1954 Porsche 356 Cabriolet

1954 Porsche 356 Cabriolet - www.robson.m3rlin.org

From April 1954, a number of changes were phased in on the 356, these including a choice of either ivory, beige or grey for the steering wheel and switchgear, window winders to match the facia switches and a heater control panel repositioned from the dashboard to the floor. A sunroof was made optionally available, nearly all these detail changes (save the sunroof) becoming standard on the flagship 1500 S. Externally, all variants were fitted with distinctive horn grilles next to the front indicators, parallel instead of clap-hands wipers and windscreen washer jets as standard. During June 1954, Porsche re-designated the 1300 as the 1300 A, the new Typ 506/1 motor featuring some major internal revisions over the Typ 506 it was replacing.

Output remained unchanged with 44bhp at 4200rpm, the 1300 A powerplant having been derived from the Typ 589 1300 S roller bearing engine. Displacement remained at 1290cc although both compression and carburettors were identical to the plain-bearing 1300. Like many other European manufacturers, Porsche were becoming convinced of the wisdom of developing certain derivatives that would appealed to more North American customers. Porsche’s US agent was Max Hoffman who positively encouraged such a machine, one he thought should be less expensive and with more sporting pretension than the relatively luxurious Cabriolet. Launched in September 1954 and going into production during November, the Speedster ethos was clearly derived from that of the short-lived America Roadster covered in Part 4 and Hoffman was adamant the new model should retail for under $3000. The Speedster was offered with either the 1300, 1300 S, 1500 or 1500 S post-November ’54 engines (covered shortly) but it was the bodywork and interior changes that were the Speedster’s biggest talking points. Starting with a standard Cabriolet shell, Porsche fitted a cut-down windscreen and removed the fussy roof arrangement, the original canvas top being replaced by a flimsy new item with detachable side screens instead of windows. It quickly earned the nickname ‘The Bathtub’.

Anodised gold Speedster scripting could be found mounted on each front wing above a unique belly strip running almost the entire length of the car. Inside, bucket-style seats were normally combined with tough cloth flooring and vinyl door panels (without map pockets) giving the Speedster a spartan yet stylish competition-oriented feel. A unique curved instrument binnacle featured a body coloured facia, upholstered top and no glovebox – the Speedster was every bit the weekend hot rod Hoffman had so clearly envisaged. Production of the new-and-improved 1955 model year 356 began in November 1954 when the 1100 was dropped and substantial revisions were made to all engines despite little outward change in specifications.

Volkswagen components were slowly being developed out of Porsche engines, constant improvements facilitating more powerful, reliable and refined motors that were to the highest specifications of their day. The 1300 A was replaced after just five months by the revised Typ 506/2-engined 1300 and offered a little more torque than the previous version. The roller bearing 1300 S Typ 589 engine was replaced by the Typ 589/2. 1.5-litre cars also received thoroughly revised powerplants with the Typ 546 and roller bearing Typ 528 becoming the 546/2 and 528/2 respectively. All engines were fitted with a three-piece aluminium crankcase instead of the previous two-piece magnesium component. Oil capacity increased from 3.5 to 4.5-litres. Set-up changes made at the same time included a front anti-roll bar accompanied by a change in spring rate, both developments being made in an attempt to reduce the 356’s tendency to oversteer. Externally, a Porsche badge was incorporated onto the stylised alloy front lid handle. Nearly all examples bound for North America during the 1955 model year (only the 1500 and 1500 S were officially exported) wore Continental side scripting in the style of the Speedster, however, Ford owned the Continental trademark for its Lincoln brand and only ’55 model year 356’s were badged as such. Production of the ‘pre-A’ 356 continued until October of 1955 when the 356 A was launched.

1954 Porsche 356 Cabriolet – www.robson.m3rlin.org
Scribbled on February 17th 2009 in Porsche, Porsche 356
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