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THE MODEL

The First Speedster

During 1950 Max Hoffman, the sole importer of Porsches in the USA was achieving excellent sales success for the company. He suggested to Ferry Porsche that he could do even better if he had a car that would compete with the imported English sportscars and fit the needs of the American market 

He suggested this new model would resemble a small Jaguar XK120 and be available at a more competitive price than the current 356 range. In October 1950 Erwin Komeda drew up plans for the new car and a prototype was produced by Sauter. This was shown to Max Hoffman in 1951 who enthusiastically named it the America Roadster - Porsche designated it the Type 540.

Early racing results showed the car to be too heavy and Ferry Porsche made the decision to make it in Aluminium which meant it could not be incorporated into the Stuttgart 356 production line but was contracted to coachbuilder Heuer-Glaser. 

The America Roadster turned out to be a commercial failure. The cost of production was higher than planned and Glaser lost money on each one leading to their bankruptcy. Even sold in the USA below cost at $4,600 the Roadster was far too expensive compared to the English and American sportscar competition. Only 17 were made although many were successful in racing in the United States with better acceleration, cornering, and braking than the Jaguar XK120 and the other English sportscars popular on the US racing scene.        

Even though the America Roadster project was a disaster, Hoffman's sales of 356s in the USA were accounting for a third of all Porsche's 356 production by 1954 and so the needs of the US market had to be taken seriously by Porsche

British cars like MG, Austin-Healey and Triumph dominated the American sports car market. Max Hoffman was still convinced that cost was the major barrier to achieving significant penetration of the sportscar market in the USA. The basic 356 Coupe for example cost $300 more than the Jaguar XK120.

Porsche were keen to meet Max Hoffman's requirements but clearly a hand-built car with aluminium coachwork was out of the question - it had to be a cut down version of the 356 cabriolet and it had to be capable of being produced on the same production line as the other 356s. If they removed trimmings and weather protection they might be able to save weight as well as cost - after discussion between Porsche's Albert Prinzling and Max Hoffman in New York the concept of the Speedster was born

The Speedster was to have a low, raked windscreen which easily could be removed for weekend racing, bucket seats, and a minimal, folding top, and side curtains instead of wind-up windows

Ironically the new Speedster kept the same Type 540 designation as the America Roadster but was designed by Reutter for minimum production cost. The spartan cockpit had lightweight bucket seats with fixed backrests. Instrumentation was limited to speedometer and temperature gauge. Technically a heater and tachometer were optional extras deigned to keep the magic base price below $3,000. Exterior appearance was standard 356 from the waist down except for attractive full-length chrome side strips running neatly through the door handles.

The Speedster took pride of place in Hoffman's futuristic Park Avenue, New York showroom in late 1954

The car was an instant hit, particularly in Southern California. Production of the Speedster peaked at 1,171 cars in 1957 and then started to decline. It was replaced in late 1958 by the "Convertible D" model. Original Speedsters are now much coveted and can sell for over $150,000 - when a collector can find one.

The 356A (T2) Speedster

September 1957 to August 1958

(Carrerra Speedsters continued into 1959)

The last of the 356A Speedsters are probably the most attractive and the most desirable. The 356A (T2) Speedster was introduced in September 1957 and continued until the basic Speedster was replaced by the Convertible D in August 1958 although a number of Carrera, GS and GT Speedsters were produced in 1959.

There were no substantial changes to the T2 engine apart from minor improvements. It became more easy to tell the difference between the 1600 N and 1600 Super engines with the Normal engine's fan shroud being painted black and the Super's was painted silver.

Later in 1958 a new 716 gearbox replaced the 644. It was basically similar to the old one but had an improved gear change linkage with a more direct feel. First gear beacame easier to engage from rest.

The rear of the external door handle was changed slightly with a more rounded profile for the T2 handle compared with the square profile seen on the Pre-A and T1 handles.   

The interior door handle was moved forward and higher up towards the top front corner of the door, and the gear change lever was moved back slightly. The steering wheel was available in 425mm diameter and had a circular horn ring, while the centre button became a headlight flasher.

The door striker plate was also moved down towards the middle of the door. The doors of the T1 and T2 are not interchangeable and the position of the striker plate is a good way of telling a T2 from a T1. The T2 plate as seen on the left was fixed with 3 cross-head screws, while the T1 plate was mounted with 5 slot-head screws.     

The T2 exhaust exited through the rear bumper guards (except on Carreras) to improve ground clearance. Where there are no bumper guards in place, the ends of the exhaust pipes pass through a notch in the bumper.

T2s were fitted with the high bow folding top which gave more head clarance and allowed the factory fitted roll bar to be used.

A new chrome plated hub cap with a raised centre area carrying an enamelled Porsche crest wast standard on the 1600 Super and was often selected as an option on 'Normal' models.

Almost all Speedsters built were LHD, but a few RHD models were produced for the UK, South African and Australian markets.

During 1958 Speedster sales had started to decline although it was still popular in the hot, dry climate of California and with amateur races. The American market looked for more comfort and as the Speedster was not profitable, Porsche looked to produce a car that maintained the body style of the Speedster but offered better comfort in less clement climate

More details

THIS VEHICLE

chassis 84849 (A T2)

Engine from « 912 », 95hp, type 616/36 n°743270 (In)

Another 356 1600S Engine, 75hp, n°80890 (With)

356 gearbox, type 716/0 n°28610 

Original Color : 5701 Black (matching)

Curent interior : Skai red, probably original

Delivered to New York 29.04.1958 

Options :

-      Seats

-      US bumpers

History :

This Speedster has been delivered to New-York,  as many speedster’s.  We do not know it’s history. It belongs to a french customers from 1 year. 

Condition :

The car appears in good condition. Still in original color, the body work is very solid. Plays are excellent, which is very rare on ‘’not restored’’ 356 !  The paint has a beautiful shining, some areas are not perfect (one dent around front head, one scratch on the rear right wing closed the light for the main things) => superb driving condition

On the lift, the car has not rust at all.  Very good and solid car. Olds repairs to the front frame, very well done !!

Engine is coming from 912. Perfect for driving with 95hp (instead 60hp with that car).  Has been redone and works perfectly. A 356 1600S engine is available with (non matching)

Gearbox is coming from 356. Perfect shifting. Nothing to tell about. Clutch is new.

Converted to 12v => that gives a perfect ignition and perfect starting 

Electric fuel Pump => perfect starting after long term off 

All 4 discs brakes conversion with original ‘’58’’ stamped wheels 

Original steering wheel

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Moteur

Type
Cylindrée
Puissance fiscale
Puissance max
Couple max

4 cylindres à plat
1600 cm3
8 cv
95

Performances

0-100 km/h
Vitesse de pointe

17 s
160

Transmission

Type
Boîte de vitesses

rear
4, manuelle

Dimensions

Longueur
Largeur
Hauteur
Poids à vide

3950 cm
1660 cm
1220 cm
760 kg

OUR OPINION

Original Speedster, Porsche certificate, still in original color, non matching car, reliable, perfect to drive (discs brakes, 12v, electric fuel pump, …) and looks very original (wheels, steering, interior), a perfect car to use !

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