The Porsche Speedster of the 1950’s has a mystique and a desirability out of proportion to its actual performance.
A 1954 Porsche 1500 Normal previously owned and raced extensively by now deceased Ohio native named Art Brow had a 0-60 time of 13.9 seconds, a quarter mile time of 19.2 seconds, and a top speed of 99.5 mph. These are performance figures that are handily bested by the most modest of economy cars in 2018.
Art owned and loved that car for decades, even driving it at Laguna Seca at race speeds during Vintage Races.
So what is it about the Speedster that so endears itself to its owners? Well this Automobile Quarterly article published in Volume XIV, number 4, in the fourth Quarter of 1976 attempts to give us an insight as to why the Speedster is so beloved.
In the follow-up post, we’ll see restored Art’s ’54 Speedster as well as a 1958 R&T road test of a 1958 Porsche Speedster 1600 Super.
Cute little buggers! One of my wife’s college sorority sisters had a ’57, white with black top and interior, circa ’69/70/71. She was a spoiled rich kid from NJ who considered it just a cool fashion accessory, but otherwise not a car person by any means. I assume her Dad was though, as the car was pristine and of course only 12 or so years old at the time. I was insanely jealous…such a waste.
I have heard of a company out in California that makes Porsche Speedsters with a modern four cylinder engine from Kia or Hyundai mounted transversely in the rear. Other than that, they are supposed to be exact replicas of the original right down to the little vents on either side of the full moon headlights. The best part about it: they retail for only $40,000. James Dean on a budget here we come!
I believe that James Dean’s Porsche was a 550 Spyder and not a Speedster.Of course, Spyder replica kits are available also.
Dean owned a Speedster before he bought the 550, which was a lot faster.
There is also another company, in Indiana, that produces the Beck Speedster and Spyder, with a choice of old-school VW or modern-day Subaru engines. The advantage of the Subaru engine is that it retains the low center of gravity that the originals had.
From what I’ve read and watched online, Beck replicas have a loyal following, and a number of enthusiasts who have owned both Becks and other manufacturers’ replicas are rather vocal about their preference for the build quality of their Becks.
You can “borrow” complete issues of Automobile Quarterly online for up to 14 days at Internet Archive (https://archive.org). They have 562 issues available. I will not take responsibility for ruining anybody’s weekend. 🙂
Any tricks on how to find them?
I tried entering “Automotive Quarterly” in the search box, looks in the libraries, in the meta stuff, no luck.
So you might be comforted by the fact that you haven’t ruined my weekend. At least, not yet. 😉
Now your weekend is ruined for sure.
Allan Girdler and Peter Egan are some of my favorite authors. Along with Gordon Jennings, Phil Shilling and Cook Neilson. These people made subscribing to motorcycle magazines in the ’70s worth it.
I’d add Frank Connor to that list. I still can’t bring myself to throw out old issues of Cycle and Cycle World, nor the ancient CB350-K2 they persuaded me to buy when replacing a cantankerous Trident. Those authors truly made cycling picturesque and alive during its Golden Era and we shall never see their like, nor the times that produced them, again, but it can be one which is re-lived upon every glorious re-reading of their work.
Near CC Effect for me a few days ago. I saw a red 356, not a Speedster but an equally rare variant, the “notchback” or hardtop Karmann version from 1961 or 1962. And to make it an exotic Teutonic two-fer, a few minutes later I passed a Maybach S550. Interestingly, the rare 1600cc Porsche was running faster than the flow of traffic on an uphill mountain road in rush hour, and the mega-dollar turbo V8 was crawling along in the slow lane.
I recall a feature article in C/D titled “Love Affair With a Bathtub “. Does anyone else ?