Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Reutter
Formerly the Property of Don Dickey and Roger Craig
The 356 Carrera, introduced at the 1955 Frankfurt Auto Show, represented a turning point in the development of the dual-purpose Porsche. Intended for well-heeled sportsmen, the Carrera bridged the gap between Porsche’s production 356 models and the thoroughbred Spyder sports racing cars. Equipped with the exotic Fuhrmann four-cam engine, the well-appointed 1500 GS was a comfortable, elegant, and exclusive road car capable of winning its class at any international sporting event.
There is perhaps no finer example of the magnificent Carrera 1500 GS than the car presented here. Constructed in January 1956, 55485 was among the first 1500 GS Carreras exported to the US. Delivered through Hoffman Motors of New York City, the Porsche was sent to Transport Motor Company in Oakland, California. Soon after its arrival on the West Coast, the silver Carrera was sold to its first owner, Don Dickey, a local sports car enthusiast who had been racing Porsche 356s in SCCA events since 1953.
On April 22, 1956, Dickey entered his new Carrera in the 7th Annual Pebble Beach Road Races, the most prestigious sports car event on the West Coast. In the Under 1,500 cc Production race, Dickey’s Porsche finished 3rd, trailing Dale Johnson’s Carrera Speedster and Skip Hudson’s 1500 Speedster.
Following its debut at Pebble Beach, the Carrera took part in the Santa Rosa Rose Festival Sports Car Races held on May 20. In an impressive showing, Dickey drove the Carrera to 5th overall and 1st in Class. From there, the 1500 GS was campaigned at Buchanan Field, finishing 8th overall and 4th in Class, and the Holberg Hill Climb, where it won its class.
The next event for the Carrera took place on August 19th, at the Redwood Empire Sports Car Races at Arcata Airport – a race that counted toward the SCCA West Coast Championship. Here Dickey made another strong showing, placing 6th overall and 5th in Class in the competitive small-displacement modified heat and finishing 3rd overall and 1st in Class during the E- and F-Production race. On September 9th, Dickey entered the Carrera in the Sacramento Sports Car Races, achieving a 3rd place overall and 1st in Class.
In November 1956, at the SCCA Nationals in Palm Springs, Dickey raced the Carrera Coupe for the last time. In the 15-lap D–F Production race, he drove the Porsche to a remarkable 3rd overall and 1st in Class result, beaten only by Bob Oker’s Ace Bristol and Elliott Forbes-Robinson’s Austin-Healey 100 M. At the end of the 1956 season, Dickey traded the 1500 GS toward a new Carrera Speedster, and the Carrera Coupe ended up at Howard Auto Sales in San Jose, California.
In August 1957, a young sports car enthusiast named Roger Craig spotted the silver Porsche on the Howard Auto Sales lot. At the time, he owned a Pushrod Speedster and had yearned for a Carrera Coupe since he first saw a four-cam in BMC’s San Francisco showroom in 1955. In 2009, Mr. Craig recalled the impression left by that formative encounter.
“The motor looked so lovely. It matched the car; it was all rounded and smooth, not all squarish like my pushrod engine, and it sounded so nice. And when they shut it off, it stopped abruptly and little wisps of what looked like unburned gas floated out of the exhaust. I nearly fainted.” After striking up a conversation with the salesman at Howard Auto Sales, he went for a test drive. According to Mr. Craig, “I don’t know what happened. It all fogged over and the next thing I knew, I was driving it home.”
Soon after acquiring the Carrera, Mr. Craig was introduced to Norbert Nieslony, a factory-trained Porsche technician who had been sent to the US to evaluate warranty problems, particularly with the complex four-cam cars. Through Mr. Nieslony, Mr. Craig met Harry Weber, Don Dickey’s race mechanic. It wasn’t until this chance meeting that Mr. Craig learned that his newly acquired Carrera was the same car he had seen racing at Pebble Beach in 1956.
