356: First of the Breed

The cars that started the Porsche legend.

1951 356 Pre A

The prices commanded by 356s these days in no way reflect the difficult economic environment in this country and around the world. While inflated prices paid for older Porsches at auction recently may represent an extreme segment of the market, they reflect price trends in the overall market. Even ordinary 356s are commanding steadily increasing prices, while the more desirable models are reaching levels that suggest the approach of a pricing “bubble” that may deflate at some point.

The state of the market and the pricing levels suggest a measure of caution when pursuing the purchase of a 356. An extra investment in the search and inspection of your 356 target will be worth the cost. This is doubly true if a higher price is commanded because of certain factors such as originality, ownership chain, racing history, rare options, period accessories, or other features. Even experts may disagree on originality, especially among the earliest 356s, because Porsche changed parts periodically with little documentation.

When buying a newer Porsche, we advise getting the newest model in the best possible condition because repair costs can devour your savings on the purchase price many times over — and the same holds true generally for 356s with regard to restoration costs. Restoration costs are hard to predict, and parts for 356s are expensive and can be difficult to find. A complete restoration of a 356 has been known to place a strain on a budget and/or a marriage. That said, if you want a 356 to drive and enjoy, a car that is in good condition but doesn’t approach high-end restoration quality might be available at an affordable price, and may be the right car for you.

From 1950 until it was discontinued in 1965, about 76,000 356 Porsches rolled off the assembly line in Stuttgart. During this period, a high percentage — perhaps as much as 50 percent — of Porsches were exported to the United States. Many of those cars survived, so you will find good availability on the models with higher production numbers.

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