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Porsche 356 B 1600 (1959 – 1963)

In 1959 Porsche revealed their updated 356, the 356B. Completely revised body that was more suitable for the American market.

Porsche 356 B 1600
Model
Porsche 356 B 1600
Model Years
1959 - 1963
Production
N/A
Engine
1.6 L Aircooled Flat 4
Power
60 bhp @ 4500 rpm
Torque
81 ft lbs @ 4500 rpm
0 - 60 mph
16.5 seconds
Top Speed
97 mph

1959 – 1963 Porsche 356B/1600 – Ultimate Guide

In September of 1959 Porsche revealed their fully updated 356 known as the 356B. This had a completely revised body that was more suitable for the American market. The 356B used the new T5 bodystyle which raised the front and rear bumpers nearly four inches. Furthermore the headlights were also repositioned higher to meet American regulations.

Inside Porsche fitted a new deep dish steering wheel and deeper front seats. In August of 1961 Porsche revealed the updated T6 body with larger windows for the Coupe and twin engine grills on the rear deck. These had a much revised front trunk with a different gas tank that was accessed under a filler lid on the fender instead of the middle of the trunk.

There were several variants with the base 1600 engine:

  • Porsche 356 B 1600 Coupe (T5) (1959 – 1961)
  • Porsche 356 B 1600 Cabriolet (T5) (1959 – 1961)
  • Porsche 356 B 1600 Roadster (T5) (1959 – 1961)
  • Porsche 356 B 1600 Notchback Coupe (T5) (1961)
  • Porsche 356 B 1600 Coupe (T6) (1962 – 1963)
  • Porsche 356 B 1600 Cabriolet (T6) (1962 – 1963)
  • Porsche 356 B 1600 Roadster (T6) (1962 – 1963)
  • Porsche 356 B 1600 Notchback Coupe (T6) (1962 – 1963)

The Coupe

The 356 B T5 Coupe was the direct replacement of the Porsche 356 A Coupe and accounted for approximately 70% of the total 356 B T5 production, with approximately 12,000 cars produced. The T5 Coupe bodies were produced by German coachbuilder company Reutter, which was in charge of most Porsche 356 Body production since the mid-1950s. The 356 B T5 Coupe played a huge role in the growth seen by Porsche in the early 1960s. Like the Cabriolet, Roadster, and Notchback Coupe siblings, the Coupe was offered with 1600, 1600S, S90, and Carrera engine options paired to a four-speed synchromesh 741 transmission.

The Porsche 356 B T6 Coupe was built on the success of its very popular predecessor: the Porsche 356 B T5 Coupe. In late 1961, Porsche introduced the T6 updates and produced the first run of about 1,400 cars in that same year, all of them through Reutter, the traditional coach builder for 356 Coupes in the past. Nonetheless, in 1962 Porsche reached out to Karmann, the company which had produced the Notchback Coupe to produce the regular Coupe variant. In total, the 356 B T6 Coupe production increased 50% over the T5 Coupe production, and saw four times as many cars built as any other 356 B T6 variant. After a total production run of approximately 12,000 cars, Porsche decided to make a few structural and technical changes to the T6 Coupe and launched the fourth generation (and last) Coupe: the Porsche 356 C Coupe.

The Notchback Coupe

Officially designated as the Porsche 356 B Hardtop, the Notchback Coupe was another two-door fixed-roof variant of the 356 B T5. Introduced in 1961 and built by Karmann (the same company that built the VW Karmann Ghia and Convertible VW Beetle), the T5 Notchback coupe was produced only during 1961 for a limited run of a little over 1,000 cars. It is rumored that the Notchback appeared because Porsche found many customers in Europe that bought a Cabriolet with a hardtop and no soft-top, thus assuming there was a market for a fixed hard-top variant of the 356 Cabriolet. Thus, they designed the Notchback as a Cabriolet body with a Hardtop welded in place, with no window frames, and unique interior finishes around the doors as well as special carpeting. At the end of 1961, the T5 Notchback evolved into the Porsche 356 B T6 Notchback.

After the Porsche 356 B was updated to the new T6 bodies, one of the cars that received some of the most significant changes with the re-design was the T6 Notchback Coupe. Instead of being a Cabriolet with a welded Hardtop, the roof was now made as a structural part of the rest of the body and the windshield used came from the Coupe, not the Cabriolet. After a short production run of T5 Notchback Coupes in 1961, and despite its relatively weak sales, Porsche decided to continue production of the Notchback Coupe with the updated 356 B T6 changes during the end of 1961. After a short run of 600 cars in 1961 (1962 models), and an even shorter run of 99 cars in 1962, the Porsche 356 B T6 Notchback Coupe was discontinued in 1962.

The Cabriolet

The 356 B T5 Cabriolet was one of the two convertible variants of the 356 B generation. The direct successor of the Porsche 356 A Cabriolet, the updated version saw a little more than 3,000 cars produced between 1959 and 1961. It was offered with the same engine options as the Coupe: 1600, 1600S, S90, and Carrera engine options paired to a four-speed synchromesh 741 transmission. The T6 Cabriolet came in 1962 and got the same upgrades as the rest of the T6 variants. 

The Roadster

The 356 B T5 Roadster was the direct replacement of the Porsche 356 A Convertible D, which itself replaced the iconic Porsche 356 A Speedster, and was the second convertible variant of the Porsche 356 B T5. Porsche offered the 356B Cabriolet as a high-end touring car with a thick-padded convertible top and expensive options such a leather seats and a Blaupunkt radio. The main differences with the Cabriolet variant were the removable windshield frame, the Speedster-like dashboard, the lighter and less bulky soft-top frame, and the lack of back seat cushions. Produced between 1959 and 1961 and with a production run of approximately 2,600 examples, the T5 Roadster was produced by Drauz, another coachbuilder contracted by Porsche, apart from Reutter (Coupes and Cabriolets) and Karmann (Notchback Coupes). In late 1961, the T5 Roadster was replaced by the very rare Porsche 356 B T6 “Twin Grille” Roadster, which was discontinued shortly after.

