1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster (RHD)
Result: PASSED IN
|Engine||Flat four-cylinder, 1488cc|
Porsche’s remarkable 356 put the Zuffenhausen Company firmly on the automotive map in the 1950s, with Dr Ferdinand’s original design - a somewhat basic sports car closely based on Volkswagen’s Beetle - evolving into a technically advanced, beautifully resolved machine over a production life spanning more than fifteen years. The earliest 356s were powered by a Volkswagen-derived flat four displacing 1068cc and rated at 40 horsepower, but the 1300cc motor became an option from 1951 onwards. In 1952 the body was refined with a one-piece windscreen (bent in the middle) and revised bumpers, while a new 1488cc motor became available with a roller-bearing crankshaft, twin Solex carburettors and a handy 60 horsepower on tap. Other improvements included duplex front brakes, a rear parcel shelf and revised instrumentation (the tacho became standard). Stronger brakes, full synchromesh gearboxes across the range and a new two-spoke steering wheel appeared in 1953, while two new 1500 motors became available, the 55 horsepower unit and 70 horsepower Super. Sold in Coupe, Cabriolet and Speedster variants, the so-called ‘Pre-A’ 356 is highly prized amongst collectors for its rarity and purity of design. Built at the instigation of Porsche’s North American distributor Max Hoffman, the original Speedster was a stripped down, open-topped version of the 356 and became very successful in North America as a dual-purpose sports car, proving popular with amateur race drivers competing in SCCA events. Porsche built approximately 920 Pre-A Speedsters before adopting the new Type 616/1 and 616/2 motors in October 1955 and a total of 1,234 Pre-A cars were made prior to the official introduction of the 356A in January 1956. The number of cars built for right-hand drive markets like South Africa and Australia was incredibly low, with only three cars understood to have been delivered here by local importer Norman Hamilton. Thanks in part to its association with glamorous film stars like James Dean and Steve McQueen, the 356 Speedster has always been a very desirable Porsche and any Pre-A version ranks amongst the most collectible Porsches of all, with a cult following that shows no signs of waning.