- it was colloquially known as "the bathtub." accurate, but that nickname doesn't begin to convey the joy that the porsche 356 was to drive.
- this 1963 porsche 356b 1600 super, currently up for auction on the bring a trailer website, can be expected to sell in six-figure territory.
- how much, we won't know until the auction ends on sunday, march 6, but as of march 3 bidding had reached $50,000.
driving a car with just 75 horsepower might not sound enthralling, but several thousand owners of porche 356s would no doubt beg to differ. early-generation porsches like this 356b coupe, currently on offer at bring a trailer—which, like car and driver, is part of hearst autos—are coveted, collected, and costly. when they're in great shape, like this ivory-over-red 356b 1600 super, they can fetch well over $100,000. and consider that this model is in the middle of the range; the rarest high-performance 356 carreras have been known to go for several hundred thousand dollars.
it's not rarity, though, that drives the prices of these so-called bathtub porsches—nicknamed because, well, they look like upside-down bathtubs. some porsche experts estimate there could be 20,000 or more of them still in existence. it's that they were and remain a pleasure to drive. they're light, nimble and comfortable—equal part grand touring car and sports car, which is something we say about today's 911. we stated that same thing back when this car was new, too, in a road test of a 356b coupe virtually identical to this one in our october 1963 print issue. we called it a luxurious "businessman's express" that "also does everything most sports cars try to do." we declared it "an incomparable car in the literal sense; there's nothing like it at any price."
the 356 line started life in 1948 and evolved through six generations—though some were closer to facelifts—with many design changes and mechanical upgrades along the way. convertible, notchback coupe, and speedster models were added through the years. the final 356c (basically a 356b with the addition of four-wheel disc brakes) was built in 1965.
the 356b for sale here is a 1600 super, which was the gts of its day: a higher-performing version of the standard model. the super's 75-hp, 1582-cc flat-four is a souped-up version of the base car's 60-hp engine. that doesn't sound like much of an improvement, but it represents a horsepower increase of 25 percent. though its zero-to-60-mph time of 12.8 seconds was hardly fast even by 1963 standards—remember, this was the dawn of the muscle-car era—what it lacked in straight-line speed it more than made up for in agility. this was a car that loved to play on serpentine roads. it was also happy cruising american interstates; after all, it had been raised in the land of the wide-open autobahn.
the seller of this 356b reports that it was purchased by his father in 1998. the car came from the factory in this same ivory color and was repainted in 1999; the luscious red interior was redone at that time. it's powered by a numbers-matching engine, which means it still has its original powerplant under the rear deck. the engine was removed earlier this year for service and replacement of its rear main oil seal. this car's body was supplied to porsche by karosseriewerk reutter, as the gold badge on its right front fender attests. (porsche purchased reutter in 1963.) the only modification made to this car is a set of aftermarket koni shock absorbers—an upgrade made to many a sporty european sports sedan or sports car in the 1960s.
the 1600 super for sale here comes with a porsche certificate of authenticity confirming that its vin, paint and interior colors, and engine and transmission identification numbers are correct. the photos confirm the rest: that this is one beautiful bathtub. as of thursday, march 3, bidding stood at $50,000, and the auction ends on sunday, march 6.