Porsche Found, Lost, Found Again And Then Lost Forever

Porsche 356

Name: Stan of South Pasadena, Ca

Yeah: 1959

Make: Porsche

Model: 356

Tell Us Your Story:I think it was 1961 or 62. I was an Engineering student at California State University at Los Angeles, known at the time as Cal State College. I wasn’t sure where I was going scholastically, but I did join Beta Chi Fraternity , to help with my social integration. My Ivy League type Beta Chi Brothers were all good looking, good students, smoked pipes, and many of them drove VW’s which were as much in cars then as they are today. Some of the Brothers had very nice rides, including a new E-Type Coupe, an SL 230 Roadster. Several of the members owned a variety of old and new Porsches; Denny had an old 1300 Super coupe with a VW engine, because it was too expensive to fix a failed Porsche roller bearing crankshaft. At the other end of the Porsche scale was Brother Gary who imported a new Porsche every 3 years. That year he took delivery of his new 356 B Super 90 Coupe, dark green and gorgeous. Up until then there were 60 & 75 HP 1600cc’s, but 90 HP!! Gary sold his “Pea Green” ’58 Coupe to fraternity brother Terry. (keep it in the family). I remember riding in Gary’s new S90 one night down a yet to be opened section of the 710 Freeway near Cal State at 100+ MPH. I was hooked.

Later that year I bought my first Porsche. It was a very clean 2 owner ’57 Normal coupe, Cream exterior with red interior. I was in heaven, and it was great fun to drive and be seen in. Soon my pledge brother, Mike traded his pretty red Falcon Ranchero for a mint condition Black ’59 Super Coupe with red interior and Koni shocks. We would always be talking “Porsche”. I remember one year we went to the Times Grand Prix at Riverside and were disappointed that the winner, Roger Penske was in his Cooper Special, not a Porsche RS60 Spyder.

Many of my friends enjoyed the sports cars of the time: Steve had an MGA and then a B; Harvey had a Triumph TR4, and Lee had the most beautiful red Austin Healy 100-4. Eventually my Porsche’s Cream paint gave way to a beautiful shade of GM Twilight Aqua Metallic, Chrome Knockoff wheel covers and a Bursch extractor exaust system with an optional unmuffled competition stinger pipe which could be attached if you wanted to play race car on the Angelus Crest Highway to Mt.Wilson.

Reading, Road & Track, Sports Car Graphic, Car and Driver and many of the Porsche newsletters led me to learn of what was to become, for me and the rest of the Porsche world, the Ultimate 356 Porsche, the Speedster. Even then the Speedster was unique and controversial, and desirable at the same time. Light weight and simple, with minimal cold weather protection and designed specifically for the California climate. Once again I fell for a Porsche. A Speedster. I found a very clean red ’58 that had been modified with ‘65C running gear, including disc brakes, chrome factory wheels, chrome nerf bars and a S90 camber compensator. Needless to say this was a fantastic combination, (for $2200), and was a joy to drive. I enjoyed being in the Speedster “club”, and at the time they were fairly prevalent in the Pasadena area. I remember, one night returning from a movie to my parked Speedster to find Chris waiting for my return. Turns out that he also had a Speedster and he just wanted to compare notes. He was rightfully proud of his meticulously restored, ’57. It was painted a gorgeous deep maroon lacquer and was powered by a highly modified engine with an Isky Cam, and Webber Carbs. It was a 6,000 RPM screamer. The interior was as new including German square weave carpeting. (He had to import a whole roll from Germany back then). Speedster owners, particularly Chris, were maniacal even in those days. We developed a friendship over our Speedsters.

After classes at Cal State University one day, I returned to the remote parking lot to find my Speedster gone. Stealing a Speedster was relatively easy, as there was no way to securely lock the windowless car. I was physically ill, as I had no theft insurance. At first I didn’t think I had a chance to recover my pride and joy. I picked up an old ’57 VW for basic transportation, and started to be on the alert for my missing Speedster if I would encounter a Speedster in my daily travels, I would follow it into the owners driveway or garage and engage him in conversation about his Speedster so I could look it over. Afterwards I would explain my situation, and of 6 or 7 encounters, only 1 guy got mad that I could presume he was a Porsche thief. After a number of these disappointing encounters, in desperation, I wrote a letter to the DMV pleading for assistance in finding my stolen Speedster. I reasoned that it might be re registered and still on the road. I didn’t think anyone would chop it up for parts.

One day, while stopped for cross traffic on Lake Street in Pasadena with my girlfriend Joni, I saw my Speedster drive right in front of me. “That’s my Speedster!” I shouted. Joni had been on a few of these chases with me, all of which had previously ended in disappointment. I instantly knew it was mine, because it had not been changed. The distinctive “C” disc brake chrome wheels, chrome nerf bars & and brilliant red lacquer made my heart jump. We followed the car into a parking lot and waited until the driver went into a shop on Lake Street. We approached the car, and I immediately opened the engine compartment and removed the rotor from the distributor and put it in my pocket. I had my girlfriend go into a store to call the Police. (No cell phones, then). Meanwhile the young driver returned to the Speedster which I was admiring. He was quite proud of the Speedster and we had a nice conversation, while I bit my tongue. Finally he offered to start it up for me and of course it wouldn’t because the rotor was still in my pocket. I suggested that it might be flooded and to wait for a while. At this time 2 Pasadena police cars arrived, and I explained that this was my Speedster that was stolen 6 months before. I was able to convince the officers by identifying some hidden features that no one else could possibly know. (pop rivets used to repair a hidden weak spot on the sheet metal drivers bucket seat. Turns out the young man had just bought my Speedster from a car lot in the San Fernando Valley, and the door sill VIN Serial Plate had been switched. This was a professional theft. I eventually was reunited with my Speedster. A week or so later I received a letter from the DMV informing me that my stolen Speedster had been recovered. I never did find out what happened to the young man who had traded in his Spitfire for my purloined Speedster. I can only guess that the real crook was eventually caught.

I was so happy to have my Speedster back, but there was a nagging feeling that I had used my one chance at recovering my stolen car. This was my daily driver and it was vulnerable whenever I left it parked, even though I always took my ignition rotor with me. After all the heartbreak of the loss and the joy at the recovery, I decided to sell my Speedster. I placed an ad in the local paper, and was immediately contacted by a young would be racer from Colorado, named Fred, who was attending racing school in California and would be returning to Colorado later that day. He bought my Speedster on the spot for $2500. He asked if I would deliver the car to his home in Boulder where he was attending school and working for an import car dealership. He offered me return airfare in exchange. Now, let see, . . . drive my Speedster from my home in LA through the Rockies in the fall, for one last glorious drive; done deal. I packed a few hand tools, and the bumpers in the passenger seat, under the tonneau, dropped the top and headed for Boulder. I spent a leisurely 4 days enjoying the beautiful scenery, and trying not to think about what was eventually going to happen when I reached Boulder. When I arrived I met Fred, and we visited, a few Porsche restoration shops in the area. There was a lot of activity, and I saw my first Porsche-on-a-rotisserie and began to realize that I was giving up a treasure. It was too late to change my mind. After dinner I spent the night at Fred’s home with his wife and their two St. Bernard’s. Although I had a heavy heart, we had a great visit, and the next day Fred put me on a First Class Flight to LA. The brandy helped dull the pain and soon the deed was done when I arrived home. I think only then, I truly realized that my Speedster was gone again, this time forever.

I lost contact with Fred, but learned of his successful racing career as he went on to become a National Formula Super V Champion. Today I wonder if he kept the Speedster, or knows where it might be. I’d like to find it one more time.