The Prototype Roadster
This unique car was the first type 356 Porsche. Unlike the subsequent Gmund cars, it was mid-engined. Read more about "Porsche number one" by clicking this link.
The 356 ("Pre-A")
The steel-bodied 356 came in two basic body styles: coupe and cabriolet. Both had two doors, rear-mounted air-cooled engines and sixteen- inch wheels. Both styles had a distinct aerodynamic appearance. Their narrow wheels, rear lever shocks, low horsepower engines and non-synchronized gearboxes made them challenging to drive – challenging enough that all these systems received substantial changes within the first three years of production.
The low-priced Speedster was introduced slightly prior to the 1955 model year, which commenced in November 1954. It was produced for the American market and featured a low removable windshield, lightweight removable soft top and side curtains.
Models destined for the American market were given side scripts with the name Continental, no longer being bargain offerings. Coupe, cabriolet and Speedster models were continued from the 356. This body style was referred to internally at Porsche as the T1, which stood for Technical Program 1. External changes were subtle, but significant. A curved windshield for the coupe and cabriolet replaced the bent version used on the 356. 4.5" x 15" wheels replaced the 3.25" x 16". Other major changes included a more modern looking dashboard with a padded vinyl top and a larger displacement (1600cc) engine.
The T2 body change phased in starting in late September 1957. During the 1958 model year the Speedster was replaced by the Convertible D. The D stood for Drauz, the German coachbuilder. The Convertible D had a taller windshield with chrome-plated frame and roll-up side windows replaced the side curtains of the Speedster. In 1959 a handful of Speedsters were produced for competition. Coupe and cabriolet body styles remained and the Convertible D was replaced by the Roadster in 1960.
The 356B T5 body was totally new (note: the T3 and T4 models did not make it beyond the design phase). While it closely resembled its predecessor, front and rear end sheet metal was totally redesigned. One visible change was larger, higher bumpers. The headlights were also raised and a larger chrome-plated hood handle was present. Coupes got front vent windows and interiors received a facelift with a new steering wheel and column. The rear seating area was also modified. Mechanically, there were many changes, including new finned brake drums and upgraded gearbox. In 1961 another model was introduced: the Karmann Hardtop. It resembled a cabriolet body with a hardtop welded in place. It was built by Karmann, another German coachbuilder. Roadster production was moved from Drauz to D’Ieteren in Belgium.
The 1962 model year brought with it the final body change, the T6. The front lid was squared off at the front and the fuel filler moved to the top of the right front fender on left hand drive models. Windshield and back glass were enlarged on the coupe. From the rear, an obvious difference was the addition of the second vent grille on the rear lid. The Roadster and Karmann Hardtop were discontinued during 1962. Karmann began producing standard coupes in January 1962, sharing this task with Reutter. Coupe and cabriolet models were the only body styles available.
The only visible change externally, aside from the model designation on the rear, was the slightly different wheel and hubcap necessitated by the new four-wheel disc brakes. The interior featured a slightly redesigned dashboard, but was otherwise similar to earlier models. The most significant mechanical advance was the disc brakes; other improvements were made, including the most powerful pushrod Porsche engine produced to that point: the SC with 95 hp.
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