In November 1957, the 24,000-mile Carrera developed the dreaded ticking noise indicative of a bad rod bearing. Mr. Craig immediately took the car to Mr. Nieslony, who undertook a five-month engine rebuild that included fitting a new Hirth roller-bearing crankshaft that had been specially polished for use in a Spyder. At this time, Mr. Nieslony also installed a VDO oil-pressure gauge, which required moving the electric fuel pump switch.
During the lengthy rebuild process, the Carrera was stored under a plastic cover, which damaged the paint. Before returning the car to Mr. Craig, Howard Auto Sales refinished the affected areas in the original color, installed new Lodge platinum spark plugs, and fitted a set of new Michelin X radial tires.
For the next several years, Mr. Craig enjoyed the Carrera and maintained the car as his daily driver. “It was quite powerful and loved to go fast,” Mr. Craig recalled. “It wasn’t content cruising calmly at highway speeds of 55 or 60: 55 was too fast to drive comfortably in second, and third was a bit sluggish. Fourth was out of the question. Roads with curves were its place, however. There you could keep adequate power and RPM going to feel that the car was exercising properly.”
Occasionally, Mr. Craig drove the Porsche to Las Vegas, and on the way, he would open it up to see what it could do. “The fastest I went was about 115 MPH,” Mr. Craig recalled, “I chickened out at that speed.”
In September 1959, the second crankshaft failed – the result of an undersized roller. At this time, Mr. Craig enlisted Dave Frazeur to perform an engine rebuild, a process that sidelined the car until September 1960. Soon after, Mr. Craig retired the 40,000-mile Carrera to the garage when he determined that “the cost to run a former race car as my only car was a bit excessive.”
For almost 40 years, the Carrera sat unused. During this period Mr. Craig worked as an aerospace engineer for NASA at the Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California. He was the quintessential old-school Porsche owner – a rocket scientist with a four-cam sitting in the garage.
After retiring in 1999, Mr. Craig once again turned his attention to the Carrera and decided to revive his old car to use for weekend outings and the occasional car show. After almost a decade of meticulous work and preparation, the Carrera was up and running for the first time since 1960.
In 2009, Mr. Craig was invited to take part in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and display his Carrera in the Postwar Preservation Class. Fifty-three years after its debut race in the Del Monte Forest, the Porsche was displayed on the 18th fairway and took home a class award amidst stiff competition.
In January 2012, Mr. Craig finally made the decision to part with his beloved Carrera. Believing that the car should remain in California, it was sold to a Bay Area collector with a passion for the finest unrestored cars.
During his ownership, a fascinating discovery was made: soon after Dickey sold the Carrera, it was updated with “teardrop” taillights, mistakenly installed upside down. In an effort to return the car to its original, as-raced appearance, proper “beehive” taillights were reinstalled. Thankfully, this was done in such a way that the repair is left visible, serving as tangible evidence of the car’s history.
Currently owned by a respected Swiss collector, the Porsche remains in exceptional, unrestored condition in every respect. Presented in its 1956 racing livery (Dickey always raced the car as number 20), the Carrera has a light, consistent patina of age and is complete with its matching-numbers engine, gearbox, and body panels intact. From its beautifully maintained original interior to its elegant Marchal headlamps – installed by Hoffman Motors in 1956 – this car’s features speak to decades of responsible stewardship by knowledgeable caretakers.
Not only is this Carrera presented in wonder fully original condi t ion, i t is accompanied by a wealth of impor tant documentation. Included with the sale is a selection of archival photographs, an original Porsche leather key fob, period race programs, various Carrera-specific workshop manuals and Porsche literature, the original purchase agreement from Howard Auto Sales, and receipts for the engine work performed in 1957.
Appreciated and coveted by Porsche enthusiasts the world over, this 1500 GS is, without a doubt, one of the most charismatic four-cam 356s in existence. With a rich history, exceptional provenance, and a genuine competition record, this Carrera is one of the most impressive unrestored sports cars that Gooding & Company has ever had the pleasure to offer.
Having resided in the care of just three owners since 1957, the appearance of this Porsche at auction may well be the chance of a lifetime. For the next caretaker, this opportunity ought to hold the same promise and excitement as the moment that Roger Craig first laid eyes on this lovely Carrera Coupe.