Jerry Charlup glances at his passenger with a smile as he throttles his 1957 Carrera Speedster quickly through a tight corner, forcing his shoulder hard against the door. The sounds coming from the exhaust make a good substitute for conversation. Words could wait until later—and then only occasional words would be spoken. Words like “wow” and a couple others unfit for publication. Wind and road noise add to an already enjoyable driving experience. The Speedster hasn’t worn its top in ages, and even with threatening skies there’s only a light drizzle—hardly a concern for this Carrera, always driven hard, rarely pampered.
Jerry was first introduced to his Carrera through an ad in a Southern California newspaper. He’d fallen in love with the sleek shape while at an Orange county PCA concours in 1982. He saw four examples that day, and because of them he quickly forgot about the ribbon he’d just won with his new 911 SC Targa. “Immediately I just fell in love with them and said, man, I’ve got to get one of these,” he remembers.
Jerry began searching for a Speedster, and within a year he sighted that fateful newspaper ad. “The car had a Carrera emblem on the sides and back. At the time I didn’t know what a Carrera was and, fortunately for me, neither did the seller,” Jerry says. The cost of the Speedster was within his budget, so he bought it. When he got the car among his Porsche friends, he discovered how unusual his car was. Indeed, he was the owner of an authentic Carrera Speedster—but the pushrod engine powering it belonged to a 912!
Jerry started to research Carreras—particularly Carrera motors. He learned about engine Typ 547 and its brilliant developer, Ernst Furhmann, and how this motor—with its unique four-camshaft design, elaborate valve gear and dual-spark ignition—transformed Porsche from automotive innovators to racing juggernauts. Not having a proper four-cam motor for his car would prompt Jerry on another search.
Meanwhile, he accepted an offer to work for a Swiss company that was opening an office in New York City, so he and his family relocated from California to the Northeast. Once settled in Connecticut and armed with the engine number from the Kardex he’d acquired from Porsche, he placed want ads in Panorama. He joined the 356 Registry and posted inquiries there.
“In 1990 I located a close serial number four-cam motor here on the East Coast, and I bought it,” he says. Though he’d just located a correct engine, he continued the search for the Speedster’s matching motor, all the time understanding the tough life some Carrera motors led and how many did not survive the demands placed on them. He couldn’t escape the likely reality that he would never find his car’s matching engine.
A business associate who shared his interest with cars put him in touch with an automotive restoration shop in Texas, where the car began a prolonged and incomplete restoration process. He shipped the four-cam to Houston, too, and not long after it arrived, progress on the restoration reached a standstill. The shop got into a dispute with the painter, and other problems appeared one after the other. Before Jerry knew it, five years had slipped away, and the car was nowhere near completion. He felt exasperated. Then a friend made an innocuous comment that would put his Speedster on a productive new path. “That’s a valuable motor you’ve got down there,” he said. “Do you even know if it still exists?”
Jerry recounts, “I got panicked. I flew down to Houston unannounced. I showed up and I said to the guy, ‘Look. I’m taking the car back.’”
It seemed like a spontaneous move, collecting his car as he did, but Jerry had a plan. Prior to the day of reckoning in Houston, he’d made contact with a 356 mechanic, Gerry McCarthy, whose specialty is four-cam motors.
One day in 1954, at J.S. Inskip Rolls-Royce, a young mechanic named Gerry McCarthy watched the freight elevator door open to the third-floor Manhattan dealership. From out of the shadows rolled a 356 Cabriolet. McCarthy immediately ran to the rear of the car: “Open the lid. I want to see the engine!” The shop foreman climbed out and replied, “If you know the motor’s in the back, then you’ve got me beat.”
Gerry was among a small gathering of enthusiasts at the first Carrera school in the United States. The class was organized by vintage racer Newt Davis and was held at Max Hoffman’s New York City Porsche dealership in February of 1958, and Gerry’s familiarity with the engine has only increased over time.
Jerry had his Carrera and the four-cam engine shipped to McCarthy, and he started a full restoration. Jerry felt a huge sense of relief. His Speedster was in his home state and in the care of one of the top four-cam Carrera experts in the world. Jerry was elated.
An active PCA member and Porsche enthusiast, Jerry has routinely attended events in his refurbished Speedster, and in November, 2007, he took it to Rennsport Reunion III in Daytona. Classics Division representatives from the Porsche factory had set up a booth there with a computer that had high-resolution images of Kardex documents. The only problem was they’d only allow you to look at them. They wouldn’t give you a copy, and they wouldn’t let you photograph them. Jerry waited in line to take a look. When it was his turn, he gave them his Speedster’s VIN number, and a Porsche representative typed it in. An image of a Kardex appeared on the screen. That’s when Jerry realized he had only received the top half of the Kardex he’d gotten after he bought his car. Displayed on the computer screen was the entire Kardex—including the bottom half that was missing from his copy. Printed on the missing half was the name of his Carrera’s first owner—Jimmy Moore. Jerry grabbed a piece of paper, pulled out a pen, and wrote the name down.
