280,000 and Counting: This Porsche 356 Has Been Around a Few Blocks

Story by Devin Altieri

As a kid growing up in Southern California, my father had a 1957 Porsche 356. I didn’t know much about cars at the time, but even 7-year-old me knew that Ferry was a special car. So special, in fact, that he couldn’t be parked at home, that I couldn’t get in the car if there was even a grain of sand between my toes, and I shouldn’t even think about touching the headliner.

Ferry came with all sorts of rules and regulations that restricted my time in the car and, ultimately, limited my dad’s mileage behind the wheel.”

Devin Altieri
Motorsports journalist

If you ask Mark Pribanic, he’ll tell you that such delicate treatment of a 356 is wrong. “The best thing you can do with a car, and especially a Porsche, is to drive it and share it,” he explains. It’s a core philosophy that Mark holds about all of his cars, but especially his 1958 Porsche 356.

In 21 years of owning the Porsche, he’s put 280,000 miles on the odometer and driven it to 30 of the lower 48 states. The turquoise machine has traced America’s back roads and highways, seen farmland and big cities, and felt the sea air of the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Whether he’s cross-country touring or day-tripping to local Florida race tracks and car shows, Mark documents his adventures with this very vintage car using a very modern tool: Instagram.

Instagram has probably had the biggest influence on the vintage car culture for Porsche,” he asserts, and he’s got the firsthand experience to back it up. Thanks to nearly 11,000 followers, Mark (Instagram handle @mark.pribanic) and his car connect with an audience far larger than traditional methods could have reached. The account is followed by regular Porsche fans as well as marque legends like factory hotshoe Patrick Long and custom builder Magnus Walker, star of the 2012 documentary “Urban Outlaw.”

Instagram, Mark says, made him feel comfortable racking up the miles–not that it ever stopped him before. The car was his daily driver for the first four years he owned it.

Pre-Instagram, pre-‘Urban Outlaw’ with Magnus, everything was purist. Everything had to be the original color, had to be stock,” he says, adding that this attitude is changing. “Once ‘Urban Outlaw’ came out, it made it cool to modify your stuff.” The people who previously wanted original cars? “Now they wanted outlaws,” Mark adds.

It’s totally from Instagram, from ‘Urban Outlaw,’ from Petrolicious, from eGarage. Those companies that are posting these videos and those photographers have totally changed–and made it more acceptable and cool to do–that stuff.”

Travelin’

Mark credits the rise of personal, well-told stories for that shift in mentality toward vintage cars. And it makes sense. Sharing our histories through objects is a skill we’re taught from our earliest days. There’s a straight line from show-and-tell in preschool to Instagram today.

“It’s all about the story, whether it’s a car, a building, a person, that captures people’s interest,” Mark explains. “My green car can be parked next to a 356 that’s beautifully restored and worth two to three times as much as mine, but people come to my car.

“Because it has a story to tell.”

For Mark, sharing that story gives him a chance to build a history for his 356 that wasn’t there when he bought it. He purchased it in 1998 from a retired schoolteacher who had suffered a stroke. The seller could no longer shift the transmission and was forced to sell the car. He also couldn’t remember where the car was from, or what was original.

The nerf bars instead of bumpers and painted-over door handles led Mark to believe that the car was hotrodded in the 1970s. Aside from that, he received little information on its background–which meant it was up to Mark to give it one.

Like any good historian, he documents meticulously. He has upward of 3000 photographs on his Instagram account taken all across America. Another 60,000 reside on his phone. From surf trips and hunts for sea glass that matches the car’s paint to cross-country expeditions from his Florida home to California, every step of Mark’s journeys is shared.

But he doesn’t just use Instagram as a museum or to show off the cars he loves. It’s a community–a community built on a common love of Porsches and a common respect for everything people choose to do with their cars. From daily drivers to examples kept under lock and key, every vintage car you can imagine is right there at the tap of a screen.

