It may seem unwise to test a valuable classic car like this immaculate Porsche 356 at a motorsport venue, but I have three good reasons. First, since this is not a public road, I won’t have to dodge wayward lorries, buses or pedestrians. Second, only one car at a time can be on the Bo’ness hillclimb course, so the only driver I have to worry about is me. Third, I am just doing two demo runs. They won’t be timed, so I have no incentive to push hard.
Although it has a 1963 registration, this 356 was actually built in April 1960. Porsche’s UK arm owned it for several years but gifted it in 2012 to the Porsche Club of Great Britain. The body, paintwork, interior, engine, gearbox and suspension were then restored to such a high standard it’s almost impossible to believe the car is nearly 60 years old. It feels absolutely brand new. I’m told it has been insured for £150,000, and can easily believe it.
The 1.6-litre engine, which sounds very like one you’d find in a classic Volkswagen Beetle, produces a modest 75bhp and is redlined at just 4500rpm. Performance isn’t exactly overwhelming but the car is immediately fun to drive, though you do have to allow for the fact that it’s very tail-heavy, just like a 911. The biggest problem is that you have to lean forward to release the umbrella-style handbrake. This makes it tricky to get away from a standing start without making the world around you smell of burning clutch.
Admiring spectators crowd round the 356 in the Bo’ness paddock. They love looking at the car, but not as much as I love driving it. My total track time is less than two minutes, which doesn’t feel like nearly enough. I realise, though, that I’m now starting to wish Porsche had fitted better brakes, so it’s probably just as well that my brief adventure has come to an end.