Pure Joy: 356/2-045

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Barrington knew what he was doing. But even for the canniest investment strategists, markets go up and markets go down. A few years later, with the unfolding of the Enron debacle, Barrington sustained losses that encouraged the sale of 045. In 2000, he found a buyer in Neil Huffman. The latter had amassed a singular collection containing one example of every 356 model up to 1965, with 045 being the crown jewel.

But the world keeps turning. 

When it was made known in 2009 that Huffman’s collection was in an estate sale, Kevin Watts and Cam In­gram of Road Scholars in Raleigh, North Carolina didn’t waste time. They had become more and more interested in Porsche’s earliest aluminum cars while helping Ingram’s parents acquire 356/2-017 from another American Porsche collector, Dr. Bill Jackson. The car was particularly interesting because it is one of the few surviving 356/2s that was totally built and finished in Gmünd.

The pair drove to Louisville, Kentucky to begin the arduous task of inspecting the entire collection. They looked at all the cars, checked all the numbers, and spent a week on due diligence, by then becoming acquainted with the Huffman family. The night before their blind bid was due, Watts reopened the Fed­Ex mailer and increased their bid by a significant amount.

The gamble paid off, and the chase was over. Only the Scholars knew the truth, however: The entire Huffman Collection had been bought solely to obtain 045! The rest of the 356s were sold off and Road Scholars focused on the singular 356/2.  

At first, things were encouraging. A lot of the crucial items — the gas tank, door frames, door panels, seats, all the original gauges and steering wheel — were just fine. But the closer they looked, the darker things got. When Barrington had the car resprayed in the medium blue it now carried, he’d said that, in 1990s dollars, it wouldn’t be a $10,000 paint job, but it wouldn’t be an Earl Scheib, either.

Alas, no. It was far, far worse.

The not-$10,000 painter, failing to take into full account that the Gmünd body was aluminum, not steel, applied a rotary grinder with such abandon that he “baked” the aluminum, grinding far too much material away as he did. As Ingram’s res­toration team stripped away the blue paint, they found, to their horror, that the aluminum was so thin that, when rolled into the sun, light came right through it.

A disaster. Only the roof, dashboard, firewall, and engine lid could be saved. All other sections of the body were completely unusable. Oy.

Not restored. New.
Suddenly, the magnitude of the job had tripled and quadrupled. Cam Ingram was not restoring a Gmünd coupe; he and his team were doing in his shop what Erwin Komenda and Frederick Weber and the others in 1950s Austria had done. He was building a brand-new Porsche 356/2.

And just as suddenly, the timeframe of the project changed dramatically. What had originally been a conventional, straightforward, typically meticulous restoration at 40 hours a week became a full-bore body fabrication, fitting, and finishing — a job that would consume 60 hours a week for two solid years. Why so? What did it matter how quickly the work was done?

Because of the client.

Upon landing the Gmünd, Watts and Ingram had spread the word among clients to see if anyone was interested in the car. Several were, but the magnitude of this restoration/immac­ulate conception was a bit of a concern. One of the more exotic replies, however, came not from America but from Ger­many. Rolf Spren­ger, who had run Por­sche’s Sonder­wünsche (Special Wishes) Department and handled unique customer orders for Por­sche staff and elite clientele, was expressing interest.

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