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Five Decades of the Porsche 356

Jeff Herbert is an interesting guy. Art Center-educated in Industrial Design, he never was, nor intended to be a car designer—yet likely could have been. As a capable product designer, photographer, fine artist, and committed car enthusiast, he spent countless weekends at the sports car races, growing up around great Porsches and other cars.

License plates from different US states arranged on road

The pursuit of an education at the Art Center brought him to California from his native Florida, after which followed many pages of his life: jobs, a marriage, homes, the birth of his son, a divorce, different jobs and homes, a return to Florida to support aging parents, and retirement.

A little red 356 1600 Normal Coupe has been with him through it all.

How the Herbert Family Acquired Their Porsche 356

Jeff tells his story eloquently: “as we were a family very familiar with sports cars and sports car racing, I knew what a Porsche looked and sounded like. So, one day, when a red one came around the corner and down my street, it immediately caught my attention. And as I stared at the car going by, I noticed it was my father driving and he was waving back at me.

Bill of sale for Jeff Herbert's Porsche 356 1600 Normal Coupe

”Who knew that this car being purchased on that 28th day in November of 1966 for $2,200 would be with me for the next 55 plus years?”, he muses. “This is where our ownership of Porsche 356B Coupe, VIN 118340 began.”

“It turns out that Dad had seen the car on the way home from work one day at a used car lot for sports cars,” Jeff continues. “He had stopped and looked closely at the car and then came home to have a conversation with Mom about it.”

“Dad had admitted that he “had been bitten by the sports car bug (again)” and just had to have it,” remembers Jeff. “The used car salesman’s name? Will Cheatham, of course, pronounced ‘Cheat ‘em.’ Great.”

Back view of Jeff Herbert's 1962 Porsche 356B T6 Coupe

“Our special Porsche,” says Jeff, “is a 1962 356B T6 Coupe, ruby red with gray and black interior. It had the Normal spec 60 horse 1600cc engine, including Zenith carburetors, the popular and commonly purchased model of the time. We were the second owner of this car that was originally bought new at the A.J. Pearson dealership in nearby Orlando, with the port of entry for the car believed to be Miami.”

“This Porsche was the third to be owned in our family,” he says, “the first 356 being a black 1954 Cabriolet (which was totaled in a car crash in Ohio) and the second one a ’55 red Speedster. Those cars were long gone by ’66, as Dad had purchased roomier, more practical cars for a family that included three kids and a large dog.”

Jeff continues. “A few months after its purchase, Dad noticed that the carpets in the car were looking tattered and worn. My father was no stranger to tackling home improvements that ranged from laying linoleum floors to knocking out entire walls, so reupholstering the little Porsche would be easy.”

“Mom was pressed into service on the sewing machine and the red upholstery that included a foam backing, which would be cut from the patterns that were taken from the car.” At this writing, 90% of the upholstery is still there—somewhat faded, but still intact.

“While at the local shopping mall,” Jeff finishes, “we were walking back out to our car when we noticed another Porsche driving by. When we got to the car, Dad immediately noticed that the tachometer was missing. We put two and two together and figured out it must have been that guy driving by earlier.”

But Jeff and his father found a way to solve the problem. “A used tachometer was installed,” he says, “which was from a Super 90 with a 5,500 RPM redline, as opposed to our base 60’s 4,500—this would come in handy for me much later. When I turned 16 in 1967, I learned how to stick shift on the Porsche. My actual driver’s license was earned at the wheel of the family car, a four door with automatic transmission.”

Ferrari 512 on track at Daytona with Jeff Herbert's Porsche 356 visible in background

The Herbert Family’s Adventures with the Porsche 356

Herbert and his father often participated as corner workers/flag martials at local SCCA races, as well as at the 12 Hours of Sebring (for more than a decade) and nearly always took the Porsche to the races; at least one photo from Daytona of a factory Ferrari 512 shows the infield in the background, with the little red 356 clearly visible just at the left side of the shot (pictured above).

Decals showing Jeff Herbert's Porsche 356 having participated in various races

Damaged window of Jeff Herbert's Porsche 356 after break-in attempt

Over time, the car suffered some invasive rust damage and other issues, but was never substantially damaged by accident or theft. But ironically, Jeff at one point installed a silent, pager-monitored alarm system on the car, and on the same day he did so, someone broke in and was in the process of hot-wiring the ignition when the frantic owner confronted him. Police arrived, game over.

