One of the more storied models in the history of an iconic company recently made its return, the Porsche Speedster taking its bows at the Paris Motor Show. While purists might insist the new, 911-based model has little in common with the original 356 Speedster of 1954, it’s generated plenty of buzz – and had us eager to get out to Los Angeles when an invitation landed in our e-mail box offering a chance to take the new 2-seater for a drive.
Porsche first introduced a Speedster in 1954. It was based on the 356 model and made it to production – and to the North American market — late that year, after heavy pressure from Max Hoffman, the original Porsche importer in the U.S. Hoffman wanted Porsche to a build cheaper version of the 356 cabriolet, since he was convinced it would be a hit, especially in Southern California.
And, indeed it was, with a peak production of nearly 1200 units in 1957 – and a cadre of fans that included James Dean, the aspiring racer who acted on the side to help feed his need for speed.
The original 356 Speedster had a simple four-cylinder engine, a lightweight body and a lower windshield that could be removed for club racing.