1956 Porsche 356 Pre-A Speedster 1600

  • Rare, late production 1600-engined Pre-A model

  • Long term ownership by a prominent West Coast PCA member

  • Refinished in its original colour scheme as per CofA

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The 356 Speedster.

Based largely on the Gläser-built 356 America of 1953 and even retaining its Type 540 designation, Porsche’s now iconic, Reutter-built Speedster débuted in 1954 and owes much of its existence to Porsche’s U.S. importer Max Hoffman, who astutely recognised the special needs of the American market and convinced his European partners to build specific models to meet them. Built to a price, and quite Spartan, the Speedster offered its buyers an economical and elemental, but characteristically Porsche, driving experience.

Along with the “regular” 356 models, the Speedster was upgraded with a 1.6-litre engine and established a formidable reputation on American racetracks, with a youthful, even avant-garde, image to match. Porsche improved carburation, added ZF worm-and-lever steering and made various mechanical changes, continually evolving the 356’s engineering and distancing itself further from its Volkswagen-based roots.

The Speedster has gone on become one of the World’s most widely recognisable designs, spawning numerous copies along the way and creating a niche for Porsche that it continues to exploit to this day. It remains a car that embodies a spirit of freedom and adventure rooted in the imagery of West Coast America in the 1950’s. Truly iconic

Chassis No. 81216.

This is one of the very last Pre-A style Speedsters, built late December 1955 and despatched in January of 1956, according to the Certificate of Authentication. This car is chassis number 81216, the final Pre-A Speedster was 81234. All other 356 models had changed over to the T1 ‘A’ specification from September 1955 but Speedster production continued for a short time with the pre-A features. As such it retains the earlier style dash, curved rocker panels and iconic ‘beehive’ taillights. One thing these later pre-A Speedsters did benefit from however was the adoption of the 1600 engine that was introduced with the T1 model, giving a modest increase in power over the previous 1500 version.

Although the early history of this Speedster is largely unknown, according to the documents on file the car was purchased by its last owner in March 1978 from Don Odiorne of Menlo Park California for the sum of $4,750. It is thought that at this time, Mr Ordiorne had stripped the car for restoration; this is evident from paperwork on file showing lists of spares from various Porsche 356 parts suppliers. The purchaser was Mr William H Benz, an Attorney of Law and an avid enthusiast of the Porsche marque; a fullyfledged member of the Golden Gate Region of the Porsche Club of America. At various points during his membership Mr. Benz would serve as president, treasurer, secretary, competition director, and chair of the autocross school. If you search Youtube for “William Benz Porsche” you will find a Porsche Club of America interview with Mr. Benz featuring his second Speedster, which he fitted with a 4-cam Carrera engine.

To drive a Porsche is to experience a new form of motoring.. Autocar 1955

Correspondence dating back to 1978 shows that Mr. Benz quickly set about restoring this example in a very organised fashion, with many pages of tables comparing prices of different Porsche 356 component suppliers. The cancelled USA title on file shows that the Speedster was first registered to William Benz in May of 1978 and the car was continuously registered for use until March 1999. At some point during this period, the original engine P60562 failed and was replaced by P66322 which is the correct 616/1 type 1600 engine for the year of the car.

From March 1999 until June 2015 the car was kept in a storage facility in San Jose. During this period the car was not used on the road. In 2015 the storage facility closed and car was transported to the owner’s house where it was garaged. Unfortunately, during this time Mr Benz passed away before he had a chance to start work on recommissioning the car.

Since coming to the UK, the car has been comprehensively serviced including new brake cylinders and shoes, new shock absorbers, re-instated heater system and so on. The bonnet, doors and boot lid are all stamped with the body number in the correct places showing they are the original panels for this chassis number. Recently, the car was stripped back to bare metal and repainted in its original colour of Ruby Red, also receiving new weather equipment including hood, tonneau and sidescreens. Presenting in lovely condition this 356 Speedster is ready to use and enjoy

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