In March 1948, in a small factory in Gmünd, Austria, Ferry Porsche, son of engineer Dr. Ing Ferdinand Porsche, designed and built a small two-seater sports car, which would be the first car to bear his family’s name. At the time, it was an utterly unique design of smooth lines, it was devoid of a grille, and it had an engine that was behind the rear passenger compartment. Little did Ferry know that his design would be regarded as the quintessential German sports car to this day, and it catapulted the family concern into becoming one of the most well-respected sports car manufacturers in the world. Its iconic shape would remain largely unaltered for 65 years and counting; it was a design of such simplicity and perfection that any deviation from the norm would be considered automotive sacrilege.
This automobile, designated the 356, came to define Porsche until 1965, and it would create the blueprint for both the appearance and technical layout of Porsches for years to come. While the 356 saw a variety of different body variations and engine options over the course of its production, the sunroof coupe stands out as the most desirable. Combining all the visual elements of the coupe and providing the possibility of open air motoring, it offered its driver the comfort of the coupe and the freedom of the speedster.
The most potent mechanical variation of the 356 was the Carrera model, which was powered by the slightly detuned, Fuhrmann-designed four-camshaft, 1,600-cubic centimeter racing engine. Available in both “GT” race specification and “GS” touring specification, Porsche made sure that their new engine could be marketed on a platform to individuals who were looking to spend time on the track, or to those who were looking to drive down the Autobahn in style. The engine quickly found acclaim from enthusiast groups.
While many Porsches of this type were campaigned on the track, it appears that this 1959 Porsche 356 A Carrera 1600 GS ‘Sunroof’ Coupé was specified by its first owner, Robert Blackwood, of Atlanta, Georgia, for long-distance touring. It was delivered with a long list of factory options, according to its Porsche Certificate of Authenticity, including a Blaupunkt radio and two loudspeakers, a rear luggage rack, an electric clock, an 80-liter fuel tank, a factory-installed roll bar, and a very desirable and rare sunroof. When considering these options, and also the Carrera 1600 GS-specification drivetrain, this Porsche would certainly have been one of the priciest and most desirable examples delivered stateside that year.
The car passed through two owners after Blackwood, before being purchased by H.D. Clark, also of Atlanta, Georgia. The 356 remained in frequent use in the Clark family for the next 10 years, until H.D. grew ill and was no longer able to drive his Porsche. As a result, the car remained in storage before it was purchased by a Porsche enthusiast in Chattanooga, Tennessee, who commissioned a concours-quality restoration.
Beginning in 2002, this 356 went through a complete restoration by Porsche specialist Gary Kempton, at GK Restorations in Florida, while Porsche specialist Vernon Crotts was tasked with rebuilding the engine (number 93126, with transmission number 28925). The car was completely taken apart, and every nut and bolt was restored to concours standards. Repainted in its original shade of Porsche Silver Metallic (5706), with an interior finished in dark blue leather, this example exudes a subtle elegance that does nothing to distract from the body’s flowing lines.
The current owner has driven the car only sparingly since acquiring it, and he has exhibited the car proudly and very successfully. Winning Best in Show honors at the 2010 Saint Louis Regional Porsche Car Show certainly spoke to the car’s condition and authenticity. In October 2011, it was invited to take place in Rennsport Reunion IV & Porsche Race Car Classic, hosted at The Quail Lodge in Monterey, California, where it was displayed alongside many other world-class four-cam and racing Porsches.
Of all the Porsche 356 body styles that have appeared over its 22-year production run, the Carrera 1600 GS models are among the most valuable, the most thrilling to drive, and the most beautiful to behold. Meticulously restored and presented in Porsche’s trademark color, this is a prime example of Stuttgart’s finest. It has been over 65 years since the first Porsche hit the road, and the 356 still has visible ties to current 911 models, proving that the apple has never fallen far from the tree. Revered for its innovative engineering and timeless styling, the 356 A Carrera 1600 GS ‘Sunroof’ Coupé is, quite simply, automotive perfection incarnate.