David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/6/14 1:53 p.m.

Go back a couple of decades, and Porsche only offered two things: sports cars and race cars. Any tinkering with their proven formula was cause for alarm.

One year that sounded that alarm is 1965. After more than a decade and a half of evolution, the 356— the basis of pretty much every street car to wear the Porsche badge since the firm’s creation—was finally on its way out.

Its replacement was something called the 911. While it still shared a handful of basics with the 356—like a rear-mounted, air-cooled engine, torsion bar springs and those floorhinged pedals—the 911 was new. The Volkswagen DNA that gave life to the 356 was replaced with new ideas. The 911’s silhouette was sleeker. The suspension replaced the Beetle’s basic layout with a more advanced affair.

And the big news was found out back: Six cylinders replaced four. Overhead camshafts negated the need for pushrods. The shift lever could select a fifth gear.

To appease the masses—or, at least, the diehard Porsche faithful— and also soften the blow that all that newfound technology added to the bottom line, Porsche performed a bit of a slow rollout. For the 1965 model year, buyers had freedom of choice: They could put down about $4500 for the final incarnation of the 356C or pony up $6500 for the brand-new 911.

Despite the price increase, the 911 was greeted with much praise. Road & Track’s initial review ended on a high note: “With its six-cylinder engine and with a solid, highquality construction, the 911 will always be a comparatively expensive car. But because the basic qualities are far above average, it undoubtedly rates in the top class among modern GT cars.”

One question remains, though: Which was the better purchase that year? Was the 911 worth the nearly 50-percent premium, or was the tried-and-true 356 the better deal? We may not have a time machine, but we found the next best thing: Jerry Peters. Jerry has an amazing Porsche collection, and two of the cars in his fleet just happen to come from 1965. Yes, he has both a 356 and 911 from that crossover year, and both are exceptional examples.

In fact, at last year’s Porsche Parade, the 911 was selected as the Judges’ Choice for the entire show. “Additionally,” he says, “the factory curator and the head of the factory restoration shop indicated the car must be in the museum, which I thought was a real honor.”

Supreme DNA

While the jump from the 356 to the 911 was radical at the time, the cars still share many traits. First off, both offer easy ingress and egress. Where getting into an E-type, Lotus Elan or Bugeye Sprite can involve some contortions, that’s not the case with these cars. Simply open the door and slide in—just like you would when entering a VW Beetle or any domestic sedan of that era.

The sense of openness continues once you’re inside. The rather upright driving positions and terrific greenhouses found in both models provide unobstructed views in nearly every direction.

The seats may not seem overly bolstered by today’s standards, but for the day, they were fairly sporty. Then there are the major controls. In both cases, the placement of the shifter, pedals and steering wheel can only be described with one adjective: perfect. Likewise, the gauges are big, round and legible.

Twist the key—it’s to the left of the steering wheel on both cars—and you’re greeted by that familiar air-cooled purr. It doesn’t emit the shriek of an Italian V12 or the roar of a domestic V8, but the horizontally opposed Porsche has its place in the enthusiast world. If we had to sum up this engine in a word, maybe it’s purposeful.

At low speeds, the cars share another trait: excellent, precise steering—something Porsche still excels at producing. At this point, it almost feels like you’re splitting hairs. Both cars are simply remarkable. However, if you go a little further and crack open the throttle, the differences start to pop up.

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PAF1
PAF1
1/7/14 6:17 p.m.

Good article, but you should have also added the Carrera version. two liter ohc vs two liter ohc.. I guess if you already like the 356 pushrod better it's moot, but it would have made for a more exciting comparison.

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