According to the registration records, this is a 1969 VW Beetle 1600. Your eyes may suggest something – the obvious is a 1957 Porsche 356A Speedster. The manufacturer calls it the Chesil Speedster Let’s have a quick look at this car, and then consider what we think about it.
The premise is very simple and has parallels to the one followed by Ferdinand Porsche in 1948 for the original 356. Take a VW Type 1, remove the body, shorten the chassis by around 11 inches, and fit a roadster body. The Porsche had, initially, an aluminium body but later cars had steel. The Chesil has a GRP body. One key variation is that the Chesil uses a shortened VW Beetle floorpan, the Porsche 356 used a different bespoke Porsches only monocoque. This is literally a cut down, rebodied VW Beetle, styled to look very like the 356A Speedster.
The Porsche Speedster came about at the instigation of the US importer Max Hoffman (that man again – his influence seems to known no limits) who identified a spot for a stripped down, driver focussed version of the existing cabriolet. The padded lined roof was swapped for a basic folding, the screen cut down, clip in side windows and basic bucket seats were fitted. It was a hit, sales wise especially in in the south west of the United States, and set an image Porsche have been able to utilise on various occasions since.
Production of the 356 variants ran, with some changes through to 1965, in three generations. Engines grew from the initial 1100 to as much as 2 litres for the last generations of cars. A 356A was typically fitted with a 60bhp 1.6 litre unit, with two valves per cylinder and always a boxer of course. And, yes, they were used a police cars – this one is Finnish.
The Chesil Speedster, although the company admit the inspiration of the Porsche 356A, is completely separate to any Porsche activity or input, but is unambiguously a visual copy, down to details such as the badging and rubbing strip. The website, presumably vetted by cautious lawyers say “The Factory Built Speedster from Chesil is a replica of a famous 2-seater sports car from the 1950s” and carries a clear disclaimer that the company and car are not affiliated to Porsche, do not infringe Porsche copyrights and that the product is not a Porsche product.
The Chesil Speedster can be purchased either factory built, on a VW platform with a brand new engine. Options up to 2 litre and 120bhp are available, and you can choose between trailing arm or swing axle rear suspension. The gearbox is four speed and reconditioned, brakes are front disc and rear drums. As you’d probably expect, there are a wide range of options on trims and finishes. A new car starts at about £41000. Alternatively, you can build one at home, either from your own donor Beetle or with a Chesil supplied donor. The parts and kits to do this would cost around £30000 depending on your choices.
So, QOTD, what does the Curbivore Community think? Nice idea, and you’d accept the lack of originality for pleasure of driving it, getting some glances? Or if you want 50s/60s sportscar, buy one, and if you want a modern roadster get an MX-5?