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Lot 407: Porsche 356 Pre-A Speedster

Collectors' Motorcars and Automobilia, Bonhams (3 June 2012)

The first Porsches arrived in the United States during 1950. Max Hoffman, the legendary New York dealer and importer of European cars, negotiated to become the East Coast agent for the marque. Known for his marketing acumen, he had a good eye for the kinds of cars Americans would want. He had taken note of the enthusiasm being generated by the Jaguar XK-120, and his concern only intensified after the April 1953 North American debut of the Austin-Healey Hundred. Having had excellent success with the basic 356, he proposed to Ferry Porsche a sportier variant. To be competitive, such a car had to sell for a lower price than the $4,284 then commanded by the least expensive 356. The Jaguar was near price parity with Porsche, but the Austin-Healey, at $2,985, presented a most ambitious target. As a result, the basic 356 was tailored to the American market, with special attention cost. Coachbuilders Reutter & Co. of Stuttgart, constructor of Porsche's open cars, helped engineer this new Speedster for economy of production. A low, raked windshield was substituted, easily removed for racing. Light bucket seats replaced the standard items and side windows were dispensed with entirely, in favor of side curtains. The top was a rudimentary affair. Instrumentation consisted only of a speedometer and temperature gauge. Making a tachometer and heater optional extras kept the price down, just $2,995 in New York at its introduction. The Speedster was an immediate hit from its 1954 introduction. Some 200 were built initially, but the next year sales burgeoned to more than 1,000. Late in 1955, the 356 received its first upgrade as the 356A, with a 1,600 cc engine in various stages of tune. Cars built prior to this time are retrospectively called "Pre-A," and have a special place in Porsche history. This 1955 356 Speedster is one of the last Pre-A cars. It was the subject of a complete restoration in 2012. Immaculate from stem to stern, it is captivating in triple black: top, body and upholstery. The engine is period-correct, expertly detailed and scrupulously clean. Never shown, raced or rallied since restoration, this car is ready to meet and greet the public, the enthusiast community and the Porsche faithful.

Lot Details
Auction Collectors' Motorcars and Automobilia
Bonhams, Greenwich, Connecticut
TypeCar
Lot Number407
Estimate$180000-$200000
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price$170000
Hammer Price (inc premium)$194000
Year1955
Condition rating1
Registration number
Mileage-
Chassis number80745
Engine number35201
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors2