Featured in this classified ad from May 1972 issue of Road & Track is a fine example of one of the most lusted after Porsches of them all: The 356 Speedster with the four-cam Carrera motor.
In 1972 this Carrera was just a used, out of date sports car, and in this ad it is priced accordingly. Today, Carreras of course command top dollar as the kings of the 356 line. If he’s still around, this seller is probably kicking himself for ever letting go of this jewel of a car.
The story of this Carrera Speedster would not be complete without looking back at the original push-rod Speedsters, which are prized automobiles in their own right. As with so many great European cars of the 1950s, U.S. importer Max Hoffman was instrumental in the creation of the Speedster. The American market was of course the most important one for postwar sports car manufacturers, and while Porsche’s 356 was certainly the recipient of much praise and a winner on the track, it was also an expensive car. Purchase price was usually around $4,000, which put the tiny 356 with its Beetle DNA in the same territory as the bigger, sleeker, more powerful Jaguar XK120. Hoffman suggested to Porsche as early as 1950 that they needed a model priced to compete with the British roadsters that dominated the sports car market in the States. To keep costs down, the cheaper, Americanized 356 would have to do away with some things that the customer perhaps did not need. The 356 America was the aluminum-bodied roadster that Porsche originally came up with, and it completely missed the mark. Production costs soared because assembly had to be outsourced to coachbuilder Heuer-Glaser, and the purchase price did not go down. Despite the commercial failure of the 356 America, Stuttgart kept at it and in 1954 finally came up with what Max Hoffman and, presumably, American motorists wanted. The new Speedster was essentially a reworked 356 Cabriolet that featured a lower raked windscreen that could be easily removed for racing, bucket seats, a basic folding top, and side curtains in place of roll up windows. The equally spartan interior and clever use of optional extras kept the base price at around $3,000. This is the basic story of the 356 Speedster, but the car featured here is a Speedster Carrera, and the story of the Carrera is of course something else altogether.
The Fuhrmann designed Carrera motor was built to realize the full potential of an air-cooled, four-cylinder boxer engine might be, and eventually named to celebrate the company’s success at the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico. The exotic final product was a motor with four camshafts, dual ignition, dry-sump lubrication, and aluminum pistons, cylinders, and cylinder heads. The 1500 Carrera proved capable of making 110 horsepower, around double the power of the push-rod 1500. The original intent of the Carrera motor was clearly for racing, and the advanced powerplant propelled the infamous 550 Spyders to numerous victories that grabbed the attention of the international racing establishment, including the Carrera Panamericana. In 1954, however, a four-cam motor was tried in Ferry Porsche’s personal 356 and the idea for a Carrera-powered road car was born. From 1955, 356s became available with Carrera specification in all body styles. Among them was the Speedster. With such an exotic engine, the Carrera Speedster did not serve as a competitively priced Porsche, but instead as a more powerful, lightened one with an air of motorsport about it. Eventually, the car could be had with Plexiglass windows, Weber carburetors, and a bigger fuel tank. In the Speedster’s short run, only around 150 were built with Carrera power.
The details in this classified ad are sparse, so there’s no telling what kind of equipment this particular Carrera Speedster came with. Regardless, today it would be one of the most desirable 356s out there, as Carrera Speedsters can bring in excess of $500,000. That kind of premium makes this 1972 asking price of $3,995 (around $22,000 in today’s money) seem pretty unbelievable but, as they say, times have changed.