Back in the early years of Porsche , technology was very limited and cars were, of course, far simpler than they are today. This meant that they also typically had much less power than today’s cars. There is no better example of said simplicity than looking at a Porsche from the 1950s and comparing it to today’s Porsches.
The most beloved Porsche of the `50s is far and away the 1600 Sportster. This compact roadster was far from fast, but it was always regarded as a nimble a fun-to-drive car. The 356A Sportster of the late 1950s is actually given a lion’s share of the credit for revolutionizing the sports car realm and showed that a car doesn’t need to be high-powered to be fun to drive.
With only 2,922 Speedsters ever built, it has become a true collector’s item that garners a ton of attention and money, especially when one hits the auction block. Well, that is exactly what we have, as RM Auctions is selling off a 1957 Porsche 356A 1600 Speedster in Monterey, California on August 17th and 18th, 2012.
Click past the jump to read all about this model being auctioned off.
The outside of this 356A Speedster was fully restored to factory condition about 12 years ago. It is draped in the signature red, which is about the only color that a sports car should be painted. It boasts all of the original lines of the Speedster, which are a thing of beauty, with no modifications at all. The sealed-beam headlights are correctly covered with a chrome-plated cage.
Though the Speedster was one of the few cars of the 1950s to bear just small amounts of chrome, it still had plenty to make it look good. The key chrome pieces on this example, which include the hood latch, bumpers, around the taillights, sideview mirrors, wiper arms and windshield trim, are in perfect shape.
On each corner, you get the standard skinny steel rim of the era. The rims on this example are painted gray and have a moon disc in the middle that is either beautifully restored or brand new.
The interior looks to be completely restored, but it does not appear to be completely factory. The seats are what look to be the only items that are not factory, as they are wrapped in modern-looking leather with red stitching. While there is no confirmation that this is not factory, it certainly looks a little too clean to be a 1950’s design.
The dashboard, on the other hand, looks to be 100 percent factory, but perfectly restored. The steering wheel is a two-post, two-ring style with a gray ring. In front of the driver are three gauges. From left to right, the gauges include a oil pressure and gas gauge, tachometer, and speedometer. The dashboard is a two-tone style with a black pad on the top and a body-colored lower half. The two colors are separated by a chrome strip. On the passenger’s side of the dash, you have a “Porsche” decal in gold and a grip bar for staying put in hard cornering.
Though we assume that the seats are not in their factory condition, this interior is still fantastic and definitely well restored.
Engine and Drivetrain
In the engine compartment is a 1,582 cc, horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder engine that pumps out 70 horsepower. That may not sound like much in the modern era, but for a 1950’s 4-cylinder, that is a fair amount. It achieves this horsepower thanks to dual carburetors that feed it plenty of fuel.
Linked to this 1.6-liter engine is a 4-speed rear-mounted transaxle that tosses power to the rear wheels. As best we can tell, the engine and transaxle are in great condition and the car runs just as you would expect it to.
Car suspension was an afterthought throughout the 1950s and `60s, but Porsche did its best to compensate for the lack of power by making this car handle well. It achieved this task using 4-wheel independent suspension, something almost never seen in the 1950s. The only downside is that this model boasts drum brakes on the front and rear, but they are hydraulic, as opposed to manual.
There is no pricing offered on this Porsche, as it is going to be sold to the highest bidder. NADA value puts the Speedster at $215,900, but we have seen these things go for as high as $335,500 recently, so you’d better pack your big-boy wallet.
In all, this Speedster is complete awesomeness, but it is going to cost a lot of money. We wish that RM Auctions would have offered up a little more information on the car’s history, mileage, and driving condition, but this is a great car regardless. The key is to try to get it at a value. Don’t get fooled into paying more than its worth based on “future value.” We advise setting a bidding limit just above its actual value, maybe $250K and don’t stray too far from that.
- Beautifully restored
- Awesome classic interior
- Very rare and fun to drive
- Low-powered 4-cylinder
- No information on the running condition
- No in-depth historical information on this chassis
Gallery Porsche 356A 1600 Sportster
70 bhp (SAE), 60 bhp (DIN), 1,582 cc air-cooled, horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, dual carburetors, four-speed manual gearbox in rear transaxle, four-wheel independent suspension, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 82.7"
Matching numbers; recently freshened
Porsche Certificate of Authenticity
Porsche’s 356 Speedster revolutionized the sports car concept during the late-1950s. Built to a more affordable price than the more luxurious 356 Cabriolet, at the insistence of Max Hoffman, Porsche’s larger-than-life U.S. importer, the Speedster was priced at $2,995 and offered lightweight bucket seats, a small top, and side curtains—all the trappings of an all-out, fair-weather sports car. Its rakish, cut-down windshield gave the impression of speed and adventure even while the car was at rest, and its performance and handling abilities were sharpened by a significant, overall weight reduction.
Speedster production commenced in 1955 and peaked at 1,416 units for 1957, with just 2,922 examples built in all. The Porsche 356 and its variants, including the Speedster, helped Porsche develop the American market and cater to a youthful, avant-garde clientele.
According to its Porsche Certificate of Authenticity, this very desirable 1600 cc-powered Porsche 356 Speedster was originally built on May 9, 1957 with sealed-beam headlamps, and it was finished in red with 356 Coupe-type seats trimmed in black leatherette. Prior to acquisition by the current owner some 12 years ago, this southern car was professionally restored. It is presented with a highly detailed engine bay, and the restoration was recently freshened with new carpeting, a new top, and selectively restored brightwork. As confirmed by the aforementioned Kardex certificate, it is a matching numbers example. All around, this is a terrific example of Porsche’s legendary Speedster, a sports car for the true enthusiast with his sights set on Mulholland Drive.