- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2003

From 1954 until 1959 Porsche exported to the United States a basic, lightweight open car designed for club racing — the 356 Speedster.

The bare-bones, 1,750-pound car to this day still symbolizes what Porsche motoring means to many aficionados.

As with all Porsches in those days, each one had an air-cooled engine mounted behind the rear axle. The first Speedsters were equipped with a 1500 cc flat four-cylinder engine which was boosted to 1600 cc for later models. Normal or Super tuning determined whether the engine developed 60 or 75 horsepower.

During the 1950s, while Porsche was busy building and selling Speedsters, Howard Byron was busy becoming an engineer at Stevens Institute in Hoboken, N.J. He was introduced to open-air Speedster motoring when a friend bought a 1955 model in which they traveled many happy miles.

Mr. Byron’s college days came and went, as did several different cars.

In the autumn of 2002 an unusual Speedster in an ad arrested his attention. It was a 1957 Porsche T1 Speedster painted aquamarine blue metallic, a color offered only that one year. “The color is what caught my eye,” Mr. Byron says.

After corresponding with the owner in Des Moines, Iowa, he learned that it had been sold new in California. He traced the car’s history and discovered it had spent some time in Seattle until 1990 when it received a complete restoration in Redwood City, Calif.

About 10 years later, the owner moved the car to Iowa, where Mr. Byron purchased it in December 2002 after flying out to inspect it.

The Porsche had been driven only about 4,000 miles since its restoration.

Mr. Byron returned to his Chevy Chase home to await the truck transporting his new antique car.

As luck would have it, the car wouldn’t start so it had to be pushed off the truck, with the chrome wheels sparkling in the sunlight.

Although Mr. Byron’s car looked good, it needed some mechanical fixing up. Mr. Byron did not hesitate.

Both two-barrel carburetors under the 12-tooth grille in the engine hood were rebuilt and new cables were installed to make the tachometer and speedometer function.

Additionally, the backup lights had an electrical short, the electric fuel pump was balky, the windshield wipers did not park properly, the gasoline gauge was erratic and there was play in the steering wheel.

None of these maladies was earthshaking, but they needed to be corrected. To shed a little light on the subject, Mr. Byron has installed Hela beam headlights.

With the tan vinyl top in place, the interior can be a bit claustrophobic, which may be why the top is usually lowered and secured beneath the 10-snap boot.

The color of the top, however, is echoed in the upholstery covering the seats. Both seats are made more comfortable by the two vertical slots in the seat backs for ventilation.

The passenger is offered a chrome-plated vertical grab bar at the right end of the dashboard for stability when the driving becomes spirited. The two-spoke steering wheel, with a 360-degree horn ring, serves to stabilize the driver.

Similar to the Volkswagens of that era, Mr. Byron’s Speedster has a reserve fuel tank. While the driver’s toe operated the VW reserve tank lever, the Porsche has a hand-operated lever.

He knows his car is an early 1957 model built in 1956 because it has four “beehive” taillights. Later models had two horizontal “teardrop” taillights.

A red reflector is mounted below each pair of taillights on Mr. Byron’s car. Immediately below the reflectors is the body-color bumper with chrome overriders.

“It easily runs with Beltway traffic,” he says. “It’s comfortable at 70 or 80 mph.”

Mr. Byron, CEO of IMS Systems, has driven the Porsche to work once in Silver Spring to display his new toy.

“It was a beautiful day,” he says, crediting the weathermen for an accurate forecast.

A centrally located jack port on each side enables the jack to lift both wheels on one side of the 12-foot, 8-inch-long car with its 83-inch wheelbase.

Under the aerodynamic nose of the Speedster is the spare tire and the gasoline tank. Near the bottom of the front fenders are the two parking lights, which are accompanied by three open slots for the sound to escape from the concealed horns.

Mr. Byron houses his 1957 Porsche in a climate-controlled garage. Occasionally, he takes his German sports car out for exercise during which he shifts through the four-speed synchronized gears.

“Driving it is still a thrill,” Mr. Byron says.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide