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Designed by Erwin Komenda, the first Porsche 356 models were built in Gmünd, Austria until 1950, when Porsche returned to Stuttgart. The initial roadster version was joined by a coupe, while Swiss coachbuilder Beutler initially built some attractive convertibles. However, its future lay with competition; the little car’s lightness and agility led to its growing use in competition. Porsche grew rapidly with the success of the 356, which was produced in ever-greater numbers; its success enhanced by a continuous program of improvements. Then, as part of a deal with Studebaker in the USA, Dr. Ernst Fuhrmann of Porsche designed the Type 547 engine for racing use. This unit, with four overhead camshafts driven by gears and shafts, was a substantial change from the VW engine, but retained the flat four-cylinder, air-cooled concept. Although the 356 pushrod engine had been progressively developed, the revolutionary change to the car came when it was decided to fit a version with the much more powerful 547 four-cam engine. This inspired concept was underlined by christening their version of the 356 the Carrera – Spanish for ‘race’.
The first four-cam street cars were special-order ‘Pre-A’s, of which relatively few were built. Starting with the new 356A, introduced in September of 1955 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, an official street version of the four-cam was offered, the Carrera 1500GS. This engine upgrade alone made the car over $1,000 more expensive than the next-best street model, but they did sell to privateer racers as well as a few brave souls who chose to employ the new car and its amazing engine on the racetrack. Eventually, Porsche acknowledged those who wanted the car primarily for purposes of competition and released both racing and street versions of the Carrera four-cam engine models.
Having begun life as a stock 356B (T5) cabriolet, the absolutely one-off example of a 1961 Carrera 2 Cabriolet on offer began life as the personal car for none other than ‘der Chef’, Ferdinand ‘Ferry’ Porsche. The boss took delivery in March of 1961 and enjoyed his brand new car for approximately five months when it was turned over to the factory repair department for servicing prior to taking a vacation with the car. During a road test after the maintenance service the vehicle was involved in a light accident damaging the front apron and fenders. Since the car could not be repaired in time for Prof. Porsche’s vacation, it was decided by the chassis department to modify the vehicle with a complete T6 front clip as various prototypes were being built prior to production commencing in September 1961. As evidence of this pre-production modification, no chassis number is stamped on the bulkhead, however, it should be noted that the chassis number appears in 3 other locations on the vehicle. Most importantly, it was further decided to remove its stock pushrod engine and in its place the very first type 587/1 4-cam engine was installed bearing serial number 97001. This engine would power the upcoming 356 Carrera 2 models and was a large part of the trend that created the market for those who wanted the best in performance from a small, light and low sports car. Sold to the United States in 1965 to a California resident and friend of Dr. Porsche’s, it was restored approximately 15 years ago, and still features many unusual one-off distinctions such as non-standard locations of many instrument panel switches and controls, an under dash ashtray on the passenger side, leather seats with houndstooth inserts, a special 7-relay fuse block and much more. The first featured articles were published in April 1995. Additionally, the car is featured prominently in the well-known book published by Sports Car Market magazine Keith Martin on Collecting Porsche in the first few pages. A magnificent piece of history and truly one-off in every sense of the word, not only does this car’s celebrity provenance speak volumes about its history, but its prototype mechanical, bodywork and interior features, though odd, do nothing but confirm its top-tier collectible status.