Touring The Oxford Countryside By Way Of Stuttgart Steel In A 1963 Porsche 356 B Carrera 2
Photography by George Colbeanu
The morning dew is still evaporating from the lush green landscape of the Oxford countryside, and as I make my way to the Girardo & Co. headquarters I see the day’s subject peeking out from behind the gates of the specialty dealer’s entrance, almost comically highlighted in the sunshine.
The Ivory curves of a 1963 Porsche 356 B Carrera 2 come into focus as I approach, but even from afar it’s not hard to grasp the spotlessness of the Teutonic bathtub sports car. I’ve always been fond of the 356, but there is something extra special about these Carreras.
The precursor to the 911 was not without its own evolutionary timeline of course, and while there is an undeniable allure about the early aluminum-bodied cars built in Gmünd, the later models in the 356 lineage offer something more, in the sense that we can view these cars as something of a technological bridge between the marque’s early connection to Volkswagen and the more independent products that grew from those roots. I’m not saying that mechanical complexity is the end-all be-all, but the 356s with the hotter engines were giving off factory hot-rod vibes well before the term came into being.
The car that Girardo & Co. let me shoot around Oxford is a perfect example of what I’m talking about; a beautifully handled restoration has restored its factory freshness—although this car was originally delivered in green—so all the aesthetic charms are in fine working order. It’s a downright cute car without being cutesy, and that’s not such an easy feat. Paired with the four-cam flat-four tucked below the twin-grille engine cover, it’s a compelling little machine that’s equal parts adorable and evil.
The race-derived Carrera motor, or the 587/1 if we’re talking in Porsche code, has its own brand of good looks about it, but more than that it represents the advanced engineering that Porsche was willing to offer in production form. The little 1996cc lump is a far cry from the flat-fours that propelled the first 356s a decade and a half earlier, and even in today’s terms its quite impressive. Producing 130hp thanks in large part to advanced four-cam heads, it’s enough power to get into trouble with.
Initially, Porsche only planned on building the bare minimum of these cars for homologation—no more than 100 units—but demand was strong, and despite being quite pricey Porsche ended up building 278 examples of the 356 B Carrera 2 Coupés over the course of production, from 1960 to 1963.
In period, the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport tested a new Carrera 2 and recorded a top speed of 124mph, and a 0–62 mph time of 8.6 seconds. As we know, reading the stats in black and white doesn’t tell you anything about what they feel like in the context of the driver seat. As we also know, it’s not wise to borrow a classic car that’s for sale in order to flog it like a road tester might have half a century ago when it was new and they were making more of them. Alas, it doesn’t take reaching and exceeding the limits to get a sense for a car, either.
The example I spent the day with has already delivered plenty of driving bliss. As a 1963 model, it left the factory on the 5th of April, and it was first sold to Weisse & Eschrich in Bayern, Germany in April 1963, with copies of the original Porsche factory Kardex confirming its first service was carried out by Krauss Porsche. This Kardex also notes warranty works being carried out in November 1963, with the mileage noted as 19,690km—clearly the first owners, who were part of a mechanical wire works factory still in business today, were getting their fill. Since its restoration in the 1990s, the odometer has racked up less than 1000km, making it ripe for another round of exuberant ownership.