“I love your car—especially that color!” enthuses a spectator looking at this gleaming 1958 Porsche 356A on display at the Hillsborough Concours d’Elegance in Hillsborough, California. “Thank you,” replies the car’s owner, “but this is not the color I wanted or ordered when I purchased it new in 1958.” Bill Disser, this 356’s titleholder, took delivery of his Porsche when it was factory fresh, wrong color and all, and is still driving it enthusiastically nearly sixty years later.
There is No Substitute
Disser was practically always interested in cars and airplanes. He took his first solo flight in an aircraft at the age of 16 in 1946. Graduating from Purdue University in 1954 with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering, he would go on to have a long career in the aerospace industry. After graduating from college, he began working in the aircraft industry starting with Curtis-Wright in the mid-1950s, fostering his appreciation for well-engineered machines. His interest in sports cars prompted a trip down to the Sebring Raceway in Florida in 1954 with some friends to watch the auto races.
It was at Sebring where Disser saw a Porsche for the first time, a 550 Spyder. He was impressed with how well the 550 performed on the track and wanted a Porsche of his own. Porsches in the mid-1950s, however, were hard to find and rather expensive. He located a few used 356 coupes, but they were selling for only a few hundred dollars less than a new one!
Frustrated, Disser then considered purchasing a British sports car, which were very popular at the time. A friend owned an MG roadster, but as Disser remembers it, “He would drive it few days during the week and then wrench on it every weekend. That’s not for me. I want to drive my car every day.”
By 1958, Disser was 28 years old, living in Towson, Maryland, and in possession of enough savings to buy a new 356, so he headed to British Motors, a foreign car dealer, in Baltimore. British Motors—as you’d guess—primarily sold British cars and had no Porsches in stock. But Disser knew what he wanted, so in April 1958, he ordered a 1958 Porsche 356A 1600 coupe finished in Metallic Silver. The price was $3,665 ($31,369 in current dollars), and the dealer told him it would take about ten weeks to arrive from Germany.
By that point Disser’s then-current car, a 1941 Chrysler Highlander, was getting tired, so he was eager to take delivery of his new machine. He waited anxiously for his state-of-the-art, silver German dream machine to arrive. Ten weeks later, in June of 1958, the salesman from British Motors called him with some good news…and some bad news.