“There’s very little trolling. There’s very little bickering. It’s a lot of, ‘Man, I love what you’re doing. Keep it up. Look forward to your next post.’

“A hashtag puts it in a silo. If you’re looking for a Porsche 356, you look that up just like you’d look up the Sebring 12 or the Rolex 24. You can instantaneously see that, and it could be Patrick Long posting something or it could just be somebody spectating at the event.

“I always hashtag where I’m from. I use my real name, not some fake name, so when people see my car, they know I’m Mark. I want it to be real.

“It’s shrunk the world. I’ve gotten to meet so many great people, from famous to normal people like me. Without it, I may not even know who they are.”

Rescue Me

That Instagram community came in handy on one of Mark’s California treks in 2015. He was road-tripping from Los Angeles to Monterey for the Rennsport Reunion as part of the Road to Rennsport Rally when his car ground to a halt in the Angeles National Forest and caught fire.

The flames were quickly extinguished, but Mark was still 2500 miles away from home with no cell signal and a car that wouldn’t start–an issue he later found was due to a broken valve spring. Thankfully, friends from the rally got him in touch with AAA, who towed the car to Benton Performance in Anaheim. John Benton was a friend of Mark’s from Instagram.

The two had never met in person before the 356 showed up at John’s doorstep, but it didn’t matter. They already knew each other and saw that they needed to get to work. Mark and John pulled an all-nighter, and the 356 was up in Monterey just 24 hours after leaving Los Angeles.

“Without Instagram, I never would have known John Benton, thus I never would have been able to tow my car to his shop. Without Instagram, I don’t know what I would have done, where I would have had it towed.

“I probably would have just had it towed to a U-Haul and put it on a trailer and put my tail between my legs and driven home.”

The New Look

Mark Pribanic’s Porsche 356 has become an Instagram star in its own right, even attracting celebrity fans like Jerry Seinfeld. The strong camaraderie of vintage car enthusiasts has moved outside of the parking lot and beyond the race track, with fans and friends sharing their lives on a new generation of technology.

In the intervening years, perhaps more enthusiasts have changed their opinions of car culture to more closely align with Mark’s. Nowadays, more are just enjoying the drive.

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Comments
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terracer
terracer New Reader
9/26/19 4:24 a.m.

German cars have a personality.... It's true!  People who buy autombiles as appliances could never understand it, but we car folk do..  The sad thing about these old Porsches is that their prices have gone through the roof - to the point where the average car guy could never afford one.  Sadly, the average car guy is one of the few people left who can really appreciate them (DRIVE THEM) for what they are..

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
9/27/19 1:32 p.m.

When I first got this draft from Devin, I replied to her: I feel so lame as my Porsche sits. 

TheUnscented
TheUnscented
1/21/20 7:39 p.m.

Snapped a pic of your 356 at the Rolex a couple of years back....now I know the rest of the story.

 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/6/20 9:41 a.m.

Mark's 356 is everywhere. 

cyncrvr
cyncrvr New Reader
3/21/20 3:05 p.m.

Pure awesomeness!!

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/24/20 7:32 p.m.

We ran into Mark and his 356 (not literally) on the way home from Amelia and were actually staged behind him on the ferry.  Like Elvis, Mark is everywhere. 

Gary
Gary UltraDork
3/24/20 7:40 p.m.

Beautiful car. Great character ( the car). I much prefer this look to an over-restored example.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/24/20 7:53 p.m.

True story: I had been stalking Mark for years. I think I first saw this car at Porsche Parade in Savannah years ago. A few years later, we finally met--and I was like, Hey, we need to tell your story.

Devin did a great job on the story, taking a different angle than I ever imagined. She's a pro. If anything, it made me feel guilty for letting mine sit more than it should. Kevin's photography also came off stellar. 

And a funny P.S.: Kevin, manager of our ad department, was Mark's frat brother. We didn't know that until Kevin saw a proof of the story. 

Mark's easy to find any any Southeast gathering of cool people. 

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