with the flow people.

    • Ken Jennings

      Maybe because the world is imploding and many have heads neck deep in the sand thinking their privilege will see them through as it always has.

      • ten50boy

        The car needs tons of work and the price definitely seems high considering that. However, fantastic car! Well worth some time and money ……or “privilege“ that Ken Jennings is whining about.

  8. Chas H

    Where did this “pre-A” thing start? There is a 356, and there is a 356A.
    It’s like calling a C1 Corvette a pre C2 Corvette.
    That said, prices for any 356 Porsche are ridiculous, restored or not.

  9. bobhess bobhess Member

    The A suffix came with the introduction of the 1600 cc engine.

    • Chas H

      I’m well aware of the suffixes as I owned a 356 A coupe and a 356 B cabriolet, and worked on many more in my 30 years as a professional mechanic and shop owner.

  10. Tempo Matador Ray


  11. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Speaking of skim coat because of all the surface rust, what are all the wavy divots above the engine cover and below the rear window? Was the metal melted by some sort of engine fire?

    • Brad Fields

      I found a nasty rusty heap of a 356 roadster at the bottom of a hill on my fathers property in Livermore Ca. Fires last year cleared out the brush its been hiding under for 50 years. Its complete junk , motor and tires are long gone, but transaxle still there. I’d like to find out the story, I’m thinking stolen, and wrecked on the windy county road. If it were on the up-and-up I would think it would have been towed out of there back in the day? The License plate indicates it was last registered in 1963, but cant tell the year of the car. Plates out of the DMV…, does anyone know where I can start to try to find the history?

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

        If you send in some photos, we may be able to feature it and get you more info: mail@barnfinds.com

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