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Coachwork by Reutter
*Please note that this car is accompanied by its original Porsche Service Book, as well as an original Porsche Type 356 Speedster Driver’s Manual and Porsche Carrera 1500 GS Supplement.
When the venerable four-cam racing motor was fitted to the road-going 356 it was appropriately named “Carrera.” While the four-cam motors themselves have become legendary, the Carrera moniker came to stand for the ultimate derivation of race-bred mechanicals mated to a production Porsche, a tradition that continues today.
In the mid- to late 1950s, however, the Carrera was perhaps at its greatest. The remarkably versatile and tractable 356 was so fantastically enhanced by the fitting of the four-cam motor that the 1500 GS/GT remains one of the ultimate Porsches of all time. The four-cam was a finely crafted and tuned racing engine that produced a significant jump in horsepower over its pushrod counterparts. Many Carreras saw use in racing when new, and although they were popular, production remained low throughout the entire 356 model run.
Additionally, in fashion in the US was Max Hoffman’s brainchild, the Speedster. Also favored for racing use, the Speedster was an ideal sports car for the American public. The car was simple, reliable, good looking, and extremely fun to drive. Perhaps it’s obvious, but the resulting Carrera Speedster was a perfect Porsche.
Believed to be the 8th Carrera Speedster built, 81072 was completed on December 29, 1955, and shipped to the US market, as intended. The Carrera Speedster was delivered through Max Hoffman to the Houston, Texas dealer, Norman Scott.
The Carrera Speedster was fittingly finished in white with red trim, and as an early, Pre-A model, it featured many of the most desired options on a Speedster, including the “beehive” taillights, the small aluminum and glass indicator lamps on the dash, and the incredibly cool push-button starter. Given the Carrera specification, it was further equipped with a “540GS” gearbox featuring B-B-A-B gears, an oil tank, dual ignition switches on the dash, and, finally, Carrera scripting on the tail and sides. The package was sedate; but for minimal clues, this was no ordinary Speedster.
The four-cam was purchased new by J.R. Wright, a Houston, Texas, resident and pilot for a local oil company. During his ownership, it was stored at the company hangar, very much at home amongst other mechanically advanced machines. The four-cam saw sparing use in Wright’s ownership, and just one competitive outing at the SCCA event in Mansfield, Louisiana, in 1958. Shortly thereafter, Wright sold the Carrera Speedster to fellow Texan Max Quiett. The car once again saw use in an SCCA event, this time in Galveston, Texas.
In 1965, the Porsche was sold to James Cunningham, who retained the car for quite some time before beginning a restoration. However, Cunningham had undertaken a number of other projects, and unfortunately his failing health kept him from completing the work. After nearly 40 years of ownership, the Carrera was acquired by Thomas Swanson of Southern California in 2004.
Swanson was delighted to have found such a pure and original Carrera Speedster. Given the heavy use of Speedsters and Carreras in period competition and additional mistreatment of four-cams, few cars survived with their original engines. The Carrera Speedster showed just 19,000 miles on the odometer and had benefited from two caring and conscientious owners. Swanson had even noted that the four-cam was still fitted with its original, date-stamped 16” wheels and Dunlop racing tires.
Upon further examination, the doors, hood, and deck lid were stamped with the last three digits of the chassis number as expected and therefore confirm originality. The Carrera’s oil-sump screen additionally carried the original stamping. Even the oil sump retained the digits chalked on it. Furthermore, the front and rear bumpers were marked specifically for this car with chalk during factory assembly, although those markings were lost during restoration.
Realizing the potential of such a deserving restoration candidate, Swanson embarked on a project to bring the Speedster to perfection. Instead of having a single shop conduct the restoration, the Carrera was disassembled and each major component was given to a specialist. The bare tub was delivered to Pino for metalwork, and the metal finishing was done using only lead, as was the practice at Reutter. The tub was then brought to Coachcraft of Hollywood for paint in the car’s original white.
Even the mechanical work was divided among several specialists, and the original transaxle was sent to John Bunin. of Werkstatt for rebuilding and restoration. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the highly advanced four-cam Carrera motor was sent to Bill Doyle of Rennwagen Motor Company. As the original, numbered engine, it was important that it be brought only to the best, and Doyle’s work in this arena is known the world over. The final assembly was entrusted to Bill Perrone of The Parts Shop in Huntington Beach, California. And lastly, the car was sent to Autos International for an exacting re-trimming of the car in red with a black boot and top, as well as side curtains. Completed in early 2007, the finished product was stunning.
Shortly thereafter, the car was listed for sale and came into the hands of another Southern California enthusiast with a taste for “ultimate specification” German sports cars. In 2012, the Carrera Speedster was shown at the Greystone Concours d’Elegance and the Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance. The Porsche was additionally enjoyed on sparing weekend drives, with care taken to preserve the low mileage and high finish of the restoration. Later in 2012, the car was sold to a private collector with discerning taste and remained in static storage, finding only occasional use to ensure its mechanical prowess.
Today, the Carrera Speedster presents as one would expect given its quality restoration. Nearly a decade since completion, the car continues to boast an impeccably fresh finish. Carrying an overwhelming amount of original components both as a 356 and as a Carrera, this is a uniquely pure example. The four-cam’s major mechanical components can be confirmed by a copy of the Kardex and a certificate of authenticity, and the original stamping of components can be clearly seen from stem to stern. This is an exceptional early Porsche, and a pedigreed example so rarely seen amongst its contemporaries.