What You Can, and Cannot, Do With Vintage Plates in California
Text by Barry Lee Brisco
A vintage license plate can be the crowning touch of authenticity on a classic 356, and can be legallly used in California on all 356s (with some effort, as explained below). Few 356 owners are lucky enough to have the original plates on their car. Whether you find a set of well-worn old plates for cheap at a parts swapmeet or purchase a pristine restored pair for serious money, the real challenge can be dealing with your state DMV office and getting permission to legally mount them on your car.
This article is the beginning of what will hopefully grow to be a lengthy "how to" covering as many US states as possible, offering detailed information about how to legally use vintage license plates on your 356. Let's start with California, since there are more 356 Registry members there than anywhere else. I've gone through the vintage plate registration process twice in that state: once on a 59 ...
By Barry Lee Brisco
Starting with the 356A in late 1955, Porsche used a plastic plate to cover the hole in the center of the dash if the new owner did not order a factory radio. Sometimes called "radio delete plates", the A and B parts books list the plates but do not show color options. However, three different colors are known to have been used: black, grey, and beige. The expert consensus seems to be that the beige plates were used on the 356A model to go with the beige knobs. The uncommon grey plates may have been used to go with the rarer grey dash knobs, which are sometimes found on T2 Speedsters. Starting with the 1960 model year, the black plates were used due to the change to black dash knobs in all models of the 356B. The 356C also used the black plates. [Original beige plate shown above right, photo courtesy of Freddy Rabbat]
The original beige plates had gold lettering, as shown in the photo of Freddy Rabbat's original plate (above right and bottom of page). The rar...
By Barry Lee Brisco
Here is a 356 mystery for you: when facing the rear of the car, decklid closed, visible at the upper left corner (rarely on the right) of the rain shield below the decklid grill, you may see some letters stamped into the metal (three instances so far of a letter and a number together on late B cars, see photo below right, and one instance of 3 letters). They are completely separate from the 3 digit VIN numbers stamped on the upper right corner of the rain shield. What do they signify? At this time, no one seems to know, but they were surely placed there for some reason.
Jim Kellogg has done some research on this and collected about thirty examples. He has only found them on late A and T5 B (1960 and 1961) coupes, but not on T6 cars. However, two T6 B coupe owners have reported to me that their original decklids have them.
Interestingly, it seems that 1959 Convertible Ds, built by Drauz, do not have these stamped letters, and so far no Karmann-built cars have...
By Eric Cherneff, Bruce Coen and Barry Lee Brisco
Many 356 enthusiasts are aware that European-spec cars were imported into the United States when new. Fewer enthusiasts have heard of the 356A "European" badged cars, which are an often misunderstood rarity. The "European" badge did not signify European delivery — in fact, it couldn't be further from the truth!
The 356A model was introduced in the fall of 1955, and some had a side script that proudly identified the car as a "European". This name was instigated by Max Hoffman, the exclusive importer of Porsches into the USA who felt that Americans didn't relate to cars that only had model numbers. Previous Porsches had simply been called the "356", which was the Porsche internal design number.
First, the "Continental"
Hoffman was convinced that Americans wanted to buy cars with names like "BelAir" or "Fairlane". So, in the spirit of American marketing, Porsche began putting a "Continental" script on the fenders of 1955 model y...
Photos submitted by Ken Daugherty — Text by Ken Daugherty and Barry Lee Brisco, with additional material courtesy of Marco Marinello and Jim Breazeale
Note: replacement decals for Fram, H Filter, and Mann oil canisters are available from NLA and Stoddards.
The photos of original, unmolested H Filter, Fram, and Mann oil filter cannisters shown on this page illustrate how to identify them and how the decals were placed. At the bottom of the page are several photos of restored cannisters with reproduction decals, as well as photos of an early Fram that could have been used by 356 owners before Porsche made oil filters standard (perhaps in late 1954, according to Marco Marinello).
The colors of the cannisters varied, but it is common to see H Filters painted silver with a matching or black top, Frams painted orange or silver with a black or matching top, and the Mann painted green. More detailed information is shown below the photos.
Questions or comments, pl...
