Category Archives: Racing

Introduction of the 356 Speedster Kit

As remembered by Tom McBurnie…

“In April 28, 1978, at the L.A. Auto Expo, Frank Reisner and his partner Tony Baumgartner introduced the first 356 Speedster replica from which all Speedster replicas come.  Previously, Frank, a German who had a specialty car building company in Italy, built such cars as the Apollo and the Italia, both with Italian style bodywork and American running gear.  VW was still selling Beetles from the showroom floor at this time, which was the basis of Frank’s Speedster.  The replica sold for about $13,000, at a time when originals could be purchased for $8-9,000. But the replica had new running gear and a warranty, and it was eligible for bank financing. The replica was an immediate success.  Intermeccanica, Frank and Tony’s company, continued to build the Speedster replica until VW discontinued the Beetle in 1986.  With no new Beetles available, the business plan was no longer viable so the Speedster replica project was sold to Classic Motor Carriages in Miami, FL, a kit car company.   Continue reading Introduction of the 356 Speedster Kit

356 Speedsters in the US

As remembered by Tom McBurnie…

Classic ad for Porsche's Speedsters, various models of the 356
Classic ad for Porsche’s Speedsters, various models of the 356

“Max Hoffman was Porsche’s first distributor, showing the cars at 59th and Park Avenue in New York City.  Johnny Von Newman was Hoffman’s West Coast dealer, and he felt Porsche needed a car that was fast, open top and affordable to compete with the onslaught of British cars being imported into the U.S.  Hoffman saw the 1950 Sauter roadster during one of his visits to Stuttgart in 1951.  He lobbied for a roadster and suggested changes to the Sauter.  All this culminated in the 1952 America Roadster.

This aluminum roadster was the excitement the U.S. market needed, but it wasn’t inexpensive.  Von Newman got an early car but at Willow Springs Raceway, N.W. of  L.A., the roadster over heated.  It recycled the engine compartment air and that caused the overheating, dropping the 70HP engine power to nearly half, which is okay for the street but not a racecar.  The next roadsters added another cooling grill to the engine compartment cover, which solved the cooling problem.  Jack McAfee drove the America for Von Newman successfully on the West Coast circuits and continued driving for Von Newman in a 550 Spyder.  One steel America was made as a preproduction car, but the production was canceled as Reuter was finishing up the Speedster design and Porsche decided the Speedster was their future “budget” car.  Stanley Gold now owns the steel America Roadster (pictures below), and it is part of his fabulous Porsche collection.  Thankfully for us spectators, Stanley uses his cars. Last year the America Roadster raced at Laguna Seca Vintage races and also the vintage races in Monte Carlo.    Continue reading 356 Speedsters in the US

Racing Drivers of the 356 Speedster

As remembered by Tom McBurnie…

McBurnie in his Porsche 356 Speedster at Santa Barbara in 1965
McBurnie in his Porsche 356 Speedster at Santa Barbara in 1965

“Santa Barbara Airport, Goleta, Calif, Sept 1965. I was in the racing pit mentally getting prepared for the SCCA E production race. Beside me is Dick Taylor, friend and local Porsche body shop manager, and his wife Dorothy. The 1958 Speedster (number 64) was the second Speedster in my carport and the other was my daily driver, a 1955 Speedster brought back from Germany in 1964. The two Speedsters shared one motor, so after the race, the motor needed to be removed from race car #64 and reinstalled in the 1955 daily driver. This was my first race in the U.S. with my Speedster, and with this grocery-getter motor, I finished 11 of 34 cars.

In 1966, the 1958 Speedster got its own racing engine and the car was flat towed (tow bar) to races. My success was mostly self made. I owned my car and tow vehicle and drove it at the race track but also built my racing engines and maintained the car and its bodywork besides doing an 8 to 5 job. I went on to set track records at Riverside, Willow Springs, Santa Barbara, Las Vegas, and Bottomless Lakes Park in 66 and 67.  For 1967 the Porsche Owners Club awarded me driver of the year.    Continue reading Racing Drivers of the 356 Speedster