Guest contributor: Jarrod Hartwig on his 1960 Porsche 356 B
Call me an analog soul in a digital world, but I find that many of our advancing technologies and current levels of interconnectivity leave us feeling more disenchanted and isolated than ever before. We send text messages in lieu of calling, we e-mail instead of putting pen to paper, and we hide behind our online personas. Modern society has quickly become a realm of intangibles— but even I’m not ready to go live alone in the desert quite yet.
But I digress; today, we’re talking about cars. I couldn’t care less about airbags, crumple zones, rear view cameras, lane departure warning systems, automatic braking systems and so on. I must say, though, that it’s no surprise that these systems are needed since the average new car certainly leaves its driver at risk of falling asleep at his Rubbermaid wheel! Auto manufacturers aren’t entirely to blame; the heavy hand of government safety regulations has rendered most modern cars on the road into bland, passionless “point A to point B” appliances.
I’d dreamed of owning a Porsche 356 since I was about 5 or 6 years old, when I remember first seeing a photo of James Dean with his ‘54 Speedster. That image of eternal cool stuck with me and I’d always hoped to one day have a white 356 of my own. Over the years I admired these cars and became ecstatic on the rare occasion when I’d catch a glimpse of one on the road.
About 20 years after I first saw that Speedster, I came across a photo online of a white 356 coupe while researching an unrelated subject. Something about that photo lit a spark in me. A few minutes later, I found myself on eBay— but just to browse and check prices for entertainment, not because I had any intention of buying.
The Speedsters and Cabriolets were out of my league budget-wise. But the coupe – in particular the “B” coupes – seemed to be much more attainable. Hmmm…
And then I came across a white 1960 356 T5 “B” coupe with only a couple bids and about five days remaining in the auction. Later that week, after casually checking the auction’s status while leaving work, I was thinking about how the auction was going to be ending in a couple of hours…
Later that night, I was working on my second glass of wine when I decided to pull the pin and join a bidding war in the last remaining minutes. Two weeks later, the car was on a truck down to me. The rest is history.
It’s been a blast to own. I often find myself admiring the beauty of its simplicity, both visually and mechanically. Weather permitting, I try to drive it as much as I can and oftentimes it’s my daily for any given week at a time. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s a solid driver. I’ve owned the car for over two years now and I look forward to making gradual improvements as time and finances permit.
While my 356 has left me stranded twice so far, both instances were due to user error: once because I forgot to get gas, and once because of a loose fuel line connection at the left Zenith carburetor.
For the majority of my driving life, I’d always owned newer cars (and German at that) before my Porsche, so I wasn’t well-versed on the mechanics of cars given the overcomputerized and cluttered engine bays of today. With the 356, I’ve been able to perform various replacements and adjustments in the engine compartment and elsewhere with a basic set of tools, some helpful advice from friends, and a decent shop manual. And for jobs I don’t feel like tackling, I was referred to an exceptionally friendly 356 expert from the old school of Porsche mechanics that makes house calls for cold beer and $35 an hour!
Driving the 356 on a nice day is something I highly recommend. The sounds from the aircooled flat-four are wonderful and the vent windows deliver perfect natural air conditioning. The fuel tank sits right above my ankles and the retrofitted seat belts are barely up to airline standards so it’s not exactly a pinnacle of safety, but I couldn’t care less! The 1600cc motor only puts out about 70 horsepower, but it does just fine in keeping up with modern traffic, given that the car only weights about 1800 lbs.
My advice to anyone out there who has a passion for cars with soul is to go out and find one! I’m always entertaining myself by browsing various classic car listings or on eBay Motors… and I’m always amazed at the amount of cool vintage machinery available (from any number of marques) for such low prices. Analog automobiles are not for everyone, but for those who get it, I say jump right in. If only I had more space and money… but I digress…
Words: Jarrod Hartwig
Images: Jarrod Hartwig and Trever Scales