The ultimate version of the 356 Roadster was the T6 built in very low numbers in 1962. With the introduction of the T6 bodies on the 356B platform, Porsche switched production of the Roadster from Drauz to D’Ieteren Freres. These were identified by twin intake grilles on the engine cover and the model is sometimes named after them. The car benefited from a host of T6 upgrades such as variable speed wipers, adjustable seats, an anti-theft lockable shifter. It was really a replacement to the Convertible D. After the 356 B T5 bodystyle was discontinued in 1961, Porsche decided to outsource production of this new variant, same as they had done with the T5 Roadsters which were built by Drauz. Nonetheless, after the small batch of cars were produced, Porsche decided to halt production in favor of the T6 Cabriolet, which was sold during 1962 and 1963. Aside from the Carrera cars, these are perhaps the most special and rarest of the Porsche 356 models.

The Details

At the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1959, Porsche launched the 356 B. It featured a number of visual and mechanical updates but retained the essential Porsche DNA that made the 356 such an attractive proposition. Two variants were produced: the T5 from September 1959 to August 1961 and the T6 from September 1961 to July 1963. Ignoring the expensive line of four cam Carrera derivatives, customers could choose from three different engines that variously produced 60bhp (1600), 74 bhp (1600 Super or S) and 86 bhp (1600 Super 90). Three body styles were also available: Coupe, Cabriolet and Roadster. There was also the short-lived variant known as the Notchback Coupe (otherwise known as the Karmann Hardtop) that produced from 1961.

Like its predecessors, the 356 B featured a steel unibody type assembly. For this latest application, the floorpan was modified to accommodate a different gearbox linkage and new rear seats but was otherwise little changed. Suspension-wise not much was different either. Fully independent all round, it used transverse torsion bars and trailing arms with additional swing axles at the rear. The B also had hydraulic drums, modified with 72 axial fins that improved heat dissipation. The wheels were 4.5 x 15-inches but new radial tires were added.

The main change for the 1600 and 1600 S engine was the switch to Zenith 32 NDIX carburetors, otherwise the engines were practically the same as before. One change made to all 356 B engines saw the cast-iron rocker arms replaced with alloy components. Displacement was also unchanged, remaining at 1582cc.

The base 1600 was the least powerful, with power of just 60 bhp @ 4500 rpm and torque or 81 ft lbs @ 4500 rpm. That meant the 1600 would sprint (if you can call it that) from 0 – 60 mph in 16.5 seconds and onto a top speed of 97 mph. It wasn’t drag car that’s for sure, with the quarter mile taking about 22 seconds.

While things under the hood were largely unchanged vs the 356 A, on the outside things were changed quite a bit. The nose and front wings were both re-profiled with the headlights mounted flatter and higher up than before. New domed indicators were fitted while the horn grilles were dropped in favor of two alloy slats mounted within an oval cutaway. Brake cooling intakes were carved out from the lower nose panel. The front lid became more heavily contoured at its leading edge and had a wider handle. Bigger bumpers were moved higher up than before and came with suitably enlarged overriders. Slimmer sill strips were mounted down each flank.

Coupes came with opening quarterlights. Like the Cabriolet, these bodyshells were fabricated by both Reutter and Karmann while Roadsters were executed by Drauz and the Belgian importer, Anciens Etablissement d’Iteren Freres.

It is worth noting that there were a lot of production updates during the years. As the single rubber mounting on the nose of the gearbox created too much noise and vibration, Porsche reverted to twin mounts at the beginning of 1960. The alloy rocker arms designed to improve acceleration were also found to have the opposite effect so they were switched back to cast iron. Crankshaft failures in some early 356 Bs left Porsche with no option but to fit a new oil pump to enlarge capacity.

Production of the 356 B continued until September 1961 when Porsche replaced the T-5 with the T-6. Unveiled at the 1961 Frankfurt Motor Show, it was the T-6’s body and interior that came in for the most attention. Most easily identifiable was the enlarged engine lid which now came with two cooling grilles instead of one. The T-6 also came with a larger windscreen (and a bigger back window in the case of the Coupe) plus a thicker alloy surround.

Air intakes were added on the front scuttle to improve cabin ventilation (excluding the Roadster) and were controlled by a lever on the centre of the dash. Left-hand drive cars now came with a spring-loaded fuel filler cap on the right-hand front wing which meant the bonnet no longer had to be opened to refuel. This update was not made to right-hand drive derivatives because the steering column was in the way. The front lid was made wider and flatter at its leading edge while the trunk now came with a plastic liner. To improve luggage space, a flatter fuel tank was installed (LHD only) and the spare wheel and battery were repositioned.

A zip was added to the Cabriolet’s hood so the rear window could be removed and the manual sunroof option was dropped in favor of electric. Adjustable Koni dampers were now fitted as standard across the board.

In June 1962, the Karmann Hardtop and Roadster were dropped owing to poor sales. Production of the rest of the T6 variants continued until July 1963 when the 356 C was launched. Overall, more than 31,000 356 Bs were built. In terms of the split

  • T-5 production comprised 8559 Coupes, 3094 Cabriolets, 2653 Roadsters and 1048 Hardtops.
  • T-6 production comprised 12,138 Coupes, 3100 Cabriolets, 200 Roadsters and 699 Hardtops.

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