Show and Tell

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Down in the lower compartment are the windscreen-washer fluid jar with plumbing up to the under-dash finger pump. The spare wheel and tire are accompanied by the car’s original tubular screw-jack. Finding a correct Hazet-labeled “Tourister” travel kit proved challenging, says Jim, who searched many months for the correct tin clamshell box and then equip it with the proper factory complement of Hazet hand tools.

The Cab’s original engine went its own way long ago, perhaps in its racing days; in the tail when Jim began taking things apart was a 1500cc Industrial Case fitted with small port heads. “It ran but not well. No sense in pouring money into an undesirable low-powered engine, right?”

That matter was soon resolved with a 1968 912 motor prepared by Velios. The more robust engine was treated to a 1720cc big-bore kit with Nikasil barrels, a hotter camshaft, high-ratio rockers, and all rotating parts balanced to two-tenths of a gram. A pair of Weber 40IDF-XE downdraft two-barrel carbs was installed, topped with extended velocity stacks and a pair of K & N air filters. There’s a sport muffler and PermaTune CD ignition system. Cosmetically, all the engine tin other than the fan shroud was black powder-painted. The shroud was sprayed in Ford Tractor Gray aircraft Imron. The final mechanical setup and fine tuning were handled by the talented Al Cadrobbi and Gary Hemmer.

When the motor went on a dynamometer at Hemmer’s shop to determine

optimum carburetor jetting, it eventually

produced a consistent 105 horses. Unfortunately, the engine suffered a bearing failure a few years later; the problem was eventually traced to a few particles of sand that remained trapped in the oil filter canister system after those parts had been sandblasted and cleaned during restoration. That’s a problem that has plagued more than one 356 owner; the 356 Registry magazine discussed the issue a couple of years ago. Pat Higgins at Accutrack in Manhattan Beach rebuilt the motor. Jim shares the lesson: “Don’t use sand-blast cleaning on any Parts that have exposure to the oil system!”

The gearbox remains the original Type 519 with a two-piece case. Jim knows it was designed to handle no more than 50-60 hp, so he doesn’t abuse it. When the bolts securing the axle carrier to the ring gear gave up the ghost, the car went back to Cadrobbi, who “tore into the box”, in Jim’s words, and installed a 13-bolt Carrera ring-and-pinion set and all-new synchronizers and stringer bolts, and patiently went about the tedious task of setting up the proper pre-loading of the final drive. Tony Callas of Callas Rennsport assisted with re-installation and some important chassis work. In 2009, the brakes were overhauled again under the watchful eyes and assistance of Loren Pearson. Scrimger mounted a new 22mm ATE master cylinder and wheel cylinders, along with fresh steel and rubber brake lines. Fresh shoes were arced to match the aluminum/iron drums by C.H. Topping in Long Beach.

The original 3.5×16-in. diameter steel wheels that once wore 4.5×16-in. bias-ply rubber have been replaced with aftermarket 5.5×15-in. chromed rims wearing Michelin 165-60 radials. While certainly more practical, this introduced a new problem, says Jim. “Should a rear tire blow, the wheel offset on the 5.5-in. wheel now makes it necessary to deflate the spare tire to allow it to be pushed into the wheel well and over the rear brake drum, then re-inflated to the correct pressure.” Having learned this the hard way, he now carries a small foot-operated air pump to re-inflate the tire if necessary.

Around Christmas of 1988, the car was completed, having been transformed into “a beautiful butterfly,” in Jim’s words. He then sent an inquiry to the factory requesting data from the cab’s Kardex. The only data available was that the car left Zuffenhausen in February of 1954 and had been shipped to U.S. importer Max Hoffman in New York City. The reply also noted that the car had originally been painted the unusual shade of Modegrau, or Fashion Gray, one of only six colors offered on cabriolets that year. Our research materials indicate that it would have had either gray textured vinyl or gray cloth upholstery. As we have noted, that color scheme had gone by the wayside years before. Jim was delighted with the car’s brighter appearance, and began sharing it with others, everything from local show-and-shine Saturday mornings to PCA and 356 Registry events and invitation-only concourses d’elegance in Central and Southern California. Jim estimates that he has shown the cabriolet between seventy and eighty times. It has proven to be a great crowd-pleaser, garnering many class wins and people’s choice awards. Although the chassis number and build date would make this Cabriolet a 1954 model, Jim notes that it was constructed with a 1953 nose; that is, the single small parking lamps/turn signals are installed directly below the headlamps. The following year, 1954, saw small horn grilles added, and these do not appear on Jim’s unmodified car. This might suggest that the factory was still using up parts left over from the previous year (not uncommon in those early days). Jim considers his car a crossover 1953/54, and who’s to argue with him?

Jim especially enjoys driving and showing an automobile that was well-designed and -built in the first place, and then rebuilt to a high standard when it was well over 30 years of age. He and Vicki take it out frequently, and it carried both of their sons and their brides on their respective wedding days. The car’s restoration has held up well for the past 25 years. Jim loves talking about his little red Porsche with other gearheads, and says Vickie “basks in the amazing tale of how she strategized and got the car” for her unsuspecting husband.

“A pretty great wife, eh?” he muses, and we’d all agree his assessment is spot-on.

Also from Issue 215

  • David Donohue track tests the Turbo
  • A missing link in the 911's life story
  • Who should get credit for the design?
  • 987/997 ignition events and your warranty
  • Porsches and guitars--a great mix
  • Awesome power; Cayman balance
  • 1975 Carrera finds a new venue
  • A historian's look at the 356's birth
  • RS enthusiasts gather at Rheims
  • Could this car be worth $500,000?
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