While looking upon the exterior, it is entirely foreign, practically alien. Certainly there are identifiable trim bits, such as the door handles, engine lid grilles, and rocker trim, but not enough to make a cognizant connection to any car you’ve seen before. Drop the extended top, and step inside, however, and the story completely changes. This environment is altogether familiar and inviting. I know this story, I’ve been here before.
Everything falls neatly to hand in a 356, instantly recognizable. The large rim steering wheel, the small yet effective shift knob, the dash mounted controls, and the comfortable overstuffed seating are all intact. The view from the driver’s seat of the Beutler PurSang 356A is mostly the same, though the familiar shape of the fenders falling off toward the ground in front of you has been replaced by a more abrupt horizontal edge and a much larger surface area between them.
Starting in 1958, Ernst Beutler built a new 2+2 coupe body design on an existing 356A chassis for personal use. Ernst and his brother had had a lot of experience working with 356 models, as they had produced some of the earliest cabriolet models when they were still assembled in Gmünd. Beutler’s new body featured a gaping “fish-mouth” grille, a near horizontal side profile from headlight to taillight, and a more traditional tail panel with a fin-type pointed ending.
Having seen Beutler’s striking new design, Duke Carl Aof Württemberg was interested in commissioning one of his own. Requesting that Beutler work their magic on a Cabriolet chassis, and hammer the sheet metal in aluminum, rather than steel, Duke Carl and the Beutler brothers sat down to work out the details. A scale model drawing was produced for the Duke, demonstrating the differences between the existing coupe version, and the Duke’s requested Cabriolet. After a bit of fiddling with fender lines, a date was set for construction to begin.
Though the car maintains all of the mechanicals and underpinnings of a standard 356A, the wheelbase of a Beutler is extended by nearly 10 inches to provide functional usability to the rear seats. Powered by the old and familiar 1582cc 60 horsepower flat-four, utilizing the same 4-speed transaxle, suspended by the same torsion bar suspension, and stopped by the same 280mm finned drums, the Beutler “Pur Sang” driving experience was nearly identical to that of the standard 356.
Erwin Komenda, Porsche’s head of automotive design, oversaw the production of the Beutler hand-hammered “Swiss-Aluman” alloy bodywork, as well as the work to lengthen the chassis to accommodate a true 2+2 seating arrangement. The process, from start to finish, took a lengthy 8 weeks. When the car was nearing the finishing stages, Duke Carl was called upon to ensure the convertible top would accommodate his lofty frame. This turned out to be a smart decision as the top needed to be reworked to comfortably close over the tall German.
Upon delivery to Württemberg, the Beutler PurSang Cabriolet presented the Duke with a tremendous invoice of 26,000 Swiss Francs, at the time, the equivalent of about $8,100. Finished in a gorgeous shade of “Steel Blue Metallic”, with standard Burgundy leatherette upholstery and tan carpeting, the car was a striking, if slightly esoteric, sight. Later versions of the Beutler 2+2 were all coupe bodies, and each subsequent shape appeared closer and closer to its 356 origins. A total of 6 were built, yet the PurSang remains the only cabriolet of them.
After Duke Carl had tired of the car and sold it, the car floated around Germany for a few years, and was later sold to an owner in the US. While here, it passed for many years through several owners, at one point becoming the long-time daily ride of “Jefferson Airplane” front-woman, Grace Slick. In 1996, the car received a 100% concourse quality restoration and repaint, and remains in excellent condition. At the moment, the car can be found among the inventory at famous Porsche experts Road Scholars, seeking a new home.
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Photos: Road Scholars, DerWhite Source: Road Scholars