In the fall of 1959 Porsche introduced an updated model, the 356B with the factory’s newest engine package, the Super 90, eponymously named for its 90-horsepower DIN. The new T5 body was a modernized evolution of the 356 body style with added comforts, while the Super 90 engine offered the highest output yet available on the street Porsche pushrod platform. Porsche shipped the first new cars out as factory demonstrators to their field representatives and the orders started coming in. So it was that the very first Super 90 ever made was shipped to southern California, chassis #108921
In September 1959 the workers at the Porsche factory returned from holiday anticipating the start up for the T5 356B. Their first two cars were 1600 Normals but the third was special; it was the first Super 90. Whisked away for testing, # 108921 was then sent to Porsche’s prime Southern California market to one of their biggest dealers, Vasek Pollak. It was there that our good friend Paul Rissinger drove this car and was so impressed he ordered one. Other enthusiasts agreed, and the Super 90 was a hit.
A few months later Emil Pardee from Palo Alto Cailfornia was in Stuggart with a friend and visited the factory. The day was spent demonstrating the new Super 90 and then trying to buy one, but to no avail. Back in Palo Alto Mr. Pardee received a phone call from then Porsche Sales Manager, Wolfgang Reather, that they had a demonstration car available in Southern California. Emil was told it had been in an accident but would be soon repaired and he could take delivery very shortly. And he did.
Fast forward 50 years and Road Scholars entered the picture when we received a call from a Broker on the west coast that knows of our passion for rare Porsches. The car was described a nice solid car that could be restored if needed but ran well. We were so excited about it being the first Super 90 and having a sunroof that we bought the car, intending it for a client with a number of rare and special 356s.
But, we bought it WITHOUT INSPECTION. (Yes, we know, our mothers reminded us.) Upon the car’s arrival storm clouds gathered. What appeared to be a good driver was actually showing signs of damage in the front trunk – bent inner fenders, kinked access panels, and – to top it off – one headlight was about an inch higher than the other. Screwed again!
How can these “experts” miss this degree of damage and bad repair work when describing a car to you? (Yes, we know.Our mothers reminded us of THAT too.)
We spent the next week carefully striping down the car to a bare shell and, thankfully, found a few neat details. The car was not originally Ivory; it was Heron Gray. The previous owner had stated the car was “off-white,” so we assumed Ivory, but in the nook and crannies of the tub we found abundant Herron Gray. Further, the door hinge posts are hooded and many shims were used to hang the door, sure signs of early production.
Hans Sahling our metal guy had seen much worse but it had been a while. We started by ordering the sheet metal, nose and fenders came from the usual providers and the structural pieces came from Al Zim. Hans got the sheet metal for the nose and fenders, judged them to be useless, and threw them into the yard.
Great, so now what?
We had a terrific T-5 available so we scanned it, had a 3-D cad drawing made, and then new body bucks. The car was then media blasted and another issue came to light. The front axle beam was pushed back two inches on the left side and up over an inch. All the bent sheet metal had been simply brazed together some 50 odd years ago, not fully straightened or replaced or squared. Front left tire wear must have been awesome. The body also had a few minor rust issues that you would expect in a 50 year old 356. So the car was placed on a jig and the cutting, welding, and straightening started.
Once the chassis was repaired correctly and dead straight, Hans turned his attention to the body. The nose and fenders were and formed over our bucks, the hood was reskinned and de-kinked, and the doors made from scratch. The rear section was removed, rust repairs done underneath, straightened, and replaced.
So, now we have tens of thousands of dollars in just metal work, but the first Super 90 is straight and true for the first time in 50 years. With the complete owner history and very good records from the 60′s we have been able to put together an interesting tale that could have ended badly for this car. Our client who has many truly special 356s in his collection did purchase this car and we are restoring it for him. Soon he will have one more truly special 356. Were it not for his passion, this little piece of Porsche history, the very first Super 90, easily could have been lost.