Porsche did not necessarily intend to create one of the greatest-ever sportscars when it developed the 356 Speedster; the objective was to offer a simple, attainable model for the dedicated club racer. The provenance of this example, known locally as “The Monterey Speedster,” perfectly encapsulates not just the spirit of utility—and versatility—baked into the Speedster’s humble design, but also the astounding passion for motorsport harbored by its original owner, Bill Hewitt.
Essentially willed into being by Max Hoffman, the bare bones 356 Speedster proved to be extremely competitive both in the showroom and on the track. The model quickly became so ubiquitous (especially in Central California) that it usually took a Speedster to beat a Speedster; 60-horsepower “Normals” and 75-horsepower “Supers” competed in different classes, and both versions proved both dominant and reliable. Already a noted motorsports photographer and SCCA racer by the time of the model’s debut, Monterey resident Bill Hewitt surely received a front row to the Speedster phenomenon, and by early 1956 he was determined to have one for himself.
THE MONTEREY SPEEDSTER
In late July 1956, Hewitt purchased this Speedster from Anderson Volkswagen-Porsche of San Jose, California, and initially registered it as “BVR 165.” He immediately began using the car to travel to motorsports events and photography assignments all over Central California.
Over the winter of 1956, he and friend Bob Herda of Portola Valley modified it for racing with informal sponsorship of the originating dealer. Hewitt also convinced Herda—an exceptionally talented driver and international land speed record-holder—to drive the car while he photographed the races from afar. By March 1957 “The Monterey Speedster” was well on its way to regular podium finishes in the F-Production class across the SCCA’s San Francisco Region at tracks including Laguna Seca, Cotati, Vaca Valley, Candlestick Park, and Tracy Airport. Herda relinquished his driving duties to Hewitt in August 1960, and until May 1966 this storied 356 remained a regular and competitive presence within Central California’s club racing scene.
In 1998, “The Monterey Speedster” emerged from a 30-year period of storage and was submitted to a sympathetic mechanical restoration executed by Norbert Nieslony. The Hewitt family reports that fewer than 1,000 miles have been added to the car’s odometer after its return from Nieslony’s care, and since 2014 it has received nearly $23,000 of mechanical upkeep from marque specialists including European Collectibles in Costa Mesa, and Classic Coachworks in Monterey.
“The Monterey Speedster” is one of most storied, and cherished examples of Porsche’s most indelible model. It would be an ideal entrant for continued vintage racing, exhibition, or spirited jaunts down 17-Mile Drive.
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