The interior carried a few non-standard, but apparently original, touches. The ashtray was covered in dark green leather (“I’ve never seen another 356 with that feature,” says Wood), while the dashboard face features unusual “eyebrows” over the speedo and tachometer. East Coast restorer Dennis Frick believes the eyebrows first appeared when the instrument lettering changed from white to green during 1952. They were apparently intended to help reduce the reflection of the instruments in the windshield.
“The large-instrument eyebrows are pictured in the earliest Pre-A parts book as an item that can be had ‘for later installation,’” says Frick, “while the large eyebrow is listed in the late Pre-A parts book as a normal part, quantity two.” According to Frick, some of the cars also have eyebrows over the smaller instruments, but these are not mentioned in the parts books.
While taking apart the interior panels, Hauser and Wood discovered a small piece of the original green leather in perfect condition. This was sent to Tony Garcia at Autobahn Interiors in California to use as a color sample. Garcia recovered the front and rear seats and aluminum door panels, and also cut and prepared the new green square-weave carpeting and German canvas top.
Hauser admits to spending perhaps 300 hours on the top installation, making sure everything fit perfectly before cutting the hole for the new back window. The top bows and folding metal framing took up a lot of that time; while the metal parts were still in perfect condition, much of the original wood in the front and rear bows had to be replaced. Frick supplied new aluminum tack strips. “One of the most difficult items to locate was the rubber gasket for the original plastic rear window,” says Wood. “We finally found a reproduction in Italy. All in all, the top was the hardest part of the restoration.”
The original Blaupunkt four-button radio was refurbished by Wilford Wilkes in Pennsylvania, while Victor Miles took care of rebuilding the headlights, taillights, and license-plate lamp. Wood sent the original but crumbling wiring harness to Tom Birch in Los Angeles, who supplied a perfect replacement.
Correct wheels are always an issue when concours judges get up close and personal, so Wood needed to find a set. “I was able to track down four correctly dated 1953 16-inch wheels and another from 1954, which I use for the spare,” he says. All the wheels were painted in a metallic dark green, the same color used on the dashboard and door caps. Wood was also able to locate and restore a set of “turbo” wheel trim rings, whose ventilating louvers differ left side to right.
Some of the simplest items proved to be the most challenging to locate. “I was very fortunate to find the car’s original brown canvas tool pouch stuffed down between the gas tank and the bulkhead, but the original tools were missing,” says Wood. “Over the past couple of years, I was able to obtain correct tools and the jack, which I had Ray Wills restore.” The old leather strap on the tool bag carries a wonderful patina befitting its age.
Getting the title was also a lengthy process. “For some reason, the DMV kept finding something wrong with the applications — the date was wrong, or Mrs. Krause hadn’t signed in each required space — and they kept sending the applications back to us,” Wood remembers. “I’d take care of the problem and re-submit them, and of course they went back to the bottom of the pile each time. Even with proper bills of sale, the whole thing took more than eight months to sort out. It was very frustrating.”
Finally, after four long years, everything was finished. The elegant black cabriolet made its concours debut at the 356 Registry’s 2008 East Coast Holiday in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where it captured both Best in Class and Best in Show. Its next major appearance was the 356 Registry’s 2009 East Coast Holiday in West Baden Springs, Indiana, where it again took top honors in both class and show.
Although this was Hauser’s first cabriolet restoration, it was clearly a success. “Everyone seems to like it,” he concedes modestly. Wood says that the car’s wins at both 356 Registry Holidays, where judging is very tough, have been “quite an honor for both Anne and myself. I will continue to show the car as long as people want to look at it.”