Max Hoffman, the legendary New York distributor of imported cars, had a good sense of the emerging American market for sports models. Having garnered the East Coast franchise for Porsche, he did well selling early 356s, and he had not failed to notice the popularity of the Jaguar XK-120. His wariness only intensified with the introduction of the Austin-Healey Hundred in 1953, which sold for $2,895, a full $1,400 less than the cheapest Porsche.
Hoffman proposed to Ferry Porsche that a sportier, more basic variant, to sell at a lower price, would bring dividends. Thus was born the 356 Speedster, planned specifically for the American market. Reutter & Co., of Stuttgart, with whom Porsche already had a close relationship, supplied the body and helped with engineering, for economic purposes. A low, raked windshield was made removable for racing, and light bucket seats replaced the standard type. Side windows were omitted entirely—owners had to rely on side curtains. The top was very basic, and the only instruments were a speedometer and a temperature gauge. The tachometer and heater were optional, helping to keep the basic price under $3,000, when delivered in New York.
The Speedster was an immediate hit. Sales hit 1,800 by the time the updated 356A model was introduced in late-1955. More than 4,700 were built by the time the Speedster was phased out in favour of the Drauz-built Cabriolet D in 1958.
This Speedster was completed at the Porsche factory in September 1956 in the exceptionally rare and desirable colour of Aquamarine Blue Metallic (5607). Equipped for the US market it was delivered via Max Hoffman to its first owner Shakespeare Motors fitted with sealed beam headlights, mph speedometer and more comfortable coupe style seats. It is believed that this example was retained by the owner of Shakespeare Motors, Mr John W. Shakespeare, a wealthy businessman well known for his passion within motor racing and extensive car collection. At a time where Kardex documents were entirely typed, the unusual hand written Kardex by Max Hoffman indicates that the delivery of this car was a more personal matter and indicates that it was indeed a personal car to his good friend and fellow racing enthusiast John Shakespeare.
The Speedster was later purchased in 1984 by Mr Timothy Lewis of Whittier, California where it remained for a number of years before being purchased by famed Texas based collector Dennis Collins. Dennis sold the car in late 2013 to Mr Michael Harling, a Texas-based collector with a taste for the absolute best of the best. Mr Harling enlisted the help from the best Porsche experts in the US to return this matching numbers example to a most Concours condition. A 32 month restoration was embarked upon by leading 356 expert Roy Smalley of Eurowerks in Campbell, Texas. During the most comprehensive restoration all efforts were made to maintain the originality of the car. The body panels including the bonnet, engine cover and both doors are all original numbered items and match the Certificate of Authenticity. The matching numbers engine and gearbox were carefully rebuilt to as new condition before being carefully reinstalled into the car. Each stage of work was completed to the highest possible standards and the car finished in the original and rare combination of Aquamarine Blue Metallic over Dark Red Hide. After its 100 point restoration was complete, naturally it claimed first in class at the 2016 Hilton Head Island Concours d'Elegance.
Its most recent keeper subsequently purchased the car and it was imported into the United Kingdom before being entrusted to DK Engineering to both inspect the car for condition and originality as well as tune the car ready for UK roads. It has since been maintained fastidiously by ourselves and today is presented on the button having covered under 29,500 Miles from new. Presented with UK registration, tools and jack, a superb history file including a copy of the original build sheet (Kardex), owner's manual and invoices documenting the depth of restoration. This rare matching numbers 356 is ready to be used and enjoyed immediately with viewings available at our showrooms based just outside of London.