Five-hundred cars. In the spring of 1950, with a return to Stuttgart planned, those within the fledgling Porsche company predicted that they could find customers for around 500 356 models in total, and to quote Richard von Frankenberg, if things went well, ‚…certainly not more than 500 cars in the first two years.‘ Incredibly, Porsche recorded the 500th German-built 356 on 21 March 1951 and, even more remarkably, by 1956 10,000 Porsches had left Stuttgart! No doubt the Porsche 356 was an integral part of the West German Economic Miracle with the earliest designs such as this 1953 356 ‚Pre-A‘ coupe, some of the most prized as well.
This ‚bent window‘ Knickscheibe 356 Pre-A coupe, chassis no. 51062 was completed 13 August 1953, finished in R 522 Azure Blue. While the digital copy of its Kardex on file does not list any options (or interior color for that matter) it was typical at this time for these details to be omitted from the warranty card. Typically, those 356s arriving at U.S. dealers through Hoffman Motor Company were well equipped and, it’s possible it may have featured additional options. Built as a 1500cc example, this coupe featured Porsche’s largest displacement engine at the time. Producing a modest 55-horsepower at 4400 rpm the 1500 coupe had a remarkable top speed of 95 mph! Long focused on the economy afforded by thoroughly tested aerodynamics, Porsche themselves put it best by saying, ‚the Porsche streamline is not only responsible for this car’s high speed but for the gas economy with which it develops its horsepower as well.‘
Unlike many early Porsche 356s, the known history of this bent window coupe begins as far back as the early 1960s, when it was purchased by the consignor’s father just outside of Baltimore, Maryland. Used as a daily commuter to his job at Bethlehem Steel and by the consignor’s mother as a very unique family runabout, it suffered a front-end collision in the late 1960s with, of all vehicles, a police car! Found to not be at fault, he made the necessary repairs with available parts and perhaps being prescient about the rarity of the family’s 356, he parked it in the family garage for the next 30 years.
By the year 2000, this Pre-A received a new lease on life by emerging from its cocoon and passing within the family to the consignor. Initial restoration work began in 2003 at Prueitt Automotive Restoration of Glen Rock, Pennsylvania but slowed down and stopped in 2006, as can often happen to large projects when life gets in the way. By 2016, the restoration of this family heirloom recommenced in earnest and according to the consignor, Prueitt was once again instructed to restore the car as authentically as possible with the goal of returning it to its original 1953 condition. As an example with a matching numbers engine, very likely the original transmission, and single-family ownership from the early 60s, this Pre-A had a better starting point than most! Over the next three years, invoices on file for the work performed document a thorough restoration with many hours focused on removing rust and straightening the steel unibody to factory specifications before painting it in its original shade of Azure Blue only offered by Porsche between 1950 and 1955. The interior was properly retrimmed in Grey corduroy with grey-blue square-weave carpeting. While the cosmetics were attended to, the matching numbers type 546 engine and the type 519 transmission were the recipients of a complete cosmetic and mechanical rebuild, again to original specifications. Please note the transmission is stamped 1983 H4 while the Kardex records the transmission number as 1988 H4. It is believed that either the number, when stamped in 1953, was not a clean strike showing a partial ‚8‘ appearing as a ‚3‘ or that the number on the Kardex is the result of a simple transcription error. In either case, the consignor notes that the type 519 transmission was not replaced during the family’s ownership and that it would be highly unlikely to be replaced with a serial number just five away from the recorded number. Finally, the suspension, drum brakes, and 6-volt electrics all received restorative work to return all systems to proper operating condition and show level quality.
To that end, with the restoration complete, Prueitt was again entrusted with this heirloom in a different capacity, displaying the bent-window coupe at the 2019 St. Michaels Concours d’Elegance (winning the Post-War Sports Class Award), the 2019 Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance, and the 2020 Greenbrier Concours d’Elegance. Additionally, this Pre-A earned both a ‚First Junior‘ at the 2018 AACA Hershey Eastern Fall Meet and a ‚Senior‘ at the 2019 Hershey AACA Eastern Fall Meet with nominations both years for an AACA National Award. Today, just four years after its restoration, this example of Ferry Porsche’s original concept, the Type 356, is available outside the consignor’s family for the first time in 60 years. As such, it represents a unique opportunity to not only acquire one of the earliest 356 variants, a ‚Pre-A‘ bent window coupe, but an example restored to the level that one would expect of a cherished member of the family.