Thursday, September 1, 2016

Convertible Week continues with an ivory bathtub!

Ah the Gold Coast of Long Island! The playground for millionaires and billionaires with 25,000 square foot mansions on sprawling estates along the beaches of the North Shore. It shouldn't be surprising to see a classic exotic parked in front of a sweet little antiques shop. However this was parked in the corner of a Key Foods grocery store in Mattituck. Let's investigate.
At first glance this is a 1957 Porsche 356A Speedster in Elfenbein (Ivory in German). This is without a doubt one of the worlds most sought-after sports cars with nice examples routinely trading for a quarter million dollars or more. Everything here looks correct from the turn signal/horn vent grills to the fender mounted mirrors and the split windshield. Even the body-colored bumpers are correct.
These cars are absolutely cooler than cool. Using essentially the same layout as the Volkswagen Beetle (and designed by the same Dr. Ferdinand Porsche) they are quirky and fun. The rear-mounted air-cooled engine puts out a warbling chirp not unlike the Beetle, and creature comforts such as heat are similarly feeble. Still, who buys a Speedster for the heating capabilities?
The first of the 356 models was introduced in 1948 in coupe form, and is widely regarded as the first Porsche automobile (there was a similar version built in the late '30s but it never went into production). Those early 356 models are known as "Pre-A" and were built from '48 through '55. The engine was a diminutive 1,100cc 4 cylinder culled from VW parts.
1955 heralded the 356A which came with numerous small improvements. Engines went up in size to 1.3, 1.5, and 1.6 Liters with many performance enhancements. They are so scarce and valuable that kits have been available to recreate them for decades.
Ultimately it came down to this luggage rack in confirming the identity of this little bathtub.
One of the companies to offer Speedster kits is the terribly named Special Edition company (YAWN). The Special Edition brand BECK Speedster boasts this very rack as an option for their kits. They describe it as a "loose recreation of the very early, smaller luggage racks". Since this is identical to their optional rack and they admit it is a loose recreation it must be BECK. *No I don't know why it is all capitalized but if you'd like to contact the president of Special Editions and ask him about his naming practices please do so.
So here we have it; a replica of one of the coolest cars on the planet. Luckily the 356 A Speedster lends itself to being recreated as a kit car better than really any other. Many kits involve placing a goofy looking approximation of a classic on a VW Beetle chassis and rolling with it (for serious groans look up VW kit cars and be prepared for horrific Lamborghinis and the like). However the original 356 was built on a Beetle chassis so if anything you could improve performance by adding the larger 1600 VW engine. No matter how real or fake I'm certain this is a hilariously fun car to drive in summer.
Glückliche Autofahren oh gefälschte Porsche-Fahrer!

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