The Porsche Continental History
The Porsche Continental was the brainchild of Max Hoffman, the sole Porsche importer in the United States when the 1955 model year cars were rolled out in 1954. Hoffman thought that giving the cars the Continental designation would give them a European image that would attract sales. Many theories have abounded about the Continentals with some saying that they were just the basic Porsche models and others saying they were top of the line. Neither is true as there are examples of Continentals that have no options and others that are well optioned and equipped with Super motors.
After production started, Ford notified Porsche that it had the rights to the name Continental as they were planning to use the name in 1956 after a lull in its use since 1948. Though it is doubtful that Ford had the exclusive rights to the name (Rolls-Royce and Bentley had used the name prior to Ford’s use), Porsche chose not to get in a fight and changed the name after one year. Interestingly, Porsche would again fold under similar pressure when they introduced the 901 and changed the designation to 911 after protests from Peugeot.
It is not known how many of the 1955 model year cars were actually badged as Continentals by the Factory. Generally speaking, all of the Continentals were either delivered thru Hoffman or ordered thru him and delivered elsewhere (Seven are known to fall in this category). Hoffman imported over 500 coupes and cabriolets for the 1955 model year. Whether all were Continentals is not known. Factory Kardex records denoting Continentals did not start until mid 1955, well after the first known Continentals were delivered. Approximately half of the 500 cars imported by Hoffman had the Continental designation noted on the Kardex. As a rule of thumb, if a car does not have Continental noted on its Kardex and was not badged by Hoffman or the delivering dealer at the car's initial delivery, it is not a Continental. We do know that some cars currently believed to be Continentals were badged by owners after delivery in the US. Porsche had an oversupply of the Continental badges and pushed them out on the dealers. The late John Thomas, one of the best known Porsche parts men in the early days recounts how he had bins of the Continental badges that he sold for $3.00 apiece back in the early 1960s. One might infer from this large oversupply that Porsche planned to make the Continental more than a one year model. Continentals were not stripped down models, although the large majority were delivered with 546/2 1500 Normal motors. They were delivered with the full range of options available thru Porsche.
The Continental was succeeded by the European designation for the early 1956 model year cars. There are reports that Porsche had produced the early 1956 model year cars with badge holes for the Continental script already punched in the fenders and that the European badges were installed on cars upon arrival in the US to fill the holes. It is possible that after the supply of fenders with the holes punched were used up, the European script was discontinued. This seems to be supported by the fact that the European script was only used in early 1956 and not for a full model year and that there was not a large supply of European badges pushed out to the dealers as had been done with the Continentals.