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Classic Porsche 356: Commotion of motion

2015-01-27 10:50

POISED, POLISHED PORSCHE: Spotted at the recent Timour Hall car show in Cape Town was this superlative Porsche 356B, grand-daddy to the 2015 Car of the Year entrant Porsche Macan diesel. Image: Dave Fall


CAPE TOWN - In a couple of weeks the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists will choose its Car of the Year for 2015 from 11 finalists.

The winner will be announced in Gauteng on March 18 2015.

Here they are, in alphabetical order:

 Audi A3 Sedan 1.4T SE S Tronic
 BMW M4 Coupe Auto
 • Citroën C4 Picasso e-HDi 115 Intensive
 • Honda Accord 3.5 V6 Exclusive
 • Lexus ES 250 EX
 • Mercedes Benz C-Class C200 auto
 Nissan Qashqai 1.6 dCi Acenta auto
 • Porsche Macan S Diesel
 • Renault Duster 1.5dCi Dynamique 4WD
 Subaru WRX Premium
 • Toyota Corolla 1.4D-4D Prestige


According to the independent polling system* on Wheels24's homepage, it seems the Audi A3 contender is out front, followed closely by BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

The sceptic** in me is left wondering if Porsche will make another late challenge – as it has done previously – and maybe score its hat trick in 2015 with its Macan S diesel.

That said, the German automaker undoubtedly assembles superb sports cars – its 911 range a case in point.

BACK IN 1948...

The 911 wasn’t Porsche’s first really successful car; the real story for the company started 67 years ago in 1948 with the introduction of the light and nimble 356 range produced by Austrian car company Porsche Konstruktionen and then by Porsche from 1950-65.

If one of my teenage heroes had the perfect job it was World motorcycle side-car champion and British Motor Sport magazine continental editor, Denis Jenkinson.

‘Jenks’ had the enviable job of travelling between the European Formula 1 race circuits in a tuned Porsche 356 to cover the races of the 1950’s and ’60s over a weekend, and then racing back to the office in the UK to write the story.

Tough, I know, but somebody had to do it!

Jenks other claim to fame was navigating for Stirling Moss in the 1955 Mille Miglia, a race won by Moss in record time with his ‘722’ Mercedes-Benz 300SLR, albeit largely due to his navigator’s innovative and exceptional skills.


For his troubles Jenks was to become the "elder statesman" of British racing journalists due to his closeness to the teams and drivers, his conversational writing style and his obvious and enduring passion for motorsport.

Back to the Porsche 356, considered to be the very first production model of which more than 75 000 were to roll off the production lines in its 16-year life.

Though at first little more than a sport version of the Beetle, race success came easily as fewer and fewer parts were shared between Volkswagen and Porsche.

The first 50 or so 356 units off the production line had an aluminium body. Find yourself one of these prototype cars and you have something very special.


Porsche decided to revert to steel bodywork by the Reutter bodywork folk, a company Porsche eventually bought but Reutter was allowed to keep the seat-manufacturing side of its business, changing the name to Recaro – still a household name today.

"Win races on Sunday, sell cars on Monday" was a credo that could have been tailor-made for Porsche when a Le Mans class win came its way in 1951.

The 356 was built in four distinct series: pre-A, A, B, and C in coupe, targa (half-roof removal) and full cabriolet guise. In late 1955 the 356A appeared with a curvy windscreen. This model was the first road-going Porsche to offer the high-powered Carrera four-cam engine as an option.

More speed always means serious work needs to be done in the braking and suspension department. Disc brakes being fitted to all four wheels in 1955 being a case in point.

Around the same time Porsche wanted to call the car the Continental instead of the numerals 356, only to discover that Ford America was none too pleased and about to sue.

A few Porsches managed to slip through the net and if you have one using the Continental nomenclature you can name your price!

*Make your mark in the Wheels24 SA CoTY poll. Vote now on the site’s own voting booth.

**The 2015 SA Car of the Year winner in my estimation didn’t even make the cut… I must be losing my touch!

Read more on:    porsche  |  dave fall  |  south africa  |  car of the year

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