Introduced to the United States in September 1954, the Speedster found a receptive audience as the lowest-priced Porsche. In the USA, there was some confusion caused by the fact that when constructing the newest Porsche, the designers left out many components standard on cabriolets. The audience in Europe didn’t find the Speedster of interest at all, but USA importer Max Hoffman had a special target in mind, dealing not just with price, but speed and style as well.
Notable changes included a revised windshield, which significantly improved the somewhat ungainly look of the cabriolet. An aluminum side spear visually split the 356 side flanks, making the car appear even lower. Gone were the unnecessary roll-up windows and an effective top. Speedsters were not known for their air-tight or waterproof fit.
The dashboard was reworked and made lighter, with a smaller padded eyebrow over the instruments and no glove box. Seats were lower, non-reclining, cheaper, and lighter than the luxurious coupe and cabriolet versions. Speedsters looked great and, due to the reduced weight, were fun to drive, making the Speedster experience remarkably different from the rest of the 356 line.
The car presented here is a pristine example complete with its Porsche Certificate of Authenticity. It is finished in the unusual and rare color combination of Aquamarine Blue with a red interior. We judge the car to be stunning in all respects.
Racing and sports car enthusiast (and SCMer) Roger Werner formerly owned it. The current owner invested much time and effort in ensuring that this Porsche would be of a caliber rarely seen. The overall condition and attention to detail illustrates what the concours judge wants to see when it is time to choose a winner.
Years produced: 1955–59
Number produced: 4,243
Original list price: $2,995 (1956)
SCM Price Guide: $65,000–$75,000
Tune-up/Major Service: $300
Distributor cap: $15
Chassis #: On horizontal bulkhead under front lid, just in front of fuel tank
Engine #: Stamped into vertical alloy engine member, between generator pulley and crankshaft pulley
Club: Porsche Club of America, 5530 Edgemont Dr., Alexandria, VA 22310
Alternatives: 1951–54 Jaguar XK 120, 1954–64 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL, 1959–65 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider
SCM Investment Grade: B
The SCM Analysis: This car was offered at no reserve at RM’s Amelia Island auction on March 12, 2006, and sold for $121,000, including buyer’s premium.
While I judge this price to be all the money, it is also not crazy, in my opinion, because of the two-track market, beauty vs. originality, that we have seen developing for exceptional 356s. This car fits in the non-numbers matching beauty track, as it had a later 1600 Super engine rather than its original.
It used to be that you simply had to have a numbers-matching car to bring top dollar in the 356 world. Any buyers with big money were concerned that all major components and colors of the car were as originally built. Kardexes were circulated and slavishly adhered to. To compete at the Porsche Parade, you had to have a numbers-matching car. If it wasn’t numbers matching, you’d be a fool to execute an expensive restoration, as you’d be underwater no matter what you did.
However, in the current market, beauty and condition matter as much as originality. In other words, a fantastically restored example of a highly prized model, such as a 1958 A Speedster, can bring as much money with a non-original engine as with an original engine. However, this rule only seems to apply to obsessively prepared cars with flawless paint, superb engine compartments, interiors like new, and bottoms that have been slavishly put together. Note that this does not apply to early 911s yet (1965- 1973), as buyers for those still pay more for originality. There were a number of special issues about this car that set it apart, especially to the “second track” audience that will pay up for a car with an incorrect motor. Examples like this are judged on the charisma they generate as much as anything. The color combination here, while not to everyone’s liking, is a powerful component to the right buyer. If this car had been painted in one of the far more common colors of Ivory or Signal Red, it might not have brought the same result. Its condition was as new in every respect. The paint was flawless, the body straight, wheels and hubcaps correct rather than improper reproductions, difficult-to-find over-rider bars in place on the bumpers front and rear—everywhere you looked, decisions were made in the right way to deliver a package that would influence the heart, as well as the mind, of a potential buyer.
That certainly includes the Derrington wood steering wheel, a popular period accessory in the correct large diameter, rather than a newer, smaller size. How long will our two-track 356 market last? It’s being driven by new people entering the ownership circle with more money than time. They are willing to pay for a superbly detailed car to drive and enjoy, with little interest in the arcane details of what is printed on a dusty factory record sheet. They have no time to conduct a debilitating and often frustrating nationwide search for the perfect car from the perfect seller at the perfect price. They are moved as much by their heart as by their intellect. These new folks speak highly of the broadened interest in the 356, and in collector cars in general. Watching this new breed will be instructive in seeing where the market will be heading in the next several years. And if they are in the forefront, it’s going to be a very different collecting world than we’ve known in the past.
– Jim Schrager is the author of Buying, Driving and Enjoying the Porsche 356 and writes for The 356 Registry magazine.
Sports Car Market magazine, www.sportscarmarket.com
Photos: Don Heiny