By 1954, some six years after the model’s humble beginnings, the 356 had developed from a split-window coupé with an 1,100 cc engine to a more resolved bent-window design with a more powerful 1,300 cc unit. In the same year, Max Hoffman—then the sole Porsche importer in the USA—encouraged the marque to build a low-cost, open-topped version of the 356, in the certain knowledge that, for American customers in warmer climes, it would be a huge success. So, the Speedster was born, distinguished by its low, raked, and removable windscreen combined with its bucket seats and minimalist folding top that draped over the cabin.
Generally popular among celebrities and other well-heeled owners, the 356 A 1600 Speedster offered here boasts significant rock and roll provenance. For half a century it was the beloved motor car of music producer and concert promoter, Michael Lang, the co-creator of the now legendary Woodstock Music and Art Festival. The producer was, at the time, noted to have been driving a loaned Porsche 912 when on business in San Francisco Bay, and on passing a dealership in Mill Valley, Marin County, noticed this car sitting on the forecourt. The rest, as they say, is history.
At the time of its sale some 50 years later, Lang disclosed his 356 Speedster was purchased wearing green paintwork over a black vinyl interior, with around 30,000 miles on the odometer, and was secured for $3,500. Lang commented that “it was the most fun car to drive in the world. It was perfect for back country roads, and it never gave me any trouble. It always started and ran well”. Having driven the car some 15,000 miles, Lang decided to have it restored, but the project stalled while the car was still in primer. Lang, said to be unhappy with the pace of progress on the restoration, removed the car prior to completion, and stored it until 2014, when it was finally sold to a fellow music producer and long-time friend.
Shipped to Belgium in 2014, the car was restored over the course of three years to match the specification on its Porsche Certificate of Authenticity (available to view on file). The car now wears a Red finish over a Beige leatherette interior with tan carpeting below black rubber floor mats. The 356 is fitted with a Type 616/1 engine, factory-rated at 60 horsepower, with the casing of the unit thought to have been replaced in period and restamped. The car is a US-specification example, featuring optional and correct sealed-beam headlamps further to a full set of chromed tubular bumper over-riders.
This example still presents beautifully following its earlier no-expense-spared restoration, completed between 2016 and 2018, invoices for which can be viewed in the car’s history file. The engine was rebuilt as part of the earlier restoration, and has since had a further £2,500 of engine-out fettling to ensure correct engine compression and running. The work was executed in November 2019 by Knowl Hill Performance & Luxury in Berkshire.
In the custodianship of the consigning owner, this 356 has been fitted with a number of modifications for ease of use, including an upgrade to a modern 12-volt electrical system, an electronic distributor, a conversion to disc brakes, LED lighting, a solid-state electric fuel pump for improved starting, as well as the fitment of a non-factory tonneau cover to protect the cabin. Furthermore, extensive tidying and correction work was carried out at the instruction of the consignor, with invoices from Export 56 Limited totalling an impressive expenditure of over £16,500 between 2021 and 2022.
This Speedster is accompanied by a copy of its Porsche Certificate of Authenticity, period registration documents in the name of Michael Lang, a comprehensive selection of invoices detailing the far-reaching rebuild by Porsche specialist Technique Historique in Belgium, an invoice for its engine-out procedure in 2019, and the maintenance work by Porsche Specialist, Mick Pacey of Export 56 Limited. Given its provenance and thorough restoration work, this Porsche will be of particular interest to marque enthusiasts, and its charming history only adds a pleasing depth to what is a unique and storied example of the breed.