During 1950 Max Hoffman, the sole importer of Porsches in the USA was achieving excellent sales success for the company. He suggested to Ferry Porsche that he could do even better if he had a car that would compete with the imported English sportscars and fit the needs of the American market. He suggested this new model would resemble a small Jaguar XK120 and be available at a more competitive price than the current 356 range.
Hoffman's sales of 356s in the USA were accounting for a third of all Porsche's 356 production by 1954 and so the needs of the US market had to be taken seriously by Porsche
British cars like MG, Austin-Healey and Triumph dominated the American sports car market. Max Hoffman was convinced that cost was the major barrier to achieving significant penetration of the sports car market in the USA. The basic 356 Coupe for example cost $300 more than the Jaguar XK120.
Porsche were keen to meet Max Hoffman's requirements but clearly a hand-built car with aluminum coachwork was out of the question - it had to be a cut down version of the 356 cabriolet and it had to be capable of being produced on the same production line as the other 356s. If they removed trimmings and weather protection they might be able to save weight as well as cost - after discussion between Porsche's Albert Prinzling and Max Hoffman in New York the concept of the Speedster was born.
The Speedster was to have a low, raked windscreen which easily could be removed for weekend racing, bucket seats, and a minimal, folding top, and side curtains instead of wind-up windows.
Ironically the new Speedster kept the same Type 540 designation as the America Roadster but was designed by Reutter for minimum production cost. The spartan cockpit had lightweight bucket seats with fixed backrests. Instrumentation was limited to speedometer and temperature gauge. Technically a heater and tachometer were optional extras deigned to keep the magic base price below $3,000. Exterior appearance was standard 356 from the waist down except for attractive full-length chrome side strips running neatly through the door handles.
Typical Speedster advertising by Hoffman in Road and Track, May 1955 - "Years Ahead in Engineering - Miles ahead on the Road." The advertised price was $2,995
The Speedster was an instant hit, particularly in Southern California. Production of the Speedster peaked at 1,171 cars in 1957 and then started to decline. It was replaced in late 1958 by the "Convertible D" model.
1955 356 Speedster - Production completion date December 9, 1955
Original color White with a Red Leatherette interior
Very solid and rust free Speedster that is a great driver! Recently serviced and the braking system has been rebuilt. Smooth shifting manual 4-speed transmission with a very peppy 1600cc engine. Original floor pans. A true survivor at half the price of a fully restored example.
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- 1600 cc
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