April 1999 Newsletter

356 Travels

Mike McDonald of Levenworth, Kansas called. He had a family reunion in Salem, Oregon and decided to drive his 356. We fed him supper and provided a bed on his outward trip. He put 4,050 miles on his Coupe, only used 1 and 1/2 quarts of oil and averaged 28 MPG. He only ran into snow (6 inches) in Durango on his return trip, of course he camped out.

If you plan to travel to Sedona, Arizona Sept 30-Oct 3 for the West Coast Holiday make your room reservations now! The event hotel (Poco Diablo) is sold out and other rooms are going fast. It looks like the excitement of Monterey last year will carry over to Sedona.


Cal’s ’55 Speedster is at the upholstery shop (Autoweave). I have a few things to do when it comes back and then it is off to Cal’s for engine installation. Speaking of engine installation, we got the rebuilt engine and tranny into “The Company Car” and hopefully it will be ready for this year’s vintage racing season. My daughter-in-law, Jen, will drive this year and Bill and I will also share driving responsibilities. With 10.5-1 compression in the new engine we have to run racing gas at 105 octane and $2.40 a gallon. The price of 356 fun just got higher!

I also got some work done on Norm’s ’54 Racecar and all that is left is front sway bar, wiring and engine installation. The New Jersey Speedster has gone to the painter and I will start assembly when it gets back.

The next project will be some metal work on the Shop Cabriolet so Miles and his Dad can start their restoration project. Miles will need a soft top for the Cab and has done a nation wide search. The average asking price for a Cabriolet top is over $2,000 and it may still need restoration. So if you have a spare Cabriolet top, make it part of your retirement plan.


We refer to our cars as ’55, ’59, ’64 etc. What am I going to refer to as my new truck I will get later this year? ” ’00, Zero-zero, or 2000″? Anybody have an idea?


Some 356 parts are going NLA: no longer available. I mentioned Cabriolet tops but A bumpers, Speedster door tops and upholstery beading are also NLA. This turns 356 restoration into a time consuming and expensive effort. While some parts go NLA for awhile, they use to come back on the market. Now I am seeing more parts disappear. I am backing off on selling some of my NLA parts as I will need them for future restorations.

However, I recently sold a fuel sender and made someone’s day. Fuel senders have a date stamp and out of my supply of seven I had one dated 11-57. This matched the date on the guy’s gas tank and made his 356 more original. There appears to be a lot of 356 owners who have restored their car and are now swapping out dated parts to get closer to originality. I get a lot of requests for dated wheels and also recently for dated hubcaps Not my cup of tea but I appreciate the enthusiasm of the hunt. In addition to dated parts many body parts were identified with the 356 serial number. Usually the last two or three digits of the serial number. Some of these numbers were stamped, some in chalk, some in crayon. One owner found thirty body parts with his 356 serial number. I have seen and taken pictures of the last three digits on body panels i.e. rear clip, quarter panels. These must have been done in crayon and the grease stained the metal.

There has been one ID mark that has baffled me for years. On some rear deck lids on the left side you will see one or two initials. This is mostly on A’s and some B’s. It first caught my eye when I saw JK, my initials. My guess is that this could be the initials of the fabricator. Does anyone have a better guess?

Also while it is a secret, I should share the secret number. On the right side door hinge post (behind the removable plate) you will find the complete serial number on B’s and C’s. I think Pre A’s and A’s have the secret number in the engine compartment but have not done an exhaustive search.


I recently ordered a dual master cylinder kit for Cal’s Speedster. The kit included a can of ATE Super Blue Racing brake fluid. I compared the specs on the can with my favorite brake fluid-Ford High Performance DOT 3 brake fluid. The Ford brake fluid has better specs. Its minimum dry boiling point is 550 degrees, the ATE is 536 degrees and the standard is 401 degrees. You should bleed your 356 brakes every year. Now is the time to do it (or have it done). It is a two person job unless you have a one person bleeding kit. I use the Eezibleed kit. It utilizes a spare tire with 20 psi. The tire forces air through a plastic bottle with brake fluid and into your master cylinder and through a special cap. Works great! Remember brake fluid can damage paint so be careful.