The late Porsche Guru Dean Batchelor recorded that the Carrera engine originated in 1952: “Ferry Porsche and his team of engineers had wondered what the potential of the air-cooled four-cylinder boxer engine might be, and Dr. (later Prof.) Ernst Fuhrmann was told to find out. A figure of 70 horsepower per litre was mentioned and Fuhrmann’s calculations indicated it was possible — with four camshafts instead of the single camshaft and pushrod/rocker-arm valve actuation.
The Fuhrmann design followed the basic configuration of the standard Porsche engine but differed in almost every detail. It had four camshafts -two per side, called double overhead or dohc , twin ignition, dual twin-choke Solex carburetors, dry-sump lubrication, and roller bearings on both mains and rods.
Fuhrmann’s new design was tested on a wet Thursday morning in 1953. It was a happy day for several reasons: It was three years to the day after the first Stuttgart-built Porsche…and the new 1,498-cc engine produced 112 hp at 6,400 rpm on the first test…74 hp per liter.
The four-cam was developed mainly for the racing Type 550 Spyder, but in March 1954, a developmental unit “was installed in Ferry Porsche’s personal car, Ferdinand, to evaluate the engine/chassis combination…” A year later, a similar engine was tried in another of Ferry’s cars, a grey cabriolet. The enthusiasm of Porsche personnel was unanimous, but only Fuhrmann had seen the possibilities early on.
This formed the foundation of the now immortal Porsche Carreras, the ultimate 356. Introduced with the A-Series in late 1955, it combined a supremely capable basic design with an advanced engine developed expressly for racing. The result was a true “giant killer” that achieved through elegant, efficient engineering what rivals could manage only through sheer bulk.
The model name honoured the Carrera Panamericana, the famed Mexican Road Race where Type 550s had distinguished themselves in 1953-54. The first road going Carrera was internally designated 1500GS, the letters signifying “Grand Sport.” Normal 356s already had plenty of that; the Carrera simply delivered more.
Differences between the production four-cam engine (officially 547/1) and its competition counterpart were few, one of which being the twin distributor drives being placed at the opposite ends of the intake cams for easier access. On its ‘55 Frankfurt debut, the Carrera packed a rated 100 DIN horsepower European at 6,200 rpm (versus 110 horsepower for the racing version). The engine was such an easy-revver though that it could be routinely taken to 7,000-7,500 rpm without any harm.
Though the 356 chassis could handle this extra power without major change, Porsche took its typically thorough approach and gave the Carrera wider tyres, an 8,000-rpm tachometer, and a 180-mph speedometer. External clues were limited to discreet gold name script on front wheel arches and engine lid. This subtly made this perhaps the greatest “Q-car” par excellence.
Again as per Porsche practice, the four cam was sold in all three body styles, Speedster included. Fuhrmann accurately described the Carrera as “a detuned version of the Spyder, providing extra performance for high speed, Gran Turismo competition, with more power than the pushrod engine could produce.”
Road & Track noted that “the Carreras appear to be coming through with about 1° of negative camber at the rear wheels, with no load. This and the larger 5.90-inch section road-racing tires give as close to neutral steering as is conceivable. With the tremendous power available, a burst of throttle in a corner (in the correct gear) will give oversteer, just as it does with any machine of comparable power-to-weight ratio [18.5 lbs/horsepower for the test coupe]. High-speed stability at over 100 mph in a cross wind still leaves something to be desired in our opinion, but this applies to almost any well-streamlined coupe with a preponderance of weight on the rear wheels.
In any event, the steering is accurate and quick and requires only common sense and alert attention at over the magic century mark.”
“Without a doubt, this was one of the most interesting cars we have ever tested,” said R&T. “
But automotive excitement is rarely cheap, and the Carrera delivered in the U.S. for a minimum $5,995. On the other hand, R&T stated, “the price doesn’t seem quite so steep” considering the Carrera’s performance, its “fool-proof, if not ultra-rapid” gearbox and “tremendously powerful” brakes.
The wonderful 1956 Carrera GS on offer today is finished in the most elegant and original colour code of 535 Silver Metallic over Dark Blue Rexine Leatherette, leaving the Reutter coachworks on the 20th April 1956.
The car then formed part of the well known Rene Mauries collection, where it remained and was maintained for over 20 years. The car was exported from France in 2001 and was purchased by Sig. Vincenzo di Leo, who imported the car to Italy. In 2002, Sig Enrico Consoli of Brescia bought the car to add it to his collection. During his ownership he sympathetically restored the car to its excellent present condition. The car has been issued with a FIVA Identity Passport and has been used in several European Rallies. In 2014, the last owner, a Porsche enthusiast, purchased the car in exchange for his 911 2.7 RS Touring.
A glance into the interior will draw attention from most astute members of the Porsche cognoscenti, being highly original and beautifully preserved it still presents in excellent overall condition. It is fitted with the original Rexine interior, the wonderful original door cards, and correct dashboard knobs.
Mechanically and most importantly the GS correct type 547/1 engine *P90702 is in excellent condition. The engine was the subject of a recent serviced by marque specialists in Italy, and the car runs and drives very well indeed.
Offered with Italian road paperwork, and with its FIVA identity card, this excellent Carrera GS is eligible for all the world’s most prestigious historic motorsport events, including the Goodwood Revival, Tour Auto, Historic Le Mans and many more, and would surely attract an invite to any of the prestigious worldwide Conours d’elegance. Not to be confused with lesser, over restored cars currently available on the market, this example still retains sought-after original features so rarely seen on any 356.
An opportunity to join a very elite club of owners of the legendary 4 cam 356 Carrera.