Virginian John Wood and wife Anne are clearly dedicated to the Porsche marque. “I have been interested in Porsches since my youth, especially the 356 body style,” says John. “About 15 years ago, I purchased a 1987 930 with less than 10,000 miles on it, and it has been downhill ever since.” In the intervening years, the Woods have owned two new Turbos, a 2000 911 Cabriolet, a 1957 Speedster, and a 1964 SC cabriolet that Anne drives on a regular basis. “We have also owned a restored 1954 coupe, a 1958 coupe, and now the 1953 cabriolet we are currently showing.”
That cabriolet (serial number 60045) is the freshly restored 356 you see here, and its story is a good one. In the summer of 2004, rumors began circulating in 356 circles that someone in San Jose, California had a trio of early 356s for sale. John Wood was interested, and got in touch with the owner through fellow 356 Registry and 356 Club member Dan Rowzie. Negotiations would take nearly a full year, as the seller had yet to work out arrangements with her late husband’s estate. Eventually, they were able to make a package deal for all three cars.
“The owners, Kenneth and Carol Krause, had purchased the bent-windshield cabriolet in 1966,” relates Wood. “Kenneth had passed away in the mid-1990s, but the old cab had been safely stored in a dry garage for 25 years. The other two cars were a 1954 coupe tub, which had been repainted some years earlier and was parked on the street, and an unrestored 1957 coupe that was also parked outside. Included in the sale were many boxes of original parts.”
Wood, along with good friend Lewis Hauser (whose shop, Karosserie Limited in Fairfax, Virginia, had restored one of the Woods’ 356s), soon hopped a flight to the West Coast. Wood arranged to have a large moving van arrive at Mrs. Krause’s home, and while it showed up at the appointed time, loading the cars was a challenge. “We tied them down and padded them with shipping blankets, then loaded the extra parts wherever we could make space,” he recalls.
Adds Hauser, “It was a big tractor-trailer unit. After we loaded the cars, the driver made a couple of other stops on the way east to pick up some other shipments, but the cars reached Virginia in good condition.”
Wood and Hauser decided to tackle the 1954 coupe first, since it had already been painted and just needed assembly and finishing. About halfway through that project, Hauser also began to work on the cabriolet. Says Wood, “Our mission was to completely restore the car to factory specifications, using as many original parts as possible.”
The cabriolet was about 90-percent complete, but there were some important trim pieces missing, such as the hood spear. “Lots of Pre-A owners used to update their cars with A trim, so we had a good A hood spear, but it was incorrect for this car,” says Hauser. “We also had to find correct Pre-A dashboard gauges, since they had been changed by a previous owner.” The original 16-inch wheels were also missing, and at some point the car had been “updated” with pieces from later models, including horn grilles in the nose (which did not appear until 1954) and teardrop tail-lights (which replaced the round “beehive” lamps in 1959). There was even a 1955 Continental badge on one fender.
The cabriolet came with a thick file of ownership records dating back to the early 1960s, but little is known about the earliest years of the car’s life. Wood’s patient research has revealed that the little droptop — the 45th of 394 Reutter cabriolets built for the 1953 model year — left the factory on its way to Porsche’s East Coast distributor, Hoffman Motors in New York City, on March 6, 1953, but that’s about it. “Mrs. Krause had no information on previous owners,” Wood says. “I’ll keep on looking.” He believes he’s on the trail of the original Reutter build sheet, which might provide a name.