This 1958 Speedster S epitomizes the term “garage find,” having been stored for 42 of its 58 years. It will be auctioned by Gooding in Scottsdale this January. Photos by Brian Henniker. All images copyright and courtesy of Gooding & Company.
In September 1954 Porsche successfully answered the request of U.S. distributor Max Hoffman for a lower cost Porsche, a car that could sell for less than $3000. Porsche had no choice but to listen as 75 percent of Porsche production headed to the U.S. After the commercial failure of the alloy-bodied America Roadster, Porsche turned to its bodybuilder Reutter to cost-effectively develop a variation of the 356 Cabriolet, and the Speedster was born.
Speedsters are best known for their cut-down windshields, but they also had a minimalist top, side curtains (rather than roll-up glass windows), a unique flat dash panel with little more than two gauges and a passenger grab handle, and lightweight racing-style bucket seats. They also had a spear of brightwork running down the side. To please American tastes, the car had lower gear ratios to improve acceleration. And for $500, the hotter S engine was available. Even in Speedster S form, the car weighed about 130 pounds less than a standard 356, delivering markedly better performance than a standard 356 Coupe.
The car was immediately successful in California. Thanksgiving weekend John von Neumann teamed with Erich Bücklers in a 1500S Speedster and came home eighth overall in the Torrey Pines six-hour race. The next day von Neumann won the race for 1500cc production cars. In 1955, Bengt Soderstrom won the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) F Production championship with a Speedster.
The 1958 Speedster S presented here epitomizes the term “garage find,” having been stored for 42 of its 58 years. Los Angeles disc jockey B. Mitchel Reed and his wife bought the car new at Competition Motors and enjoyed it for about 12 years until it was purchased by its current owner in 1970. Reed was a rock DJ at “The Mighty Met,” KMET, a station that was nicknamed K-ZEP in the 1970s and ‘80s because Led Zeppelin was a heavy part of any DJ’s on-air shift. Reed was spinning vinyl when being a DJ required encyclopedic knowledge of rock ‘n’ roll along with a fabulous voice, and anyone who grew up in Los Angeles from the 1960s on will tell you Reed had a deep, rich voice. That’s the first backstory.
The second owner, who has placed the car with Gooding for auction in Scottsdale this coming January, resisted the urge to repaint and restore the car, believing a rough patina would make it less tempting to thieves. Even by 1970, the Speedster was gaining cult status among collectors and the pioneers of vintage racing, and the owner grew tired of incessant offers to buy the little black car.
Instead, the owner drained the oil and removed the battery, then garaged it in 1974, where it slept for the next quarter-century, until the owner moved, forcing relocation. It sat in this second garage till he approached Gooding in 2016, ready to sell.
The owner states the car has never been used on a racetrack. Although the car has not been started in quite some time, the owner states the engine turns over. The car is accompanied with the original Kardex, two emblems (“Porsche” and “Speedster”), an original key, two car jacks, and a car cover.
Produced through the 1958 model year, the Speedster saw minor changes throughout its four-year model run. This final-year Speedster benefits from those upgrades, which include an improved rear suspension design, quicker steering, and a larger (1600cc versus 1500cc) flat-four engine that was available in either “Normal” (60 horsepower) or optional “Super” (75 horsepower) form. The 15-horsepower increase represents an impressive 25% gain. This Speedster was originally equipped with the desirable Super engine option, which it still has today.
Though a solid Southern California car that was never cut to accept a rollbar or anchor points for racing belts, or modified for greater performance, this final-year Speedster is too rough to simply make roadworthy and enjoy as a Patina Special. Instead, it’s a fantastic candidate for a concours-quality, factory-specification restoration. The car comes equipped with two incredible backstories.