C Speedster

C Speedster 1
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C Speedster 3
C Speedster 4
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C Speedster 10

In Walter’s judgment, the Speedster was barely restorable. Wisdorf was undeterred. 2,500 marks (some $1,000 U.S. in 1975), bought the wreck of the car Lt. Smith purchased new nearly two decades earlier. By truck 84285 traveled to Stuttgart-Zuffen­hausen, back to its place of origin.

Porsche’s Werksreparaturabteilung had been established in 1950 to service and repair customer vehicles. Later, the reconditioning of engines for the exchange program was added, and shortly afterwards the maintenance of race and test cars, too. Because the department possessed experienced staff and extensive equipment including a paint shop, it was a self-sufficient factory within the factory.

By the mid-1970s, an entirely new kind of customer request was piling up: complete restoration of Porsche’s early cars. Several highlights in the factory collection had shown that the repair department, headed by classic car lover Rolf Sprenger, was the right address for restorations. Thus, Sprenger’s decision to offer official reclamation of old Porsches to a circle of well-paying clients was a mere formality.

Wisdorf would become the first customer of Porsche’s new line of business, but his demands didn’t win him favor with Sprenger. The pharmacist didn’t want a renaissance of the original condition of 1957, but rather the upgrade of his 356A Speed­ster to 356C generation — the final design of the primal Porsche. Sprenger advised strongly against it, but Wisdorf would not be mislead. In his view, his plan would make parts procurement far easier: While 356A panels were largely sold out, those of the 356C were still in stock.

Work began with stripping the Speed­ster. For the reconstruction of the understructure, panels from the 911 were used — the floors, inner sills, transmission tunnel. Using sheet metal parts of the current model resulted in a special framework “custom made by Por­sche.” The exterior followed as a composition of 356C body panels, even if the passenger’s pit was left in the shape of the classic Speedster.

Something else was to be modernized: the sheet metal itself. The old 356 would get rust protection that met modern, if not futuristic, standards. Porsche had only recently published the results of its Lang­zeitauto research project, the “Long Life Car” capable of a 30+year lifespan. As a result, Porsche was introducing hot-dip galvanizing for all serial-production cars with the start of the 1976 model year.

Certainly, felt Sprenger, the product of the first restoration for an external customer must also be perfectly protected against rust. Therefore, the sandblasted 356’s body received a flame-spray zinc coating, done at the Leuze surface-finishing company in Stuttgart-Weilimdorf, a special treatment for the first time ever but one that has remained part of the standard repertoire of Porsche factory restorations.

Back in Zuffenhausen, the shell was re­painted in a dark blue metallic. Reassembly followed, which included several details to Wisdorf’s taste. Details like a Stebro race exhaust and polished Wolfrace mag wheels. As the final highlight, the engine took its place. It was not, however, the original pushrod four with 60 hp. Instead, it was the top-of-the-356C-era legend Carrera 2 flat four with four camshafts, dual ignition, and two liters of displacement — an engine rated at 130 hp.

After a long search, Wisdorf found the capricious engine in disassembled form. He brought it to Schwäbisch Hall, where Karl Wagner — a former Porsche works racing engine mechanic and one of the few real specialists of the Carrera four-cam — had just launched his own business. Thanks to Wagner, the Wis­dorf Speedster became the ultimate 356, a dream car Zuffen­hausen held back from its clientele two decades earlier.

Also from Issue 194

  • Driven: GMG GT3 RS
  • Driven: 2011 Cayenne S
  • GT3 RS 4.0
  • 1967 911S stunner
  • Steve McQueen at Sebring
  • 1984 953 and Jacky Ickx
  • The Longest Day
  • Growing up Porsche
  • Interview: Willi Kauhsen
  • Used Porsche Pick: 911 RS America
  • Buyers Guide: 996s & 997s
  • Tech Forum: Air-oil separators
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