Contributed by: Steve Proctor
Whether you do it yourself, or hire someone else to do it, it's vitally important to thoroughly inspect that 356 of your dreams before you hand over your hard earned cash. Print out the following Pre-Purchase Check List and take it along when you do your inspection. You may want to devise a scoring method, weighing things proportionate to their importance to you.
Kardex or Certificate of Authenticity available?
Folder of records / receipts / maintenance?
Straightness of body (sight down sides)
Evenness of all door / panel gaps
Evidence of repairs
Operation/fit of top and side curtains
Fit of top boot/tonneau
Condition / originality of wheels/hubcaps/tires (date stamp / manufacturer)
Presence and correctness of deco trim
Smoothness, detail of lower rocker panels
Smoothness, detail of wheel well arches
Reflectors in place
Type of bumpers/overriders/guards (correct?)
Text and photos by John Chatley
The first three photos show where to find the engine serial number, case casting number, engine type, and case matching numbers for each piece of a three-piece 356 engine case. The fourth photo shows where to look on the underside of the transmission housing for the transmission number, transmission type, and transmission build date, as shown in the fifth photo (644 transmissions) and sixth photo (716 and 744 transmissions). These locations are consistent for all 356 models, though early 356s with two-piece case engines are somewhat different.
[Editor: if anyone can provide photos of two-piece engine cases showing the relevant numbers, as well as earlier 356 transmissions, I will publish them here.]
By Barry Lee Brisco
If your tires are over 9 years old, replace them! Old tires can look essentially new if the car is kept indoors and driven infrequently. But 10-year old tires with only 1,000 miles on them are more dangerous than 2-year old tires with 20,000 miles on them. To determine the age of your tires, look at the date code on their sidewall. Before 2000, the date code had three digits. Since 2000, it has had four. The date code is found in a marking that follows one of the following formats:
From 2000 on: DOT XXXX XXX XXXXLast four digits: date code (week / year of manufacture)First two characters: manufacturing plant identification markThe other characters are left at the manufacturer's discretion.
Before 2000: DOT XXXX XXXX XXX (older three-digit date code format)Last three digits: date code (two for the week / one for the year)First two characters: manufacturing plant identification markThe other characters are left at the manufacturer's discretion.
Example: DOT ...
By Barry Lee Brisco
The 356 Fahrgestell Nr or "chassis number", also known (incorrectly) as the VIN*, can be found in three places on the car in its complete five or six digit form (partial numbers are found in other locations not described here). Photos of these three locations in a 1959 356A coupe are shown below. This is a Reutter-built car: 356s built by other coachbuilders may be different (see end of this article for more information).
Below: on the trunk floor just behind the spare tire strap loop (remove the spare tire and the rubber trunk mat to see it)
Click to see photos of the trunk floor number in a 1955 356 and in a 1962 T6 car.
Below: next to "Fahrgestell Nr" in the upper right corner of the large aluminum plaque that is riveted to the trunk floor between the front right fender inner wall and the side of the gas tank. More information about the smaller "MODELL" plaque. These were only used in some 1959, 1960, and maybe 1961 cars.
Below: on the Karosserie (coa...