Jimmy Moore was a club racer whose career is well documented. Once Jerry knew Moore was the first owner of his car, he started to investigate. “I put together the list of Jimmy Moore’s races and sent it to Speedster expert Steve Heinrich,” Jerry says. Heinrich, organizer of the 2004 Speedster Fest and author of Porsche Speedster, 50th Anniversary: Celebration of an Icon, has conducted exhaustive research on Speedsters. “He took the list I sent him—and more importantly the chassis number of my car—and validated everything. Heinrich was able to confirm the races in which Moore competed with “Jerry’s” Speedster, chassis number 83780. From June 23, 1956, to September 20, 1959, Moore competed in 60 races—some California Race Car Club races and many SCCA events. Jimmy received the Carrera Speedster late in 1957 and with it raced 28 times, from Santa Barbara and Del Mar to Hourglass Field, Riverside and Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona, scoring two victories and nine second-place finishes.
In 2011 Jerry attended the Race Car Classic, held in Monterey, California. The organizers invited drivers who had raced during the same periods of the cars being displayed. Race car drivers Hans Herrmann, Jan Brundage, Jürgen Barth, and Denise McCluggage among others, were hanging out, answering questions and enjoying the scenery.
Also among the group was California racing legend Don Dickey. Jerry found him and introduced himself. “I sought him out and talked to him one night, and he remembered Jimmy Moore, who he thought was a Hollywood movie director/producer. Don said he remembered him and that he was a very good driver. That’s as close as I got to anyone who ever knew him,” he said.
Every few days, Jerry would check a small number of specialty websites. One of those was spydersports.com. Spyder Sports, operated by Warren Eads, offers a variety of services dedicated to 550 Spyders, RSKs, and Carrera GTs, and this includes a listing of early four-cam engine parts for sale. One morning in 2003, with a tea cup in one hand and a computer mouse in the other, Jerry clicked his way into Warren’s site and opened up the listing of engine parts. He scrolled down the listing, and there under the heading “Engine Cases” was engine case number 90896. Jerry froze for a moment, then set his cup down, blinked his eyes, and looked away. Again he looked at the engine number, this time reading it aloud slowly, number by number: 9-0-8-9-6, his Carerra’s original motor. He knew the number as well as he knew his own age—as well as he knew the date of his wedding anniversary or the dates his daughters were born. As soon as his eyes scanned them, alarms went off in his brain.
He couldn’t believe his luck—he’d actually found his car’s original engine. He got up, walked to the telephone, called Gerry McCarthy, and told him what had happened. Gerry called Warren and told him that he knew someone who was interested in buying the four-cam engine case he had for sale. Warren had another idea. Warren said he wouldn’t sell the case by itself—he’d only sell it along with all the parts that were needed to make a complete engine.
McCarthy called Jerry back, and when he told him about Warren’s offer and how much it was going to cost, his joy turned to grief. The price was far above what he could afford to pay. After getting over what felt like being kicked in the stomach, he composed his thoughts and had Gerry speak with Warren again. Gerry would ask him if he would give him first right of refusal should someone else show interest in buying the motor.
Jerry had to regroup, and with the help of McCarthy and Jim Newton of Automobile Associates in Canton, Connecticut, he laid all the facts out in logical order. The first consideration: How much more was the car worth if it had its matching engine? He got a different answer every time he’d ask the question. He felt like time was working against him, and by the time he’d completely absorbed this fact, over two years had passed since finding the motor on Warren’s site. Jerry knew he had to make a decision. At first the overwhelming consensus of everyone involved was that it wasn’t worth it. Two years later, the feeling was that even if it doesn’t add one dollar to the car’s value, he’s got to get that matching engine—it belongs in the car.
Jerry remembers, “Jim Newton calls me, and he says, you know, I’ve been thinking about this, and I’ve changed my mind. If you can get that original motor, you’ve got to get it—no matter what it adds to its value.”
Jerry’s rationalization was a powerful persuader: “I can eventually sell the non-matching four-cam motor I own and use those proceeds to pay for the matching motor.”
In March 2005, Jerry Charlup, Gerry McCarthy and Jeff Adams boarded a plane and flew to Los Angeles. To relax a little before the task awaiting them, they went back to the airport to attend the Porsche Literature Show. Later that afternoon, they arrived at Warren Ead’s home in Palos Verdes. Gerry’s protégé and former employee, Jeff Adams, the technician who would build Charlup’s four-cam, took five cardboard boxes full of engine parts from Warren, sat down and began an inventory of the contents. Warren then brought in the engine case, and Gerry inspected it. Warren looked at Jerry and said, “Well, it’s a GT motor.”
Sure enough, there on the case, stamped just before the series of numbers, were the capital letters: GT, signifying the GT version of the Typ 547, with the better carburetors, steeper camshaft profiles and higher compression that added up to more power than the GS engines. It was first offered in 1957, and Jerry’s Carrera turns out to be one of the cars offered with this rare motor. Because the original owner, Jimmy Moore, was an active racer, it is believed he ordered his Speedster this way.
“The engine crank was in Europe being fixed, and pieces were all over the place, but basically I ended up buying it. We had it all shipped back to Gerry’s shop, and it took about three years to put it together,” he said. Jerry’s Carrera Speedster, at last mated with the engine as it left the Porsche factory, is once again a rolling tribute to a golden age of racing.
Jerry once had accepted the probability of never finding it—nearly reaching the point of giving up. Thankfully for him and for us, he never lost his dream.