Another theft issue occurred when the car was parked in an underground parking structure overnight. Jeff came out to discover that anything that could be unscrewed, or popped off with a screwdriver was gone: headlights, taillights, reflectors, hubcaps, and such.

There was another unfortunate event that involved a confrontation between the Porsche’s passenger side window and a pellet gun, which shattered the glass.

Herbert the younger worked diligently to keep the car as close to its original condition as possible. But the reason for some of the rust is a more whimsical story, as Jeff recalls:

“Remember, back then you could drive a car on certain beaches,” he says, “so we did. That car collected lots of sand from the salty iconic beaches at Pismo and Daytona.”  Damaging, but certainly a more pleasant memory than some of the others.

Young Jeff Herbert standing next to his Porsche 356

Recent Events for Jeff Herbert’s Porsche 356

By the time Jeff made the firm decision to relocate to Florida in anticipation of his own retirement and to assist his elder parents, the Porsche was still complete and intact—yet no longer a reliable runner; the clutch had seized, and there were fuel system problems. So it was packed and shipped to his soon to be new home near Tampa Bay.

It bothered Jeff that the 356 was no longer up to the weekend jaunts he so enjoyed, and he decided that a deep servicing and mechanical semi-recommissioning was in order. He worked with a couple of local mechanics to get the car running and better sorted; the clutch was freed and repaired, and when dealing with leakage of the under dash fuel petcock valves, and the replacement of the fuel tank, he decided to attack the somewhat needy front bumper, which had a major dent removed.

Meanwhile, the brackets and mounting hardware were all refreshed. He cites this as the beginning of his “$2.95 restoration” or “elegant band-aiding,” as he likes to call it.

While crawling around under the Porsche, Jeff knew that sooner or later he needed to deal with the rust issue that would eventually eat away too much of the car. Serious bubbles had manifested themselves just above the front headlights. He was concerned about what—besides the copious bi-coastal sand—was hidden below the original undercoating and began tackling the fenderwells with wire brush heads at the end of his electric drill.

Of course it began at one corner of the right front fender well, and before long, he’d stripped most of the underside of the car. His next step was to grind away as much rust as he could get to and refinish the bottom of the car with rust-proofing chassis paint.

The fender bubbles got much the same treatment as the headlights and buckets were removed for cleaning and freshening. Next, the paint and rust were ground smooth and filled with as little Bondo as he could get away with.

Jeff’s next task was masking off the nose of the car and painting it with a red oxide primer material that did a credible job of mimicking the patinated, somewhat satiny-looking red paint on the rest of the car. The line between the two is visible, but it looks mostly all of a piece, and will hopefully mitigate further spread of the dreaded tinworm.

This was also a good time to paint a race number gumball on the hood, christening the car #22—a number which has a variety of meaningful connections to Jeff Herbert’s life. The car now runs and drives nicely and is a frequent flyer at nearby Cars‘NCoffee meets, as well as a participant in a variety of gatherings at a local “retired guy 356 group” that Jeff “hangs with.”

Jeff Herbert’s Future Plans for the Porsche 356

Jeff’s long game goal has always been to give his family’s Porsche the proper from-the-tires-up restoration it really deserves, yet he’s realistic that this will cost many tens of thousands of dollars to accomplish, and such a project isn’t in his near or long term financial window.

Whether or not to keep the car and enjoy it as it is is something Jeff has lost sleep and anguished over, further noting that a house move is also in his near term future. So rather than borrow money to deal with all of that, or to restore the car to the highest levels, he’s decided it’s time to move the car along to its next custodian.

As of this writing, the Porsche has had a weeklong auction run on Bring-A-Trailer, yet failed to meet the seller’s reserve. Jeff is in contact with at least one of the interested buyers in the hopes that negotiations can be reopened. Beyond that, he’s contemplating his marketing plan if nothing comes together.

This thoughtful owner is cognisant of the pending loss of his lifelong little friend, yet is ultimately comfortable with the decision, feeling that it will lead to the car enjoying the better and longer life it deserves. That’s the mark of a man who truly loves his Porsche.

Close up of hood ornament on Jeff Herbert's Porsche 356

After a nearly six-decade-long relationship with Little Ruby Red #22, will Jeff regret passing the car on to its next enthusiastic owner? He doesn’t believe he will. Will he miss this charming little car that’s been a cornerstone of his life story for so long? Without question.