It’s no wonder that the bill climbed into the dream-car realm, too. Wisdorf paid around 80,000 Deutsche Marks for the restoration, even more than he forked out for the new, loaded 911 Turbo he took delivery of at about the same time. The Carrera 2 engine devoured another 50,000+ DM. All in, the pharmacist releases a total of some 150,000 DM — equating to nearly $60,000 in 1976. For this incredible heap of money, he could have had a Rolls-Royce Corniche, two and a half Ferrari 308 GTBs, 20 VW Golfs, or 17 Ford Mustangs on the U.S. market. Meanwhile, original Speedsters in immaculate condition were available for a tenth of that amount.
Wisdorf hit the road. Slowly, at first. He was disappointed by the four-cam 2.0’s weak power at low revs. He became bolder after experts told him the serious music came between 4500 rpm and the red light district of 7000. After a few days’ acclimatization, he would hardly get out of the car. The 356 dependably brought Wisdorf to his southern European destinations: his villa on Lake Maggiore, the Riviera, Rome.
In total, the pharmacist logged more than 20,000 kilometers in his addictive four-wheeled drug over ten years — without a single technical problem. But, by 1988, he had grown weary of his toy and sold it to well-known 356 specialist Werner Kühn in Reichshof, Bergisches Land.
Kühn viewed the four-cam engine as less than ideal for daily use, so he took it out and put it on a shelf. In its place, he installed a modified Type IV engine from a 914 2.0. With pistons and Nikasil cylinders by Oettinger, a hotter Schrick camshaft, dry-sump lubrication, and two dual Solex 40 PI carburetors, the 2138-cc flat four was claimed to offer more than 140 hp at 5800 rpm.
Kühn found the pushrod Type IV provided substantially more torque than the four-cam four, as well. It was also some 70 pounds lighter, which improved handling and sharpened straight-line precision. He noted a calming effect past 210 km/h (130 mph) on the autobahn. However, he was increasingly annoyed that again and again he had to explain the special status of his bastard at 356 meetings, an unpleasant role for a 356 professional whose clients were fanatical followers of factory originals.
On a Friday afternoon in the summer of 1991, Kühn meets in distant Würzburg an old friend from Regensburg, Bavaria. His friend arrives in his 1951 Mercedes-Benz 220 Cabriolet A and is fascinated by Kühn’s unusual Speedster. After a while, they agree on a temporary car swap, so Kühn drives home in the Mercedes.
That same evening, his phone rings. It’s his old friend. Kühn learns that he can forget about retrieving the Speedster. “I won’t ever give away this incredible car,” says the voice on the other end of the line, which belongs to Walter Röhrl. After a short deliberation, Kühn and Röhrl trade titles with no money involved. To give a rough order of magnitude: The estimated value of the Mercedes is at this time 115,000 DM, or about $65,000.
With this barter, a long-term dream of Röhrl comes true — a dream the two-time World Rallye Champion had to bury two years earlier, in 1989, when he gave another friend antecedence to buy 84285’s sister car. Sister car? Yes, absolutely. In fact, the Werksreparaturabteilung welcomed its second regular paying customer, Horst Trum of Munich, almost simultaneously with Wilhelm Wisdorf.
Just like the Cologne pharmacist, Trum took the dilapidated leftovers of a 356A Speedster in Zuffenhausen in order to get his favorite car that never existed, a 356C Speedster. But unlike Wisdorf, he chose black paint and green leather, while a 90-hp 1600-cc 912 four-cylinder would suffice. Trum drove this car, chassis number 82158, until 1989. It went through the hands of several dealers before ending up in the garage of Peter Scherbauer, also of Munich, for the sum of 140,000 DM.
For the test-drive appointment in January 1989, Scherbauer showed up accompanied by childhood friend Walter Röhrl. The latter took a courageous lap in the Speedster and decided he would take the car if his friend didn’t. Much to his chagrin, Scherbauer snapped up the car.