As many of you know, Porsche will be releasing a production version of the 991.2 speedster next month at the Geneva International Motor Show. But what many of you don’t know, is the history of the speedster, the essence of it. We see the low cut windshield, signature five spoke wheels, and the flying buttresses, immediately realizing that we are not looking at an ordinary 911, rather, a speedster.
While Ferdinand Porsche was imprisoned in France, his son, Ferry Porsche kept the family business going to fulfill his dreams of building a sports car under the Porsche name. As a result, the Porsche 356 was born. A car built for handling, acceleration, and braking, many Porsche enthusiasts consider the 356 to be the first true Porsche ever built because it was the first to be fully built under the Porsche name. All other “Porsches” prior were built under the name, Volkswagen.
The 356 speedster however, owes its existence to Max Hoffman, the only importer of Porsche’s to the United States in 1950. Hoffman was achieving great sales success at the time because of Porsche, so he suggested that they should make a car based on the 356 to rival the popular British sports cars dominating the market. He suggested that the new 356 should resemble a Jaguar XK120 and be more affordable than the rest of the 356 line. From this, came the Porsche Type 540, a 356 based sports car. However the Type 540 was far too heavy to be considered a sports car, so Ferry Porsche commissioned popular coach-builder, Heuer-Glaser to build the car out of aluminum. This made the production costs skyrocket. As a result, Porsche had to sell every car for $4,600, at a loss. Even with this price, the Type 540 was still $300 more expensive than the XK120. $300 in today’s money would be $3,193.64, a deal breaker for many people.
Porsche discussed this problem with Hoffman and they agreed that a 356 cabriolet would do a better job as a basis, decreasing production costs by being built on the same production line as the other 356s. By removing some trim and weather protection, they decreased the price and reduced the weight of the car. A low cut windshield was made specifically to be removed for race weekends. The most noticeable difference with the Speedster and the normal 356 were the thin chrome strips that ran down the side of the car. To keep the price low, only a speedometer and a temperature gauge were standard. A heater and a tachometer were optional extras in order to keep the base price under $3,000 (typical Porsche options). The car also featured fixed-back bucket seats to add to the race theme. This new Speedster was an instant hit, especially in sunny Southern California. Production peaked at 1,157 cars in 1957, and started declining after until eventually being replaced by the 356 D in 1958.
Make sure to come back when the 991.2 911 Speedster debuts at the Geneva International Motor Show in March, we will be following up on how Porsche continued the Speedster legacy with its 911. As always, THANK YOU FOR READING and come back next Sunday for a brand new article. Don’t forget to follow us on WordPress and share this article with your friends! Follow us on Instagram at rsreportblog and check out our Facebook Group, Porsche Enthusiasts United. Feel free to suggest new topics in the Contact page. Newly added on the contact page is a link to the Porsche Club of America website which you should definitely check out HERE! Thank you for reading and don’t forget to come back next Sunday!
One thought on “The Legend of the Porsche Speedster”
Nice read as always.