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356B 1600 (616/1) T5 Cabriolet by Reutter
In late 1959 significant styling and technical refinements gave rise to the 356B (a T5 body type). The mid-1962 356B model was changed to the T6 body type (twin engine lid grilles, an external fuel filler in the right front wing/fender and a larger rear window in the coupe). It is interesting to note that the Porsche factory didn't call attention to these quite visible changes with a different model designation. However, when the T6 got disc brakes, with no other visible alterations, they called it the model C, or the SC when it had the optional extra powerful engine. The 1961 production run (T5) was essentially a cabriolet body with the optional steel cabriolet hardtop welded in place. By the time the 356B arrived in September 1959, the car had gained a one-piece rounded windscreen and 15"-diameter wheels, and the newcomer's introduction brought with it further styling revisions. The engine, now standardised at 1,600cc, was available in three different stages of tune, the most powerful - apart from the four-cam Carrera - being the 90bhp unit of the Super 90. Convertible D production transferred to d'Ieteren, of Brussels.
The 356B represents significant advances in driveability and comfort over earlier 356 models and is a pleasingly quick way to enjoy the traditional Porsche values of quality, reliability and mechanical robustness.
Erwin Kommenda, Porsche’s old friend and still a major design force within the company, had conceived a new front end with more prominent, almost straight-edged fenders, more vertical headlights and a larger front bumper that was raised for more crash protection. A chrome grab handle appeared on the front bonnet between new parking lamps located at the ends of the front air inlets. In 1962 the 356B model received changes known collectively as the T6 modifications, involving the addition of twin engine cover grilles, an external gas filler lid on the right front fender and larger windows. A unique new model briefly appeared, variously referred to as the Karmann Notchback. The 1961 production run was basically a cabriolet body with the optional steel cabriolet hardtop welded in place. The 1962 line, which incorporated the T6 features, was a properly dedicated design. The body did not begin life as a cabriolet as before, but was its own design incorporating the cabriolet rear end, the T6 coupe windshield frame and a unique hardtop.
Because of their high level of finish and many luxurious amenities, cabriolets were quite expensive. The 356 B 1600 Normal Cabriolet carried a base price of $3,962 FOB New York, according to a 1960 price list from Hoffman Motors, the New York importer. That was about a hundred dollars more than a new Corvette. The 1600 Super versions and Carrera versions were even more costly. No matter the powerplant, Porsche cabriolets were extremely well built by Reutter, adjacent to the Porsche Works in Zuffenhausen, and were very comfortable all-weather touring automobiles. Adjustable seatbacks and good soundproofing provided occupants with a smooth and reasonably quiet ride at high speeds; a 1600 Normal could run all day at 100 mph and not stop except to refill the 52-liter (13.6-gallon) fuel tank. When it came time to slow, Porsche’s very effective hydraulic brakes—finned aluminum drums with pressed-in iron liners—were more than up to the task.
The 130-horsepower Carrera 2000 GS was at the top of Porsche’s product line in 1964. These were very expensive 356s, at a cost of about $7,600 from the factory, nearly twice that of a 1,600-cubic centimeter pushrod-equipped coupe. Ten years after its introduction for racing in the “Giant Killer” 550 Spyders, the highly complex four-cylinder quadruple-camshaft engine, now in two-liter form, made the 356 C Carrera a very potent road machine. Equipped with a stronger Hausermann clutch and taller “American” gearing (BBAB), these Carreras were capable of reaching 60 mph in about nine seconds and managing a top speed of 130 mph, with the engine revving to its 7,000-rpm redline in fourth gear.
According to the reference book by Carrera historians Sprenger and Heinrichs, only 101 Type-C Carrera 2 Coupes were constructed from 1963 to 1965. The coachwork was very similar to that of standard coupes but had a number of subtle modifications. Among them was the use of front bumper guards (without exhaust ports) at both ends. There were also changes to accommodate improved engine cooling, the most important of which was the installation of a pair of small auxiliary oil radiators, mounted one to a side behind the horn grille openings in the nose. The horn grilles themselves were deleted to improve airflow. For reliability, Porsche had adopted a new plain-bearing crankshaft in place of the early Hirth roller-bearing design, which proved fragile as used in previous four-cam engines.
These new Type 587 two-liter motors could be distinguished from the earlier 1600 four-cams by their rectangular camshaft covers and 12-volt electrical systems. The 356 C Carrera was topped by a pair of Solex 40PII-4 downdraft carburetors fed by a single electric fuel pump. The fuel tank was slightly larger (110 liters) than that of the pushrod 356 C. To ease access to the spark plugs, small access panels were installed inside the rear wheel wells. The transmission was a fully synchronized Type 741 four-speed gearbox. The Carrera’s improved performance mandated better stopping ability as well; 356 C Carreras were equipped with Porsche’s new ATE disc brakes, which had superseded the annular disc arrangement of the 356 B. C-series Carreras had softer torsion-bar springing for greater driving comfort, and a new transverse leaf was mounted below the transaxle to serve as a “camber compensator,” ensuring that the rear wheels never achieved more than slight positive camber. Carreras were tremendously successful in both road racing competition and rallying. Properly set up, they were immensely durable, and given Porsche’s legendary build quality, nearly always finished. Carreras won many international and American amateur racing championships for the marque.
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