Whoever said Porsches all look the same obviously doesn’t remember the 356 Speedster. Maybe it’s just us, but the difference – in both aesthetics and character – between the 356 coupe and the basically perfect Speedster feel so much larger than the pared-back interior and resculpted exterior should be able to achieve.
It seems that we’re not the only ones in on this particular state of affairs – when this actual, original, not-a-replica 356 Speedster goes under Silverstone Auctions’ metaphorical hammer on the 23rd of February, it’s expected to fetch more than £280,000 (RM1.5m). And that, for any aristos out there, is actually quite a bit.
Money aside, there’s something so gloriously pure about the Speedster. Which, to be fair, was its raison dêtre from the outset: to be a simplified, lightened roadster, one purely for those who loved cars and loved driving them.
But how pure are we really talking about here?
Well, it’s an air-cooled (obvs) 1.6-litre flat four with one carburettor per bank, sending all of 60bhp to the rear wheels through a four-speed manual. There are bumpers and side strips to save your pride and joy from careless parkers, lights to illuminate and indicate, mirrors and shaved-down windscreens to reflect and protect. Really, aside from a few badges, the Speedster is perhaps the definition of anti-frippery. We like this a lot.
And then there’s the interior. Just take a moment, and see if you can find a single thing that doesn’t absolutely need to be there. Thought not.
It is true minimalism, or, as architect and hero of minimalism John Pawson once said, “the perfection that an artefact achieves when it’s no longer possible to improve on it by subtraction. This is the quality that an object has when every component, every detail and every junction has been reduced or condensed to the essentials.” He wasn’t talking about the 356 Speedster at the time (well, we think), but he may as well have been.
You may notice that this particular 356 Speedster is right-hand-drive. That’s because it was converted from wrong-hand-drive by JD Classics back in 2015, so that it’s easier to drive on UK roads. But, as the listing says, it’s “remained in professional storage with very little use.” Which, to us, sounds like getting a set of Jimmy Carr-worthy veneers, only to never smile again.
Its original sale, back in the black-and-white days of 1958, was from perhaps the most famous of car importers, Max Hoffman.
Hoffman is a hero of car design, even though he wasn’t a car designer. He was, in fact, in the business of importing and selling high-end European cars to high-net-worth New Yorkers with a penchant for going quickly and looking good while doing so. So far, so straightforward. But Hoffman’s knack of knowing what his customer base wanted, thanks to feedback from his dealers, and his incredible ability to convince companies like Alfa Romeo, Mercedes, BMW and Porsche to build the cars he asked for – that produced such exceptional metal as the Giulietta Spider, Mercedes 300SL, BMW 507 and Porsche 356 Speedster. Not bad, no?
Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to a) bemoan, for the umpeenth time, the modesty of our bank balances, b) consider some Point Break-esque series of bank heists, and c) trawl the internet for Speedster replicas. Because it’s nearly as good. Right?
“The 356 Speedster has become an automotive icon,” says Nick Whale of Silverstone Auctions. “These days, replicas are popular with enthusiasts, but there’s nothing like an original, which is what we have here.”