This award-winning “Model 51” 356 is a very early Pre-A European coupe, chassis 10627. Factory records indicate that it is the 96th of only 749 Pre-A Reutter Coupes produced for the model year bearing a five-digit chassis number. Featuring the signature split windshield and body-to-bumper styling, it was completed by the factory on 5 June 1951 and clad in the stunning color combination of Adria Blue Metallic over a grey “Hafele” interior. Warranty entries shown on its Kardex copy note that the car’s eager first owner had racked up nearly 10,000 kilometers by late February 1952. At some point early in its life, it was imported to the United States. By 1964, it was acquired by George Wilcox of Santa Cruz, California.
In perfect California fashion, Wilcox (a high school teacher) used it as his daily driver for the following 30 years, shuttling across the Bay area reportedly unmoved by the car’s rarity or historical significance. Later, the aging Wilcox retired inland to the small community of Rancho Murieta with his prized 356 in tow, which by then was some years removed from road use. This move would prove incredibly fortuitous for the car, its next custodian, and of course George Wilcox, too.
LOVE THY NEIGHBOR
Shortly after taking up residence in Rancho Murieta, Wilcox struck up a friendship with his next-door neighbor, Steven Berggren. Berggren became transfixed with the patinated yet streamlined shape of the non-running 356 in Wilcox’s garage. Wilcox, aware of his neighbor’s keen interest, presented a deal that satisfied the ideals of both parties: Berggren could purchase the car—but only if he promised to restore it. Though Wilcox did not demand any specific quality of the promised restoration, Berggren himself would only be satisfied painstakingly researched and executed results befitting such an early and important 356.
In January 2015, Berggren took possession of 10627 and immediately began investigating the clues the chassis supplied. During disassembly, he lined up a consortium of knowledgeable, early 356 specialists to assist him in securing parts, reference material, and capable craftsmen. Slowly but surely, his efforts gained traction within the small world of early 356 cognoscenti, and the car’s restoration began in earnest when it was submitted to Lighthall Classics in nearby Shingle Springs.
The Lighthalls completed metal fabrication and paint for this significant Split-Window Coupe, including grafting on a correct-type 1951 nose sourced from Trevor Hammer Works in Willoughby, Ohio. Having returned it to its factory-correct shade, the Lighthalls teamed up with Victor Miles to source and restore all the correct brightwork and trim. Meanwhile, a factory-correct engine cover was executed by Jason Wrenn of Wrenn Metal Works—amazingly, Berggren convinced the owner of a highly original 1951 Coupe to remove his own car’s engine cover and send it Wrenn for exacting replication. Underneath this new cover was placed an engine that had been meticulously sourced, assembled, and then tuned by Tom Martenot of Deutsche Motor Sport. Finally, a factory-correct interior was created by Roy Neilson—the original owner of Autos International—using the correct grey Hafele fabric and close-weave carpeting. The car’s original instrumentation was masterfully restored by North Hollywood Speedometer Repair. True to his promise, Berggren regularly kept Wilcox appraised of the car’s progress.
Throughout this five-year project, Berggren, fellow PCA member Jim Hardie, and Pre-A authority Robert Brocker continued their research, poring over reference books and advising the team of restorers with even miniscule production details singular to an early 1951 chassis. Their remarkable attention to detail is not only evinced by the factory-correct details throughout, but also the stream of awards which has showered 10627 since its emergence from Berggren’s garage in late 2019.
In the past year alone, this remarkable Split-Window Coupe earned 1st place and Best of Show honors at the Porsche 356 Club’s North Meets South event in May 2021. This impressive outing was followed up by a trio of awards during Monterey Car Week in August. It was awarded 1st in class at the Porsche Werks Reunion Monterey and secured 2nd in class, as well as the Michael Furman Artist award, during the famous Carmel Concourse on the Avenue.
An early 356 is on every collector’s bucket list; they are purest representations of Ferdinand Porsche’s original design. This 1951 Pre-A “Split-Window” Reutter Coupe is undoubtedly among the finest and earliest 356 examples available. With its peerless, factory-accurate restoration in its original colors, this exceedingly desirable “Model 51” is a rare opportunity not to be missed.