Okrasa? Judson? Denzel? Late model VW? Type IV VW? Porsche 356?

I've considered them all, bought a few, and have finally decided on a Porsche 356A mill to power this little beastie. Here's a post of an edited reply I made to someone on the Shoptalk Forums when he asked "why the Porsche engine?"


Yes, I am trying to keep the mods period correct and only use parts from 1960 or earlier (it's a 1960 Ghia). I want to end up with a mildly hot-rodded car I can drive regularly, that is built like it might have been when it was new. Because the car is getting tired, I'd like to end up with a car that looks like it WAS built in 1960 and has only been maintained since... the full on restoration can come later when I have more workspace.

I'm no expert on things 356, and there were a lot of engines available over it's lifespan, so I'll comment only on the 1955-1959 356 "A" models. There are advantages to using a later engine from a 356 B or C, after all Porsche did continue to develop this engine, but for my purposes the "A" series engine should work just fine.

What we're looking at for a 356 conversion is likely either a 1600N (normal) or 1600S (super). These are the spiritual cousins to the 36hp VW engine, with a similar design due to the fact they were developed from the VW engine. (I suppose I could also include the 102hp Super-90 engine as it was introduced in 1960, but that would complicate things and it was also more expensive. For that and other reasons I'll leave that engine to the 356 crowd)

Anyway, the 1600N is what you are most likely to find when you start looking for a 356 engine. It's rated at 70hp (SAE) @4500rpm, which doesn't sound like much until you compare it to the 36hp rating of the stock VW. The 1600S is rated at 88hp (SAE) @5000 rpm. I've already forgotten where the extra power comes from... compression ratio and cam are different, but I believe they use the same valves so I'm not sure if the heads are any different between the two...

So why a stock 1600N? From people I've talked to, a nice running Okrasa engine can reach this level of power, but it won't have the same powerband as the stock Porsche engine. In comparing it to the Okrasa engine I was planning on building (using a bunch of 356 parts) I came to the conclusion that rebuilding the 356 will likely be less expensive, the development will already have been done at the factory, and none of the parts will be custom, so future repairs should be easier. There is also a wealth of tech info and experience out there on 356 engines, and much less on Okrasa stuff. Basically the 356 engine starts out at power levels that I'd hope to attain with a highly modified VW engine. What I'd really be trying to do is build a 356 out of a VW engine, which is exactly what Porsche had already done, so why not take advantage of their work?


For more information on putting a Porsche engine into a Ghia, go to Ryan Holmboe's site.

Harry Pellow also has a chapter on installing a 356 engine into a VW in his book "Secrets of the Inner Circle". And there's a section on the interchangability of parts between Porsche and VW. Interesting reading for some of us.

Porsche 356 Engine Teardown