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This Story is Dedicated to: The Memory of Patricia Bloise, who truly loved:
.....What is it about old cars- especially old Porsches- that makes people feel the way they do about them- even write Books about them? WHY should we care so much about some 20 or 30 year old Funny Furrin car? And, conversely, why are some new cars- even those whose name would be Porsche- merely cold steel when compared to a good 356? Maybe it's because 356's were built by hand not by Robot, and contain some of the soul of the workmen who built them. (The Maestro likes that explanation- he feels that way about each engine he builds!) Maybe too it's because 356's were designed by the Good Herr Doctor, whose name he put on them. And when you put YOUR name on a product, it better be Good!
.....But maybe it's because old 356's have Personality- they Walk with personality, Talk with Personality, Drive with Personality. A Good 356 NEVER breaks down anywhere except your driveway or where and when it knows there's a better part around that you'll eventually find.
.....Now, THAT's a Certain unmistakable sign of a Good Car- one that breaks down at CONVENIENT times! As opposed to the Vast Majority, the Hoi Polloi, the Common Herd, of other cars that always break down at inconvenient times- like when you're in your Best Suit on the way to a Very Important Meeting.
.....But there's More to a Good 356! A LOT more!
.....The REALLY good 356's are HAUNTED!
.....Though their owners won't admit to it in public- only sharing their thoughts and secret knowledge after a few beers. Even then they'll tell you their beliefs in hushed tones, all the while glancing over their shoulder to see if the ghosts might be listening. I can hear those of you of Scientific bent, like myself- the first time- groaning in Disbelief. But just as you must Suspend your Disbelief to enjoy a good movie, so must you do likewise to enjoy a good 356! In fact, many people of Scientific Bent own 356's that they swear ARE haunted!
.....They won't admit it to their professional peers, only to close and knowing friends, but it's true! Once a few years back, Mercedes had a Television Commercial about the highest documented mileage travelled by one of its products. The winner was, if memory serves, a 1956 Diesel model with a bit over one Million Miles.
.....That's pretty good for a sedate sedan, but what about the record mileage for a Good Sports Car? Like a Porsche. How far will one of them go?
.....The Maestro now has TWO candidates- the Previous World's Record holder for the Highest Mileage 356- a 1962 356B Coupe that has travelled:
.....OVER HALF A MILLION MILES!!!
.....The current owner acquired it in 1967 with 75,000 miles on the clock, inheriting it from his female cousin who met an untimely and violent death. The heir then proceeded to drive her over 200,000 miles before the first engine overhaul became necessary. And another 275,000 miles before deciding to replace the engine with a MaestroMassaged one. In all that time, she NEVER broke down once where she had to be towed! And yes, the fuel gauge DID fail around 150,000 miles, and the owner did run out of gas eight times- but each time managed to coast into a gas station on the remaining fumes. The Final Failure that convinced the Owner that another engine was needed, fatigue being a Mother, was a fan blade flying off the cooling and fatally stabbing the oil cooler. But just before all the oil leaked out, this Good 356 somehow made a linkage rod come off the carburetor AT THE VERY SAME TIME, forcing the owner to stop and find the more Serious problem of an oil-bloodied engine, before Disaster struck. Another known characteristic of these charmed 356's- they don't like to be loaned to other people! Especially to other people of the opposite sex. It's like loaning your wife/girlfriend/mistress to someone else! In this case, the owner loaned his 356 to a Member of the Female Persuasion. As said girl was about to drive off, she looked in the rear view mirror to check her make-up- and THE MIRROR CRACKED, broke and fell out in pieces in her lap!!!
.....With another girl, the Driver's seat refused to lock in place, though it always had for the Owner, both before and after the incident!
.....Yet another would-be female driver had the horn stick on, and On and ON! And when another attempted to dive her- the driver's door wouldn't latch!
.....All of these problems NEVER occurred to the Owner of the car- either before or after! There are some things that Science cannot explain!
.....The Maestro knows these symptoms well, once a Long Time Ago, he loaned his Good Old Girl, a 1962 356B Coupe to his then current girl friend. Unhappy with this arrangement, the car proceeded to loose its brakes at the Busiest Intersection in Computertino in the Middle of the evening rush hour- against the light!
