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Coachwork by Reutter
A World Auction Record for a 1955 Porsche 356 Speedster
Numbered 81039, this 1955 Porsche 356 Speedster is an original and early 1600 Super example, which was imported to Guatemala via Max Hoffman and purchased new by Roberto Reyes from Caribe Motors in Guatemala City. Mr. Reyes campaigned it from 1956 through 1961, winning seven of the 12 known races it entered. According to an interview conducted by the consignor with Mr. Reyes prior to his recent passing, he loaned the Speedster to Pedro Rodríguez to drive at the third annual Santa Ana races on April 20, 1958. Held from 1956 through 1959 on the streets of San Salvador, the popular event was run in support of the local Red Cross, drawing some 100,000 spectators. Since Rodríguez was about to make his Le Mans debut with Luigi Chinetti’s NART team just a few weeks later, he was without a racing car of his own, so Mr. Reyes provided his Speedster for Pedro to drive, out of respect for the fast-rising 18-year-old star. Wearing racing number 17, the Speedster was wheeled by Pedro Rodríguez to victory in the 1,300 cc–1,600 cc class and 4th Place overall.
Film footage wonderfully documents the Speedster’s 1950s racing career, showing both Mr. Reyes and Rodríguez in action driving against many of the era’s top sports cars. Following the April 1958 Santa Ana win, Mr. Reyes continued to race his Speedster through 1961 and retained it until approximately 1971. As was a common occurrence with racing Porsches in the period, this car had its engine case replaced at some point, likely due to a mechanical issue. The all-important third section of the engine, with the factory number stamping on it, remains original to the car. The next owner, Ira Lewis, who divided his time between Guatemala and the US, had the Speedster restored during the late 1980s or early 1990s and then imported it to North Carolina during the early 2000s.
The consignor acquired the Speedster in 2008, researched its history, and commissioned a sympathetic restoration with most of the work performed by Bill Gerwig of Greenville, South Carolina. Correct trim and scripts were fitted, the brightwork was restored, and the windshield frame was corrected before the car was repainted. Re-covered original Speedster bucket seats were installed, plus correct new carpeting and a new folding top using the original frame. The engine was rebuilt by Ken Daugherty and the transmission was rebuilt by Vic Skirmants. Norcross, Georgia’s Pat Collins handled final assembly and detailing, plus restoration of the brakes and suspension. North Hollywood Speedometer restored the VDO voltmeter and oil-pressure gauges which were installed by Mr. Reyes. Rally clocks and a Halda Speedpilot rally computer were fitted for a period-correct appearance.
Following completion in 2009, the Speedster has earned nine separate awards across the US, both at significant Porsche events and several concours, including a first in the Porsche Class at the Pinehurst Concours d’Elegance. Predictably, the Speedster has been the subject of many high-profile magazine features, including coverage in El Salvador’s Speed magazine and El Diario de Hoy newspaper.
Listed in the Scuderia Rodríguez Registry and featured in numerous books, including Carlos Eduardo Jalife-Villalón’s The Brothers Rodríguez, the Speedster was also photographed by famed motor sports photographer Jesse Alexander in 2010. Engaging in its period racing livery and presentation, it is fully and expertly sorted and reported by the consignor to deliver an unforgettable driving experience. Complete with a copy of its Kardex, a Porsche Certificate of Authenticity, and four binders containing historical information, restoration receipts, and detailed technical specifications of the engine rebuild, this Speedster is further accompanied by racing and show trophies, a period-style suitcase, and a partial tool kit. An excellent example of one of the most effective dual-purpose sports cars of the postwar era, this Speedster also marks a wonderful touchstone to the early career of racing legend Pedro Rodríguez.