Lot 220


1955 Porsche 356 Carrera 1500 GS Speedster by Reutter


€850,000 EUR | Asking

Monaco | Monaco, Monaco



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Chassis No.
Engine No.
German Fahrzeugbrief
  • One of only 15 production Carrera Pre-A 1500 GS Speedsters built in 1955
  • Campaigned extensively in period SCCA events by Dan Herman, a German nobleman residing in the United States
  • Made for export to Max Hoffman’s New York distributor; retained in the USA until being acquired by the consignor in 2012
  • Powered by a period-correct Type 547/1 engine
  • Offered with a sizeable history file; contains invoices detailing restoration work overseen by the consignor between 2019 to 2021, exceeding €55,000
  • Further accompanied by a copy of its factory Kardex sheet, certificate issued by Porsche Cars North America, and folio prepared by Karosserie Reuter

Porsche’s magnificent and complex Carrera “Four-cam” engine was designed in the early 1950s, penned by Dr. Ernst Führmann to power the 550 Spyder. The engineer later joked that he called it the “drawer motor” as his blueprints had to be hidden around Dr. Porsche—the project had not yet been approved. After the 550’s class wins in the Carrera Panamericana road races in Mexico, Porsche made the potent engine available in its production-spec Speedsters and Cabriolets. These special 356 models carry the name “Carrera” in recognition of those racing successes, and they are both extremely rare and much sought after today.

The first pushrod-engined Speedster appeared in 1954, after the company’s New York importer, Max Hoffman, and its West coast distributor, John von Neumann encouraged the factory to offer a lightweight and spartan sports roadster to compete with the popular British and Italian sports cars of the day. Speedsters quickly established themselves as the cars to beat in their respective classes. After a 356 coupé fitted with a Fuhrmann engine won the gruelling Líege-Rome-Líege Rally in 1954, Porsche installed a Type 547 four-cam into a Speedster for testing, and similar engines were fitted to a pair of 356 coupés. Low-volume production—just 100 units—began soon afterward.

The first 356 Carrera ‘Pre-A’ Speedster intended for public sale was completed in July of 1955, wrote Marco Marinello in the definitive Porsche Speedster Typ 540, and data compiled by the factory’s Olaf Lang places the total of Carrera Speedsters completed at 148. Visually, these special cars were nearly identical to the standard Speedster. Only small gold scripts on the front panels and tail, along with a few extra switches on the dashboard, signalled what lay beneath the engine cover. The dry sump 1,498 cc Type 547 engine was fed by a pair of Solex carburettors and made for 110 brake horsepower at 6,200 rpm. The Carrera's first gear was good for 65 km/h, second to 112 km/h, third brought 160 km/h, and almost 193 km/h flat out—almost unmatched by similar cars of the era.

The example offered here, chassis 81079, was transferred from Reutter to Porsche as a complete car in November 1955. The Porsche was built in White with a Black Leather upholstery, according to a copy of its factory Kardex sheet (available to view on file), which also notes that the 356 Speedster was despatched on 4 January 1956. It was destined for the United States and was imported via New York to Hoffman’s famous sports car dealership. It is believed that for a short time, Hoffman used chassis 81079 for his own transport and for show at events, before trading the Porsche to Sweeney British Cars who supplied the car to Baron Daniel von Hermann, a German nobleman residing in California. Curiously, von Hermann entered many races under the anglicised pseudonym “Daniel W. Herman”, which appears in the race results for this Porsche chassis. Believed to be a VW dealer by trade, von Hermann was likely selected to receive this “Pre-A” Carrera, a model that was otherwise unavailable for public consumption.

With Herman behind the wheel, chassis 81079 was campaigned extensively in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) events beginning in 1956. Herman’s first podium came with a 2nd-place finish at the Novice Cotati in May 1957, either side of impressive showings at Buchanan Field and Salt Lake. Later in 1957, with the acclaimed driver Skip Hudson behind the wheel, the Porsche was driven to 1st at Arcata Main in September, before claiming victory in both the SCCA National Palm Springs and again at the SCCA National Leguna Seca, both in November. Herman continued to race the car until he sold it in 1960.

Chassis 81079 had a succession of California-based owners throughout the 1960s and 1970s—with period correspondence on file between Porsche AG and Louis Lavato, who is believed to have acquired the car in 1970. In the ownership of Mr Lavato, it is unclear for how long the 356 Speedster was used before it was laid up and put into storage. In 1991, it was discovered by the acclaimed Porsche historian and racer, Wayne Baker, who acquired the car and kept it until the early 2000s. It is believed that Mr Baker sourced the period-correct replacement Type 547/1 engine that is currently fitted to the Porsche. The car had two further owners in the United States—the first of which performed sympathetic restoration work (invoices available to view on file)—before it was bought by its consigning owner in 2012, at that point returning to Europe for the first time.

In the ownership of the vendor, the Porsche was carefully restored between 2019 and 2021. Within the history file are invoices detailing the restoration work, first with the Dotternhausen-based Boxer Motor & Klassiche Automobile GmbH, and later with the Mackenbeuren-based Autowerkstatt Ludescher. Between the two workshops, more than €55,000-worth of work was completed to finish the 356 Carrera 1500 GS Speedster in the condition it is presented today. After being returned to the consignor, the Porsche participated in the October 2020 running of the Mille Miglia.

In addition to the many parts and workshop invoices in its impressive history file, the car is accompanied by a copy of its factory Kardex sheet, a 1992 certificate issued by Porsche Cars North America, a specification folio prepared by Karosserie Reutter, period correspondence from Porsche AG, and a FIVA Identity Card issued in December 2023.

Highly eligible for prestigious events and rallies, including the Mille Miglia, this exciting and storied 356 Carrera 1500 GS Speedster would be a worthy addition to any Porsche collection.