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Porsche 356 1300 “Pre-A” (1951 – 1955)

In 1951, a bigger 1.3-litre Type 506 engine was announced. It marked the first significant move away from the original Volkswagen unit.

Porsche 356 1300 "Pre-A"
1951 - 1955
1.1 L Aircooled Flat 4 (Type 369)
44 bhp @ 4200 rpm
60 ft lbs @ 2800 rpm
0 - 60 mph
13.9 seconds
Top Speed
99 mph

1951 – 1955 Porsche 356/1300 “Pre-A” – The Ultimate Guide

Faced with relentless Allied bombing raids, Porsche moved from Zuffenhausen in Stuttgart to the remote Austrian town of Gmund during 1944. However, the extremely cramped facility (an old converted sawmill) was totally unsuited to automotive production and delays were commonplace. At the time, Porsche’s Zuffenhausen factory (acquired in 1938) was occupied by the American army. With no prospect of its imminent return, an alternative solution had to be found if the company was to move back to Germany.

Also based in Zuffenhausen was the Reutter coachworks which had a reputation as the best in the business. In November 1949, Porsche struck a deal with Reutter for 500 Coupe bodies and, as part of the agreement, Porsche leased 5000 sq ft of Reutter’s warehouse space for final assembly of their cars. A separate contract for the production of Cabriolet bodies went to the Glaser company in Ullesricht.

Any hope of Porsche’s original Zuffenhausen plant being vacated by the Americans seemed to be dashed by the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950. As Porsche’s engineering and administrative staff were still in Gmund, an additional 1100 sq ft facility was purchased next to Reutter and, by December 1950, all the key components for manufacture of the 356 were back in Germany. The first Porsche 356 completed in Stuttgart was finished in March 1950. Within a few months, production at Gmund had come to an end.

As Reutter’s craftsmen were not skilled in working with aluminium (nor did they have the necessary tools), Porsche were forced to switch to steel bodies for these German-built 356s. The move to mass production also saw many parts made in stamping dies as opposed to by hand.

Aside from the type of material used, the bodyshells manufactured by Reutter had a number of design differences to those from the old Gmund works. The roof was more rounded, the cabin was a little wider and the car’s waistline was a little taller. The bonnet line was also higher while the two-piece windscreen was lower and wider and now curved outwards towards the A-pillars. The nose-mounted Porsche script was positioned below the bonnet instead of upon it.

The only bolt-on panels were the doors, engine lid and the bonnet with everything else welded in place to form a unitary body / chassis. Suspension was fully independent via transverse torsion bars and trailing arms with additional swing axles at the rear. Brakes were hydraulically operated 230mm drums supplied by Lockheed.

In the engine bay was an all-alloy Volkswagen-derived air-cooled Flat 4 carried over from the Gmund-built cars. Designated Type 369, this 1.1-litre motor displaced 1086cc thanks to a bore and stroke of 73.5mm and 64mm respectively.

In March 1951 a new 1.3 liter engine was announced. It was known as the Type 506 engine and marked the first significant move away from the original Volkswagen unit. Bored from 73.5mm to 80mm (stroke was unchanged at 64mm), displacement rose from 1086cc to 1286cc.

Further enhancements included lightweight alloy cylinder barrels and nosed pistons (both manufactured by Mahle). These saved 5.5kg. The cylinder bores were chrome-plated to reduce friction. Compression was dropped from 7.0 to 6.5:1, a figure more compatible with fuels of the day. Although the two Solex 32 PBI carburettors were retained, they were now configured slightly differently.

Output rose from 40 bhp to 44 bhp at an identical 4200rpm. The torque rating increased from 51lb-ft at 2600rpm to 60lb-ft at 2800rpm. Top speed was circa 99 mph while 0-62mph took 13.9 seconds. However, these gains were at some cost to refinement as the new Type 506 engine was a good deal noisier than its smaller counterpart. The next month (April 1951), Porsche switched from lever type rear shock absorbers to telescopic dampers. They also made some minor switchgear alterations, added opening rear windows and ATE twin-leading-shoe front brakes.

