The Speedster as Blue Chip


Written by Cam Ingram

Photos courtesy of Porsche Archiv and by Randy Leffingwell

The Porsche Speedster and Carrera models continue to drive the 356 blue chip market. Both these 356 models have become iconic, but for different reasons: the Speedster for it’s alluring minimalist styling cues, and the Carrera for its mythical four-cam engine performance attributes. It’s important to note that each new generation of Porsche collector eventually discovers these two models because of their historical significance and status as cultural touchstones. It also does not hurt that either model has a lot driving character and offers a very memorable ownership experience. This is why they continue to demand strong prices in the private and public market place. The ultimate culmination is naturally the rare Carrera Speedster variant. 

Porsche announced the new Speedster in the October 2, 1954 issue of Auto Motor und Sport. The caption reads in part “From California, where the sun is eternally shining from the sky, this new Porsche-Roadster has been conceived, of which a larger series has been launched. The “Speedster” is….” (Courtesy of Porsche Archiv.)
This early promotional brochure displays a 1954 Pre-A Speedster. (Courtesy of Porsche Archiv.)
Humble beginnings in America with this 1954 Pre-A Normal Speedster, displayed at the Max Hoffmann’s New York City showroom. (Courtesy of Porsche Archiv.)
From the brochure and the show room to the real world. Linda and Rich Peters’ 1954 Pre-A Speedster glistens in the afternoon sun.

The 356 Speedster is an outlier in the sense that it attracts buyers that are not necessarily Porsche connoisseurs because of its cultural resonance. So many movie stars owned them and so many movies featured them! The average cost of a proper 356 restoration has gone up significantly and many buyers are not interested in the possibility of an expensive multi-year project. These two factors contribute to the high prices that we have witnessed in the modern Speedster market. It’s not uncommon to see a poorly restored and incorrect Pre-A (1954-55) example sell in the $250,000 range. This however seems like a deal when you look the cost of possible Speedster restoration candidate for $100,000-150,000 depending on the condition of the car.

Condition is everything. Perhaps this is a Speedster to avoid?
You can be sure cars Porsche used for its promotional brochures were perfect and correct in every way. (Courtesy of Porsche Archiv.)
The only thing better than a perfect restoration is a perfect unrestored original as is George Reilly’s356A 1500 GS Carrera GT.

Speedsters with authentic parts, original stamped body panels, documented ownership history, and that are impeccably restored, have numbers matching, were delivered from the factory in a special/desirable color, and arrived new with the “Super” engine option will always bring a premium. In some recent instances, original Speedsters with some questionable patina have brought eye-watering prices at public auctions, climbing into the $500,000-700,000 range.

In general, 1956-1958 Speedsters are more desirable than the early Pre-A examples because of their improved mechanical components. The final year of regular Speedster production, 1958, is the most desirable. It’s not unusual for a 1958 model that meets all the criteria of being a level one car to be sold in $600,000 range.

This is the one you want: Greg Young’s 1958 356A 1500 GS Carrera GT has the full racing “forced-air induction system” and “Stinger” exhaust.
Everything about this car’s appearance – its wheels, stance, rollbar – shouts “former racer”.

The Carrera Speedster in GS (touring) or GT (racing) trim represents the top of the food chain. After all, Porsche only manufactured 154 Carrera Speedsters of any variety. Depending on the sliding scale of Carrera GS/GT technical model evolution (1957 through 1959), these special variants will bring anywhere from $1,2000,000 to $2,8000,000 (U.S. dollars.)

In 1959, the Porsche factory assembled a final 31 GT Speedsters with the special 1,588 cc Typ 692 engines, with only a handful of these cars being delivered with the new plain bearing engine. These final GTs represent the pinnacle of the Speedster model hierarchy.

Lastly, we have the Speedster outlaw phenomenon. Depending on the execution of the build and the car’s drivability, it’s not unheard of for concours level outlaws to sell well into the $400,000-$500,000 range.

The 356 Speedster will always be a Porsche and cultural icon, much like the 1973 Porsche 911 2.7 RS. It’s an intrinsically cool design that will continue to transcend markets with each generation of Porsche collector. Its place in the Porsche pantheon is secure.

Speedsters such as this 1954 Pre-A model look good from any angle. Their simple shape and simplified interior is part of their appeal.
Defused light from an overcast sky highlights the complex organic shapes that define any 356 any are especially clear on this 1957 356A 1500 GS Carrera GT.

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