Porsche 356A Speedster
In developing the 356, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche created the cornerstone of the Porsche Empire and the patriarch of a race-winning model lineage. Production began in the late 1940s, and the first 50 cars were built almost entirely by hand. The 356 had an integral body and chassis utilizing unitary construction techniques. By 1955 it had developed into one of the world’s most respected sports cars, a remarkable feat when considering that Porsche had yet to celebrate its tenth anniversary.
The evolution of the Porsche 356 was swift, impelled not only by Porsche’s drive for technical improvement but also by the realities of commercial success. Sales outstripped even Porsche’s most optimistic forecasts, and with increased sales came opportunities to build more 356s in-house and simultaneously expand the model range. The first sales-driven new model was the Speedster, which arrived in 1954.
The Speedster’s existence is owed in large part to Porsche’s U.S. importer, the legendary Max Hoffman, who was responsible for recognizing the special needs of the U.S. market and encouraging his European partners to build specific models to meet those needs. Conceived to meet a precise price point, the Speedster was quite spartan, with minimal equipment and no accoutrements. Priced at $2,995, the seats were simple, the top rather small, and roll-up windows nonexistent (side curtains were used instead). Free of the 356 Cabriolet’s traditional appointments, Porsche counted on the Speedster’s sporty character to generate sales.
And the Speedster certainly was a sales success, offering its drivers an economical and elemental Porsche experience. It was also upgraded with a 1.6-liter engine and continued to establish a formidable reputation on American race tracks, giving it a serious performance reputation with a youthful, even avant-garde, image. Porsche improved carburetion, added a ZF worm and lever steering arrangement, and made various mechanical changes, continually evolving the 356’s engineering and distancing itself from its Volkswagen roots. Top speeds for the Speedster exceeded 100 mph with zero-to-sixty times in the ten second range, both very respectable accomplishments in their day.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in August of 2009 at the Portola Hotel & Spa and Monterey Conference Center, Monterey, California, in January of 2010 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona, in May of 2010 at the The Grimaldi Forum, Monaco and in January of 2012 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona.
90 bhp, 1,582 cc overhead-valve horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, four-wheel independent suspension, four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 82.7"
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright shooterz.biz, Darin Schnabel and Hugh Hamilton