The 1957 Porsche Speedster is one of the greatest icons in the German sports car maker’s history. Certainly of the 356 line that made Porsche’s reputation. In many ways, it was the forefunner of today’s 911 GT3 and Cayman GT4, a stripped-down, pared-back special capable of putting in giant-killing performances on track.
With iconic status comes value. Massive value. Which means that genuine examples of the Speedster are well beyond the reach of the average enthusiast. But being iconic also means that the Speedster is one of the most replicated cars there has ever been.
Jay Leno came across one such replica and thought it was so good he asked the owner, Tom Murtaugh, to bring by his garage.
Tom’s Speedster replica was produced by California-based JPS Motorsports, and a notably good one it is, too - the quality of the myriad Speedster replicas available varies wildly.
The fiberglass body is mounted a steel frame that is, in turn, bolted onto a VW Beetle floorpan that has been shortened by 13 inches (330 millimeters). Tom and his wife specified the car, then built it themselves from a kit of parts.
So far, so normal. Pretty much every Speedster replica is built in exactly the same way. But Tom’s holds a surprise at the back, under the engine lid.
Where most use the engine that came with the donor Beetle, this particular uses a Subaru engine. Porsche purists are a famously persnickety bunch who get all hot under the collar about replicas anyway. But a replica with a Japanese engine? That will surely make their heads explode.
But it’s actually a perfectly sensible choice. It has the same flat four-cylinder configuration as a Beetle - or genuine Speedster - motor, is massively more powerful and significantly cheaper. Tom’s came from a late-1990s Legacy, and has been pepped up to produce around 140 horsepower (104 kilowatts) at the wheels.
Jay, whose brother actually owned a Speedster in the 1960s, is suitably impressed, noting that it feels safe, solid, handles well, and has all kinds of power.
Is it better than the real thing? That, surely, is an impossible question to answer. But certainly shows how good a replica can be.