.....The screaming girl was carried helplessly through the intersection, miraculously missing the cross traffic by microns! (The car was just trying to scare her a little.) Of course, the "loss of brakes" syndrome could not be duplicated- either before or after!
.....That's because a good 356 will only respond to YOUR touch- and if she DOES respond only to your touch, you'd best keep her- and keep her happy!
.....And now we come to what can only be called a profile in courage. An uncanny spiritual relationship with a car that transcends the bounds of a "normal" human/auto relationship. You can like a Ford or Chevy but with some 356's, "cherish" doesn't even come close.
.....Our Story begins in the fall of 1962, when a newly married couple are driving East on Interstate 80 on their Honeymoon, towards wedded bliss and Tahoe- in an AC Bristol, the forerunner of the AC Cobra.
.....They had gotten married in Crescent City, California and begun a honeymoon trip to Klamath falls Oregon, then Susanville California, and finally across the Sierra Nevada to see the 160 acres of Nevada, bought sight unseen for an eventual Retirement home. East of Sparks Nevada, the groom/driver thinks he hears an awfully low-flying jet. Looking around, he finds no jet overhead- but Serious "jet noise" coming from under the floor boards. It was the AC's transmission undergoing Death Throws! Since Nevada Jackrabbits can't fix AC Bristol Transmissions, the newlyweds had little choice but to keep going- to civilization.
.....Civilization in this case was Winnemuca, Nevada, where the Loco British garage, it turns out, can't fix the Acey's Transmission either. So there are two choices: cut the honeymoon short or trade the car in on Something Else.
.....So, as the couple are trying to decide what's reasonably good, the wife says- "Hey- remember that dumpy little Porsche we test-drove a while back? Why not that strange inverted soup spoon?"
.....The dealer gave the newleyweds $2600 for the AC Bristol- in trade for a new 1962 356B Porsche, Chassis Number 211,205- and the die was cast.
.....It was a love affair from that point on!
.....Unlike the AC Bristol, the 356 never boiled over, nor froze- it just ran and ran and ran- for over HALF A MILLION MILES! Some things never seem to age. For the Newleyweds, love and the Porsche were immortal. Two years later, in the winter of 1964, the worst rains in 50 years hit the West Coast. And massive flooding hit Northern California- at the same time our couple were on their monthly trip to Crescent City. Route 5 North of San Francisco still shows the high water marks on the rocks and trees- 15-20 feet above highway. It was to be the scariest trip of their lives.
.....Through the pitch black night, sheets of heavy rain splattered on the windshield, the wipers trying their damnest to keep up with the onslaught. Neither car nor passengers had seen rain of such intensity before. But the faithful 356 never missed a beat.
.....At Mcdoll, near Doris the road was flooded- and a multitude of stalled and abandoned cars wallowed on the shoulder. In one dip, the water was level with the windows, but the good 356 purred through without a miss, leaving wet Fords and Chevys in its wake.
.....By this time, the California Highway Patrol had closed the road. But the 356 didn't know about that- she just did her duty and kept heading North. Finally, in the wee hours of the moring, the couple decided it was time to stop- the road was closed ahead- AND behind!
.....Pulling into an unnamed town, the couple found an old Victorian House converted into a Motel- looking suspiciously like the Bates Motel in the recently released Alfred Hitchcock Movie, Psycho.
.....By this time, the power was out and the only available light in the motel came in eerie flickers- from candles.
.....The couple went inside to inquire about a room. In the flickering, weak candlelight the manager bore a striking resemblance to the Mother in the movie!
.....Yes, there is a room available- just one- and it hasn't been used in a while, but you're welcome to it.
.....Having little choice, the couple took the offered room. Past the downstairs bar they were led, being eyed all the time by all manner of undesirables lurking therein, thinking unspeakable thoughts. The hairs on the back of their necks stood at attention.
.....Up the narrow, creaking staircase they went, preceded by the female manager holding a candle to light the way. The trio cast strange and grotesque shadows on the walls. Creeaaakkk, went the door to the bedroom, as the dim candlelight revealed a four-poster canopy bed straight out of an old Dracula movie. The couple looked at each other- their thoughts the same- would we wake up dead the next day?
.....Having no choice, and anticipating the worst, they settled in for the night- and had the best sleep in months!
.....The car had lead them to a safe refuge from the storm!
