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  Porsche 356 B Abarth GTL

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Country of origin:Germany
Produced from:1960 - 1961
Numbers built:21
Internal name:356
Designed by:Franco Scaglione for Abarth
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:March 14, 2008
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Click here to download printer friendly versionThe first attempt to mount the prototype body panels to the chassis was nothing short of a disaster; they simply did not fit. Extensive hammering finally forced the panels into the right shape and first car could be completed. It did not get any easier for Abarth as after building three bodies and receiving part of the payment Motto went off on an unplanned 'holiday'. The construction of the remainder of the panels was entrusted to the little known Viarengo & Filipponi. Due to all the problems with the production, Abarth failed to meet his March 1961 deadline. To add insult to injury, Porsche were very disappointed in the quality of the prototype, which leaked through almost every window sill. It was also very tight inside, even for Italian standards.

What really mattered was how the Abarth Porsche performed on the racing track. As requested the Italian 356B was lighter and created less drag than its German equivalent. The new racing car was officially labeled the 356B GTL for 'leicht', or 'light'. The prototype car debuted during the 1961 Targa Florio and immediately scored a class victory. It was the start of a highly successful racing car, which saw the Abarth Porsche dominate its class for several years. At the next World Championship round, the important Nürburgring 1000 km race, the 356B GTL scored a clean sweep in its class. The Abarth Porsche would go on to win its class in the Targa Florio a further three times and at Le Mans for three years running. In later years, the cars were also fitted with larger, two-litre engines.

Despite the Porsche Abarth's track success and quality upgrades, Porsche remained unhappy and cancelled the contract after the first twenty cars were built. Even though the cooperation between Abarth and Porsche had ended, the works team continued to rack up with the racing cars of 'inferior quality.' Attempts to build lightweight and low drag bodies in Germany all failed and it was not until Porsche launched the altogether more advanced mid-engined Carrera GTS or 904 that the performance of the Abarth Porsche was matched. For Porsche the deal with Abarth turned out to be quite a success, but Abarth himself must have looked back on the whole ordeal with regret. He actually planned to expand his Abarth range with Porsche engined models beyond the 356B project, but after Porsche severed the ties, those plans could be shelved as well.

There have been conflicting reports about how many examples were constructed before Porsche pulled the plug. Today it is commonly believed that a total of 21 shells were constructed and that one of these was used to repair a crashed car.

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  Article Image gallery (78) 1010 Specifications