Although Ferdinand Porsche had established his automotive design consultancy in the early 1930s, his name would not appear on a car until 1949. When it did, it graced one of the all-time great sports cars: the Porsche 356. Having commenced manufacture with a short run of aluminium-bodied cars built at Gmünd, Porsche began volume production of the steel-bodied 356 coupe at its old base in Stuttgart. The work of Ferry Porsche, the 356 was based on the Volkswagen designed by his father. Like the immortal 'Beetle', the 356 employed a platform-type chassis with rear-mounted air-cooled engine and torsion bar all-independent suspension.
A cabriolet followed hot on the heels of the original 356 coupé and then in 1952 a trial batch of 15 roadsters was constructed at the behest of US importer Max Hoffman, who had persuaded Porsche of the potential for a 'cut-price' entry-level model. The roadsters' successful reception in the USA led to the introduction of the Speedster model in 1954. The Speedster's inspiration is also credited to John Von Neumann, Porsche's West Coast distributor, who had chopped down a Gmünd-built coupé in the late 1940s to create a lightweight competition car.
Instantly recognisable by virtue of its low, wraparound windscreen, smaller and entirely retractable hood, lower door waistline, horizontal trim strip at the level of the door handles, and twin bucket seats - all of which served to emphasise its sporting image - the Speedster was, in effect, an 'economy' model intended to compete with the cheaper British sports cars.
The evocative 'Carrera' name first graced the flanks of a Porsche in 1955. Applied to a 356A powered by a slightly less ferocious version of the racing 550 Spyder's 1.5-litre, twin-overhead-camshaft, roller-bearing engine, it had been adopted to capitalise on Porsche's victories in the Carrera PanAmericana in 1952 and '54. Dry-sumped like the racer's, the four-cam Carrera engine produced 100bhp, some ten horsepower fewer than in race trim. Nevertheless, this was good enough to propel the 356 Carrera to over 120mph, making it the fastest 1.5-litre production car of its day and a formidable racetrack competitor.
Bonhams will be offering this example, the last of only three right-hand drive Carrera Speedsters built by Porsche, at their upcoming Goodwood Festival of Speed Sale on the 30th June, its estimated value is between £900,000 – £1,000,000. For more information on this and other vehicles at the sale, click on the link below. Photos courtesy of Bonhams.