1955 Porsche 356 1500 Speedster by Reutter
$300,000 - $350,000
RM | Sotheby's - AMELIA ISLAND 8 - 9 MARCH 2019 - Offered on Saturday
- Early 356 Pre-A Speedster in correct Signal Red
- Matching-numbers engine and transmission
- Includes spare set of original wheels with correct tires
- Newer top boot and German weave carpeting
- Includes Porsche Certificate of Authenticity
The earliest Porsche 356s are perhaps the purest definitions of Ferry Porsche’s vision of building a sports car with a low curb weight and ample power. American importer Max Hoffman had Ferry’s ear in the early 1950s when he suggested that an even more pure, and relatively affordable, 356 would be appealing to buyers on the sunny West Coast of the U.S.
By early 1951, a prototype was built and shown to Hoffman. The importer responded positively and urged Porsche to put it into production under the name America Roadster. However, Porsche’s decision to build the car from aluminum meant that it was light but expensive. A mere 17 were built, which could have soured Porsche’s taste for Hoffman’s idea.
Convinced of the American market’s importance based on its impressive sales volume by the early 1950s, Porsche sent representatives to meet with Hoffman in New York to hash out a plan for a less costly alternative. The result was the 356 Speedster, a steel-bodied, simplified roadster with a low, raked windscreen, a minimal folding top, and a spartan interior devoid even of roll-up windows or a heater. The price point for this simple Porsche—a hair below $3,000—was about $1,600 less than the America Roadster.
The 1955 356 Speedster offered here is presented in factory-correct Signal Red over black. The present owner acquired the car from Ray Lintott, owner of the Porsche Sydney South dealership in Australia. Prior to his acquisition in 2002, the car was restored by marque specialists at Tom Black’s Garage in Portland, Oregon, in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In 2003, the Speedster was entered in the first Quail Rally Monterey and was stored in California until purchased by the present owner in 2006.
The 356 Speedster has been driven sparingly since. Its red lacquer paint shows well. Period stone guards cover its headlights. Its black top features new side curtains, and a Haartz cloth half boot, as well as a full tonneau cover. Inside, the Speedster has new German weave carpeting and black bucket seats with shoulder belts. All of its admittedly limited details, such as its simple VDO gauges and ivory knobs, are correct for an early 356 Pre-A.
It shows limited signs of having been enjoyed, making it an appealingly usable example in contrast to those 356s bound for concours life. Its current owner has driven it about 2,000 miles for 356 club events in the desert southwest. To make it more drivable on modern roads nearly 65 years after it was built, the 356’s current owner replaced the original-specification carburetor and distributor with units better suited to high-altitude driving, and the electrical system was converted to a 12-volt system. A correct Solex Type 32 PB carburetor is included. Additionally, the 356 is fitted with Michelin 165/15 tires and chrome wheels, though a set of five correct 3½-in. tires and original wheels are included with the car as well.