The Cabriolet name was used by numerous automobile manufacturers in the mid-20th century to denote a high-end open automobile with a plush, weathertight, padded folding top, and the 356 Cabriolet model fit that description. It was the most expensive standard 356 model (other than rarities like the Carrera).
For those who liked the Cabriolet body style, but wanted an even more secure top while retaining the ability to "go topless" in the summer, Porsche offered another option: the "Hardtop" model. This was a Cabriolet without the soft top, but with a steel hardtop only. It could be kept on the car and only removed during the warmest months of the year.
The Hardtop was first available for the 1958 model year (meaning beginning September, 1957). It appears to have been more commonly ordered in Europe than in America. It came with larger rear interior panels than the Cabriolet, which needed shorter panels that did not interfere with the soft top when it was folded in the "down" position. The Hardtop model may also have lacked the Tenax fasteners on the rear cowl, though probably they could be ordered if desired (to be used with a tonneau).
Of course any Cabriolet with the soft top could also be ordered with the Hardtop as well, resulting in an open car with two tops: soft and hard. The Hardtop was always available as an option.
Buyers may have been attracted to the Hardtop model for several reasons, including: price point (it was slightly cheaper), visibility, roofline silhouette, weather protection or simply no interest in open air driving. The roofline silhouette was continued into the B series cars as the Karmann Hardtop, but with the steel top as an integral part of the roof / body structure (not detachable).
The Porsche 356 German price list (dated, 1.Aug.1958) lists the Hardtop as a separate model:
Hardtop 1600cc DM13.600.-
Hardtop 1600cc Super DM14.700.-
Hardtop 1600cc Carrera GS DM19.400.-
Cabriolet-Verdeck (f r alle 3 Typen) DM 890.-
Cabriolet 1600cc DM13.900.-
Cabriolet 1600cc Super DM15.000.-
Cabriolet 1600cc Carrera GS DM19.700.-
Hardtop-Aufsatz (f r alle 3 Typen) DM 790.-
Coup 1600cc DM12.700.-
Coup 1600cc Super DM13.800.-
Coup 1600cc Carrera GS DM18.500.-
Convertible 1600cc DM12.650.-
Convertible 1600cc Super DM13.750.-
Scroll down this page to see scans of all the pages in both the March, 1958 and April, 1960 Hardtop Brochures.
March, 1958 Hardtop Brochure, view all pages
(scans courtesy of Freddy Rabbatt)
April, 1960 Hardtop Brochure, view all pages
(scans courtesy of Bert Leemburg)