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Restoring a 1964 Porsche 356c
We purchased this 1964 Porsche 356C Coupe from a longterm owner along with a 1970 Porsche 911T. It was located north of Fresno in a sparsely populated area, not the type of place one would expect to find two nice early Porsche cars. The 356C retained all it’s factory metal and had almost no rust whatsoever. Even the original floor pans were perfectly solid. It had black California license plates, and the weathered paint was still the factory original. We ordered Porsche’s Certificate of Authenticity, which verified it was a 1964 Porsche 356C/ 1600C Reuter Coupe, originally Light Ivory 6404 with Red Leatherette interior; and most importantly, it retained its original engine case, # 731763 and original transmission. # 79968. It also retained its date coded wheels, and the doors, hood and decklid were all stamped with the first three numbers of the VIN, proving none of these panels had been replaced.
Some Porsche 356C do not warrant full restoration. If major rust issues exist, this alone can make a restoration too expensive on unfeasible. If the the original engine is missing this can also hurt the car’s value significantly enough to ruin the car’s chances of selling well when a restoration is completed. But this particular 356C Coupe had all the earmarks of an excellent car for restoration.
We began the process by pulling the engine, and our Master Porsche Tech Ray Gries began sorting out what it would need. Meanwhile, we took the 356C Coupe to our body shop next door and began the heavy work. We put the car on a lift and dry-ice blasted the undercarriage to bare metal. Dry-ice blasting is an industrial cleaning process that uses no media whatsoever: Dry ice “rice” pellets are shot through a nozzle at high velocity and explode at a microscopic level on impact, removing all the undercoating, loose rust, and 49 years of road grime. The dry ice turns to gas, and all the crud falls the ground. It’s a messy, difficult job, but it leaves the entire undercarriage perfectly clean and ready for metal work (if any is necessary), and the surface is also ready for epoxy primer and paint. Virtually no metal work was necessary on this 356C, so we sealed the bottom with epoxy primer and painted it black, offering 30 years of the finest rust protection.
We then dismantled the car, took all the windows out, removed the interior, the doors, the hood and the deck lid. The entire body was hand dollied until every panel was straight, then after primer it was hand blocked prior to painting. It was painted with base coat/ clear coat paint then wet-sanded and polished to a mirror finish. Then the car was re-assembled with all new window rubbers, new headliner, new body rubbers and seals. The chrome was replaced where necessary.
When the body shop was finished with their work, the 356C Coupe came back to the mechanic and upholstery building. Our upholsterers had already finished the seats, so they completed their work on the dash, installed the gauges, installed new carpet and door panels. When the interior was completed, Ray began his mechanic work. He installed the engine with all the sheet metal refinished, a new clutch, and rebuilt original carburetors. Then he went through all the mechanical systems on the car, including the fuel system, the brakes, the suspension bushings, installed new tires, and so forth.
The finished product is a high-end driver with numbers-matching running gear, solid original floors, and California black license plates. The car sold right away and I suspect the new owner is happy with it.
History of the Porsche 356c
The Porsche 356C or T6 was manufactured for only two years between 1963 and 1965. It was the swansong and final encore of production of the now iconic 356. It also heralded a new era for Porsche and with that a near total detachment from Volkswagen.
Marketing voices at Porsche understood well the considerable risk of replacing the 356 with the as yet commercially unproven 911. To mitigate this they introduced some technological improvements to the outgoing 356C making it a theoretical rolling test bed for forthcoming features exclusive to the 911.
One such improvement was all round disc brakes, a first for the company in any production model. This gave enthusiastic drivers the extra confidence they needed to exploit the excellent chassis. There were also numerous changes in comparison to the previous ‘B’ model, the first to display the revised T6 bodywork. The engine cover for instance sported twin air intakes, and a keen eye will spot the larger glass area of the front and rear windows in comparison to earlier 356′s.
An interesting point to note is around half way through the 356C’s production run, Porsche took charge of the Reutter coachworks. Up until this time all 356 models displayed the Reutter badge that symbolised the model for many years. The Reutter business was then switched to the production of premium interior seating and given a new and now familiar name, Recaro. The result was that the easiest way to tell the difference between a Porsche 356C and a late model B is the absence of this badge.
Subtle badge engineering was not the only change happening during the twilight years of the 356. There were also engine upgrades and a reorganisation of engine naming conventions in comparison to pre-C models. From the very start of 356 production, the basic engine offered was a flat-four of 1600cc. From 1963 onwards this was changed to an upgraded 1600; the C derivative (picked out in gold lettering below the engine lid) offering 75bhp and the SC with the same displacement but giving 95bhp.
Perhaps the most exciting engine option for the 356 was the rare and tricky to maintain four-cam unit that appeared in the Carrera. Designed by the legendary Ernst Fuhrmann, this engine was a complex masterpiece that was essentially a race engine transplanted into a road car. It’s output was officially rated at 130bhp but many believe Porsche’s conservative estimations of bhp belied a true figure of considerably more.
With the launch of the 911 looming, production of the 356 finally came to an end in 1965. The Porsche 356C was the pinnacle of the model with many enthusiasts favoring it’s excellent balance of comfort, handling and generous equipment levels. This is true today with auction prices of C, SC and Super 90 models reaching impressive highs. The 911 will doubtless live on for some years yet but the legacy of the 356 will always be remembered as the car that originated the formula.