.....That 356 was in fact the most reliable piece of machinery they ever owned. She was the wife's car. She was almost alive. She was Gretyl.
.....Over the years, the wife and car developed a strong friendship. When the fan belt broke, the Wife fixed it- in five minutes with the proper tension and no problems.
.....The wife was a Fantastic Lady who could- and did- double clutch with the best them. She was a California Girl- a Blue-eyed Blond with Tremendous personality. And Ulcerative Colitis. Her doctors said she would not survive beyond her twenties. But thanks to her positive personality and intestinal fortitude she proved her doctors wrong!
.....Since she was unable to have children, the 356 became her child, born on the Honeymoon, and raised to adulthood- it was a love affair of woman and machine.
.....Even the faithful family dog- Bristol- first had his first trip in the Porsche- from kennel to home in the passenger's footwell.
.....She drove her 356 7 days a week- with never a rest. From San Bruno to Palo Alto- 34 miles each way during the week, then to Crescent City (500 miles round trip) several times a year.
.....And it never let her down!
.....With Bristol safely ensconced in the passenger's seat, they would hop in car and go. The dog loved the car and the wife, and vice-versa- from Day 1 to the very end.
.....The 356 is hardly every considered a "Milestone" car. It's not flashy enough- not like a Ferrari or a Mercedes. It's just a damn good reliable automobile, that's light years ahead of everything else in design. It won't snap your head back with Corvette-like acceleration and won't win many beauty contests. Yet, year in and year out, over the long haul, that little 356 was right there- when needed.
.....With no coolant to boil over nor freeze, you never worried about such things. And there were never any overheating problems- the oil temperature needle never went to the right of vertical. When new- the temperature gauge needle would go 3/16" inch to right of green. As the car and couple got older, the needle would go to halfway and stop.
.....After a long day of 70 MPH+ driving, if you pull off the Freeway, the car would idle at 700 RPM. No muss, no fuss.
.....And yes, there were some mechanical problems over the half-million miles. 6 to be exact. On the Honeymoon Outside Battle Mountain Nevada, the unused plug on a 356B fuel pump loosened up and leaked a little gas. Alerted by the smell, the husband quickly traced down the cause of the problem. A quick tightening of the plug with the 17mm wrench thoughtfully provided in the tool kit fixed that.
.....Twenty years later, A known cracked distributor cap gave lots of warning- which the husband ignored- to his dismay when a winter rain invaded the deck lid, shorted out the cap and taught him not to ignore her signs too long.
.....And yes, the clutch cable did eventually break- on Interstate 280 one morning- but by timing the traffic lights properly, the husband was able to get the car to the shop unscathed. In 24 years, it was the ONLY clutch cable to fail!
.....And the "U-joint" shift linkage connector failed as they usually do- in the DRIVEWAY- which they DON'T usually do! That was fixed for $13.50.
.....And the Rubber connector in the Throttle Linkage at the transaxle failed, but the husband had already anticipated that and wired it with aircraft safety wire- BEFORE it went!
.....But when the chips were down, that 356 would not let you down! Unlike other "sports cars", you can drive a 356 all day long and not be tired at night. The excellent Aerodynamics and sophisticated drive train design is easier on tires and brakes than anything else. The 0.32 drag Coefficients Manufacturers are discovering now, it had then! And the half-a million miles on the ORIGINAL BRAKE SHOES is something Detroit or Tokyo doesn't want to hear about!
.....The 356 is still the Best Sports Car of the Eighties. On balance, it's probably the best damn thing ever designed! That 356 was there at the beginning,... and at the end. It's strange and touchingly ironic how some things in life are like that.
.....The honeymooning couple had started their marriage with the Porsche. It had to end with the Porsche.
.....For it was in the Fall of 1986 when the wife found out she had terminal liver cancer. As she had done throughout her life, she held on as long as she could. But when the symptoms of the dreaded disease got so bad that she could no longer drive, she reluctantly put her beloved 356 up for sale.
.....And died two days later.
.....The 356 was sold at her Viewing.
.....The honeymooning couple had started their marriage with the Porsche, 24 years earlier- almost to the day. It ended with the Porsche. If she lived she'd still have the car. It was her car.
.....It was Gretyl.
..... REVISION 3.56
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