Tag Archives: Racing History

“The Cuban Calico” Project

We were happy to provide this RW Spyder body to our customer and exotic car enthusiast Garr Larson.  He’s working on an exciting new project, creating a replica of “The Cuban Calico,” and he filled us in on this fascinating piece of racing history.

This is a “car that was ‘thrown away’ at the Havana Airport in 1958 before entering the 1958 Cuban Grad Prix. It was crushed by a Maserati while being transported in a plane from Argentina by a french driver. The driver gave it to a young airplane mechanic for $5 after taking any parts he needed for his other cars. Since new parts were impossible to find in Cuba after 1958 (that whole revolution thing) he built this 550 using parts he scavenged around the city – seats from a 1936 BMW, Speedometer and Tach from International Harvester S100, rear view mirror from a 1954 MGA, (the list goes on and on)…

Garr has collected all these parts to remake a part of lost classic car history. He may be on his way to making more such vehicles down the road, and we’ll keep you up to date on these fun adventures. We look forward to being a part of that journey and your journey too!

The Cuban Calico in work

Rock West GTS

904 left sideThe early Sixties were a truly remarkable time for road-course racing. After Carroll Shelby transformed his 289 Cobra from a street fighter into a track champion, Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov counter-punched with the Grand Sport version of the Sting Ray. And yet another world-class race car entered the fray: the Porsche 904.

Debuting in late ’63 for the upcoming season as a successor to the 718, it raced in both ’64 and ’65. Even though it didn’t gain quite the notoriety and longevity of either the Cobra or Grand Sport, it was a force to be reckoned with, doing far more with less, and winning on a number of race tracks in the FIA-GT class.

Instead of a big V-8, the 904 initially ran an overachieving, four-cam flat four producing a then-remarkable 196 horses. Thus equipped, a 904 won overall at the Targa Florio and went on to demonstrate remarkable durability throughout its racing career, almost always finishing, if not taking First place. Later models were fitted with a 911’s flat six, and a few factory race cars even had a flat eight.   Continue reading Rock West GTS

From the 718 RSK to the RW RSK

RSK Front AngleBuilding on the remarkable racing achievements of the 550 Spyder, Porsche’s 718 RSK model refined its predecessor’s design and engineering even further, evolving to stay competitive and keep pace with changing race regulations   While improving on the setup of the Spyder by being lower and lighter and having better handling, it used the same mid-mounted engine, the 142hp 1.5-liter Type 547/3 quad-cam engine introduced with the 550A Spyder.

Although the RSK’s debut at the 1957 24 Hours of Le Mans was marred by an accident, in the following year it went on to win both First-in-Class and Third overall.  The RSK also took the European Hill Climb Championship in both ‘58 and ‘59 and won the Targa Florio in 1959.  During this time period, there was a suspension switch from swing axles to wishbone control arms. Also, a center-seat configuration was developed that could be quickly converted to a two-seat, left-hand drive setup, depending on the race venue.  Continue reading From the 718 RSK to the RW RSK

Rock West Racing’s One Year Anniversary!

020715_SpydersTRThis has been a wild and crazy year for us at Rock West Racing. As a new business getting off the ground, there have been a lot of challenges this year, but we are excited about all the work that has been accomplished including the following:

  • Completed tooling on RW Speedster, RW Spyder, and RW RSK,
  • Designed and started tooling on the RW Spyder RS, our own thoroughly modern car inspired by Porsche’s classic 550 Spyder,
  • Completed customer projects left unfinished by the previous custodians,
  • Completed multiple service jobs,
  • Began and worked multiple customer projects,
  • Produced multiple kit parts for inventory, including Speedsters, Spyders, GTSs and RSKs kits,
  • Expanded our facilities and added new equipment,
  • Hired and trained new staff, and
  • Began development of an electric version of our Speedster in collaboration with EV West.

020715_WorkInProcess_SpeedsterAnd we have so much more to look forward too! With excellent momentum going into 2015, we look forward to:

  • Completing the build of multiple kits in inventory for off-the-shelf sales,
  • Building our parts offering, and completing the online store, and
  • Finishing demo models for all our cars so you can test drive all 5 kits.

Thanks for keeping up with us. We want to help you build your dream car, so contact us today!

Call us at 610-444-1006!

RW Spyder: A Contemporary Street Racer

Spyder Front Right (sm)From the early Fifties to the mid Sixties, a diminutive Porsche race car was the nemesis of many bigger and more powerful competitors. Known as the 550 Spyder, it started in more than 370 races, and went onto capture 95 overall wins, along with an additional 75 class wins. All told, the Spyder’s venom was pure poison for many higher horsepower cars not even in its class.

No surprise, then, that it came to be known as the Giant Killer. Sadly, its ominous name proved to be apt for the star of the movie Giant, James Dean, who was hit by another car in September of 1955 while driving his Spyder to a race in Northern California. This tragic event actually raised awareness of the Porsche marque among American car enthusiasts, many of whom were unfamiliar with this over-achieving race car from Stuttgart.   Continue reading RW Spyder: A Contemporary Street Racer

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