Porsche 356: GFK Style
If last April’s Luftgekuhlt – organized by Patrick Long and Howie Idelson – could be called a grande bouffe of SoCal air-cooled cache, then Frank Casares’ primer yellow, chrome-Fuchs wheeled, slammed 1959 Porsche 356 T-2 could be considered la cherie-digestive; that perfectly sweet night-cap with a flavor complementary to the dining experience, but alluding to something beyond. Even if Casares had no idea at the time…
Luftgekuhlt was his first Porsche event with the car he had only recently purchased and he was a little nervous about showing it, since his ideas about preparing a car are decidedly different from the more traditional approaches he’d been reading about on the Porsche forums. Then, on the way, the car stopped running.
Not to be deterred, they called a tow-truck. Two hours late, he, his son Frank Jr., and the car were dropped off at the gate. They left the car on the street and went in to cruise around, having no idea what a stir he had caused. Nearly everyone who visited the show had to walk right past it on their way out. It was an attention getter. People who seemed in a hurry to get home found themselves slowing down, jaws dropping, and pulling out the iPhone for a few photos.
Most importantly for Casares, the mechanical issue was minor, a loose wire from the coil to the distributor.
While Casares had always dreamt of owning a Porsche, his first car was a VW Beetle that he bought for $450. He went on to own more than twenty VWs – including hard and soft-top Beetles, Karmann Ghias, and 23- and 15-window busses.
Many of his former cars were fully restored and some sold to collectors in Europe. Casares did nearly all of them with GFK or German Folks Klub sensibilities for creating highly personalized cars using mostly new-old-stock parts, with a generous amount of chrome, and hand-rubbed lacquer paint.
For those readers who don’t know about the GFK, it’s worth doing some research. The German Folks Klub is a largely Latino/Chicano car-club that emerged out of LA low-rider and early 1980s disco culture. As in any car trend that becomes popular, the rules of supply and demand apply. As the more desirable Chevrolet and Ford models became rarer and more expensive, young people established their own platform for expression. In the 1980s, the air-cooled Volkswagen models were out of production, were very cheap, and became the car of choice for young enthusiasts. What started as an economic necessity became a style, then a trend, then a movement.
Eventually, Casares’ best friend Boo-Boo (Joel Prado) heard of a 356 in Beverly Hills and knew Frank would be interested. When its cover came off he liked what he saw. The price was right and he bought it on the spot.
With the help of a Porsche-enthusiast friend, he established that it was a numbers-matching car. There’s obvious damage in the front compartment from a collision from a long time ago, so it’s a given that the front end was probably replaced.
He did a partial teardown of the motor and saw evidence that it had been rebuilt sometime in the not too distant past. He replaced plugs, points, seals, fuel and brake lines. Not really liking the drum-brakes he’d had on his VWs, on the 356 he replaced them on all four corners with Wilwood cross-drilled discs.
To fit with his GFK roots, VW lowering spindles fit with no modifications. Along with the normal Porsche suspension adjustability, he was able to lower the front by more than four inches. The rear is only one inch lower. He replaced the steel 356 wheels with the chromed Fuchs wheels very popular in the GFK scene.
Though the car came with no bumpers, he was able to source a set of new-old-stock American bumpers with over-riders, a look he’s always liked on the VWs.
He likes the barren interior, but has near-future plans to redo the seats for better comfort as he loves driving the car more and more. The hula girl on the dash stays.
Since then he’s had it at a few shows and the comments range from the predictable Porsche purist comment “Why did you ruin it by lowering it,” to the more contemporary “Wow, that’s BADASS! Please don’t restore it.”
“While I’ve heard some complaints about my lowering the car,” he says, “most people say ‘hey, it’s your car, have fun with it.’ So that’s what I’m doing…”
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