By Wyatt Blankingship, Ron LaDow, Wil Mittelbach, Robert Paxton, Bill Romano, Roy Smalley, Bill Waite, John Willhoit, edited by Barry Lee Brisco
[Editor] The question of fan shroud colors and the colors of various engine parts is frequently asked. After several decades of car parts being painted and re-painted, and original paint fading, it is often difficult to know for sure what the factory color really was. There is a consensus that at least starting with the T2 cars, Normal fan shrouds were gloss black and Super shrouds were silver (T1 and earlier shrouds were gloss black only, no other colors). Brett Johnson is of the opinion that the T2 Supers were the first to have silver shrouds because they had the same carburetors that the Normals had (not true on earlier engines) and it was easier for owners and more likely, factory employees to tell them apart. The first T6 Super engine shrouds in late 1961 may have been the light grey color used for the S90 when it was introduced ...
By Charlie White, Bruce Baker, Martin Boecker, Frank Earle, Alan Klingen, Joris Koning, Joost van der Velden
Charlie White: My 65-C Coupe has the fog light switch to the right of the clock. The position near the ignnition switch is shown in a 1962 Service Bulletin that applies to 356-B's.
The fog light and switch for 356-B T-5's is first covered in Factory Service Bulletin SB 41/59, December 1959, in which it says: "To mount the pull switch (spare part No. 644.613.501.01) a hole of 5/16 diameter must be drilled through the dash on the same level left of the ignition switch at a center distance of approximately 1 9/16 inches." Note the part number.
Subsequently, in Factory Service Bulletin SB F 1/62, it says: ""When installing the pull switch, spare part No. 644.613.501.01, for fog lamps which is located above the ignition/starter switch....." Again, note the part number which is the same as in the earlier bulletin. Below is SB F 1/62. Note in the drawing that the switch has t...
Contributions by Jim Breazeale, Steve Douglas, Bill Leavitt, Brad Ripley, Brett Johnson, Colin Thorpe, edited by Barry Lee Brisco
The question of which type of front turn signal assemblies were used for a specific time is sometimes clear and sometimes confusing, particularly for the late A cars. This article is an attempt to clarify the issue, but some aspects remain murky. This is because the 356 parts books are not infallible, but particularly because this part is easily changed, so only original owners with perfect memories can be certain of what is original to their cars. No attempt is made here to describe the front turn signal units used before 1954.
Brad Ripley has done a great deal of research on this topic, and his contributions are highlighted below in white boxes.
K3204, The "Early Beehive"
The photo at right shows What is commonly known as the "early beehive" turn signal unit was used from the beginning of the 1953 model year (October 1952) up to March 1957, accordi...
By Eric Cherneff, Dan Macdonald, and Barry Lee Brisco
While the concept of the automotive "model year" is now firmly established in the public mind (due to incessant marketing by the car companies), it was not always so. In the early years of Porsche, the company was mostly indifferent to the concept, and corporate record keeping was focused on production years. Significant changes to the Type 356 usually occurred when production resumed after the summer break (which was typically in August) but changes could also occur at any time, such as the change to teardrop style taillights in March 1957 or the increase in the 356A front overrider tube height in January 1959. Kardex records for the Type 356 do not contain any model year information (the Kardex often shows the date the car was shipped from the factory or when it was received by the owner / dealer) and 356 factory literature rarely refers to "model year".
This indifference to model year is also observed in British manufactu...
Text and photos by Jim Breazeale
[Editor: The "type" numbers shown are not mean to indicate an official factory designation, they are just a way to give a label to the various seat hinge types used over the years in the B and C cars. Scroll down the page to see all the photos.]
1955-57, 1958T2, 1959 T2, 1960 T5
"TYPE 3" 356B T5 (60/61 year model cars) Date stamps in my pile 4/60,5/60,11/60,3/61. NOTE: Seat back adjuster lever and the improved covers on the back side.
"TYPE 4" 356B T6 (62 and early 63) Note: Added seatback restraint (the hook at the bottom of the hinge). This feature was on both passenger and driver side seats and eliminated (what were they thinking?) on the driver's side seat in the late T6Bs. I have only 1 seat hinge with the restraint feature with a date stamp 7/61. It is my belief that date stamps ceased to be added at that time.
"TYPE 5" 1964 (year model) 356C NOTE: Same as late 63 356B (no restraint on driver's seat) except the the small rivets on the o...