Technically an island, the gulf-side Houston suburb, Seabrook, Texas, will play host to the relatively new kid on the vintage car auction block; Motostalgia. The Keels & Wheels auction will take place over the weekend of May, 2, and will feature an amazing array of significant vintage automobiles, but most interestingly, a handful of absolutely gorgeous Porsche models. Chief among them, we found this Continental Cabriolet to be the most compelling lot of the litter. Just looking at the images, you can easily tell that it is a special car, and one that most complete of Porsche collections would make room for.
Backstory Of The Porsche 356 Continental Convertible
Most Porsche fanatics surely know the story of the Continental nameplate. The Continental was one-year-only nomenclature that was introduced for the US market by legendary importer Max Hoffman to make the new Porsche more memorable in the eyes of the American public. For the Continental, Hoffman only imported the larger and more powerful 1500cc engine versions of Porsches 1955 sports coupe and cabriolet. Still a relatively unknown company in North America at the time, not many of the sprightly little runabout were sold. That same year, Ford Motor told Porsche to stop calling their cars 'Continental', as they owned the rights to the name. The import cars were changed to "European" in 1956, and reverted back to simply 356 from 1957 onward.
This particular car, chassis number 60873, carries engine number 35295, a 1500cc 70hp flat four. Driven through the 4 speed gearbox, this little Porsche would sprint to 60 in about 13 or 14 seconds. While a bit slow by today's standards, it was downright sporty in 1955. Porsche's 356 would consistently punch above its weight class on track, taking down much more powerful machinery with its handling prowess and unique driving style.
This car is about much more than performance, however. It simply exudes beauty. In the 1950s, there was nothing on the road that was this fluid, this lowslung, and this visually engaging. While the majority of Americans were commuting in shoeboxes with wheels and heavy chrome monstrosities with massive tail fins, Porsche owners were jetting along the highways and byways in one of the most beautiful designs of all time. Its simplicity is its shining feature, and this one takes things to another level.
When I first laid eyes on images of this car, I knew there was something different about it, but couldn't quite place what it was. The 356 Pre-A design has always been a favorite of mine, but this one stood out among the crowd. Surely the unique 'terra cotta' paintwork sets the mood perfectly, and the 16" body color wheels with 'turbo' trim rings and chrome caps are an excellent complement, there was still something going unnoticed. Perhaps the yellow-lens fog lamps are what I'm seeing? No, it's more than that.
Peeking At The Porsche's Kardex, I Notice A Few Interesting Options
First, the car was sold by the "Werksverkauf", or factory sales department, to an American by the name of Mr. Robert Jackson. "Special Becker-Radio Typ Mexico" would explain the gorgeous center-mount radio, which also required a different type of shift lever. Seat belts for both sides was also a rarely purchased option for 1955. "Trim with rubber profile" gives the car the deco strips on both sides and on the bumpers. Obviously, the speedometer was ordered to display miles per hour, rather than kilometers. From there, things get even more interesting, with words like "Fahrzeug ohne vorderen haubengriff" (Vehicle without front hood handle), and most importantly "Verchromt stosstangen" (chromed bumpers) showing up on the build sheet.
It is not widely known how many cars left the factory with chromed bumpers, or when it was available as an option, but we know that there were very few, and was likely only available on the "A-style" bumpers fitted to later Pre-A and A models. In the US especially, the chrome bumper cars were not well loved, and some dealerships would even paint over the chrome in order to help them sell. Of the thousands of 356s sold in that period, only a small percentage of them could have been delivered with verchromt stosstangen. As a matter of fact, we've never even seen one in person.
Counts in this car's favor -
Beautiful Terra Cotta exterior paint
Classically colored tan convertible top
One-of-only-a-handful chrome bumper cars
One of 278 Continental Cabriolets ever built
Counts against this car -
The kardex card does not mention the front mounted fog lamps
The tool kit included is a later version
In my opinion, this car can be categorized as "over-restored"
The Ochre interior might considered too stark for some (personally, I love it)
After the Porsche was delivered, much of its history went unrecorded, as in those days, a 356 was simply a mode of transportation, albeit an odd one, and exceedingly rare. In the 1980's the Porsche's care was taken over by Joseph Harris, a well-known collector and restorer from Illinois. It was Mr. Harris who acquired the information from the factory verifying this 356's heritage and unique construction details. Upon finding out the interesting build sheet of this car, it sparked his desire to restore the car to its original configuration. Taking several years to accumulate all of the required pieces, he didn't get started with the restoration project until 2009. Taking nearly two-years to complete the restoration, ensuring that every detail was comprehensively managed, the final product shown here is the result.
The Restoration Process
While the body-mounted fog lamps are not shown on the kardex, the correct brackets and openings for the rare optional lights were uncovered during the restoration process, and a fresh set were sourced, and installed. Early 356 specialist, Victor Miles, assisted in locating a number of new old stock components, and oversaw the plating and restoration of the car's bright work. An almost impossible piece of the puzzle to source, an original set of glass reflectors with proper factory marks and stamping were also located, ensuring this car as Porsche as it was when it left the factory. Great lengths were gone to in order to insure this car's pristine condition, and the hard work and effort certainly show through.
In the engine compartment, the 1500cc engine was restored, and the numbers match to Porsche's records for the car. An immaculately restored engine compartment scores some serious points with enthusiasts and concours judges alike. Likewise, the suspension components were brought up to like-new standards and the original 16"' wide-five wheels have been fitted with proper whitewall tires, then fitted with 'dog-dish' center hubcaps and original 'turbo' wheel trim rings. From the 'beehive' light fixtures to the 'bent-window', this car is among the most well prepared 356 in the country.
After the restoration was completed, Mr. Harris moved this 356 Continental Cabriolet on to the collection of another Porsche fan where it has been given the white glove treatment, covering fewer than 300 miles since the completed restoration. The car, sadly, has only been shown publicly on one occasion. This detail, though, does ensure that the new owner will be bathed in attention and Concours invitations. This car is your ticket to a wide variety of rallies, shows, and tours around the world and would be a welcome addition to any Porsche event. With the Porsche Parade only just over a month away, this would be the perfect way to make a statement upon arrival.
How Much Will It Sell For?
The pre-auction estimate for this exceedingly rare open-topped Porsche beauty expects the final price to fall somewhere between $356,000 and $405,000. The way early Porsche prices have been inflating lately, I don't find these numbers difficult to believe.
Other Porsche lots available at Motostalgia's Seabrook auction -
Lot 107 - 1960 Porsche 356 B 1600 Coupe - $50-75,000
Lot 118 - 1960 Porsche 356 B 1600 Cabriolet - $90-120,000
Lot 137 - 1968 Porsche 911L Soft Window Targa - $135-165,000
Lot 150 - 1957 Porsche 356 A 1600 Speedster - $240-275,000
Lot 178 - 1963 Porsche 356 B 1600 Super Coupe - $60-80,000
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A Trip to LA Begins and Ends With Porsche
For more information on this car and the Keels & Wheels Concours or Auction, visit motostalgia.com.