1952 was a big year in terms of production changes. In April 1952, Porsche switched to a single-piece windscreen which required the front wings to be slightly lengthened. Brightwork was added to the front and rear windscreens in the form of a slim aluminium moulding. Inside, a host of changes were made. At the same time, wider 3.25-inch wheels were fitted (up from 3-inches). They were not only ventilated to assist brake cooling but also lighter than before. Additionally, the throttle cable was exchanged for a metal rod linkage while the fuel tank was widened and secured with metal straps instead of bolts.

In June 1952, the 356’s bumpers were moved further away from the body and fitted with black rubber inserts. The spare wheel was repositioned and the battery was moved back to improve weight distribution.

Cosmetic changes for the 1953 model year were made and only modest changes were made in October 1953 (for the 1954 model year). A 1.3-litre roller-bearing engine was also released (known as the Porsche 356 Super model). Displacement of this new Type 589 unit was 1290cc (4cc up on the plain-bearing 1.3). This was achieved by reducing the bore from 80mm to 74.5mm and increasing stoke from 64mm to 74mm (to match the 1.5). The compression ratio was increased to 8.2:1. Peak output was 60bhp at 5500rpm and 65lb-ft at 3600rpm.

More changes were on the way in April 1954, mainly cosmetic and option related. In June 1954, the plain-bearing 1300cc engine switched over to the same block as the 4cc larger roller-bearing variant. The new motor was given type number 506/1 (the original was Type 506). Output, compression and carburetors remained unchanged.

Meanwhile, the rest of the range benefited from a new three-piece aluminium-alloy crankcase to replace Volkswagen’s original two-piece magnesium component. Oil capacity was increased from 3.5 to 4.5-litres and engine’s were given new type numbers. The Type 506/1 in the plain-bearing engined 1300 became the Type 506/2. Other changes made at the same time included the addition of a front anti-roll bar and new spring rates to reduce oversteer.

Porsche 356 1300 ‘Split-Window’ Coupe (1950-1951)

Using license fees from VW, accrued rent from their war-time occupied buildings and upfront dealer money, Porsche were able to move production from Austria back to their hometown of Stuttgart and produce the first German 356, a ‘Split-Window’ Coupé. Initially, the engine was the same VW 1086cc that employed a Porsche cylinder head, the same design that was used on the last few Gmünd cars. Bodies were all sourced from Reutter except some cabriolets which were sent to Glässer when demand was great than Reutter could handle. At the Frankfurt motor show in 1951 a suite of upgrades was announced including Lockheed discs and a 1.3-liter engine. This used larger bore, finned aluminum cylinders with chromed cylinders from Mahle. The engine had lower compression for pump fuel and could still produce 4 additional bhp.

Porsche 356 1300 “Pre-A” ‘Split-Window’ Cabriolet (1950-1951)

After producing the first German 356, a ‘Split-Window’ Coupé, Porsche produced a Cabriolet shortly there after which was built by Karrosseriewerk Reutter. Initial production output exceeded 30 cars a month with both Coupé and Cabriolet bodies. Both were loosely based off their equivalents made in Gmünd, Austria but had bodied made in steel instead of aluminum. Like the Coupe, the Cabriolet got a host of upgrades in late 1951, including that 1.3-liter engine, with more power and torque.

Porsche 356 1300 “Pre-A” ‘Curved-Window’ Coupe & Cabriolet

Before the 1952 year, Porsche and Reutter improved the car with a one-piece bend windshield, Not too long afterward in mid-1952 the bumpers were repositioned at the request of Max Hoffman. By the end of the year the seminal 1500 engine was released with Hirth-sourced crankshafts and connecting rods which became known for their rolling bearing big-ends.

Technical changes continued beyond the single-piece windscreen too, including brightwork being added to the front and rear windscreens in the form of a slim aluminium moulding. Inside, a host of changes were made. Green on black instruments replaced the original white on black type, the beech door caps were switched to body colour, a passenger sun visor was added and a conventional indicator stalk was fitted in place of a switch on the dash.

Fibreboard was used instead of steel for the glovebox. All cars were fitted with fully reclining seats that featured large chrome-plated hinges screwed to the sides of the backrests. To increase luggage space, the rear seats could be lowered flat.

At the same time, wider 3.25-inch wheels were fitted (up from 3-inches). They were not only ventilated to assist brake cooling but also lighter than before. Louvred hub caps were a new, expensive and rarely specified option. Additionally, the throttle cable was exchanged for a metal rod linkage while the fuel tank was widened and secured with metal straps instead of bolts.

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