The most important Porsche in South America: The Werks 1958 Carrera 1600 GT/GT No. 12303

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Pablo Esguerra
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The most important Porsche in South America: The Werks 1958 Carrera 1600 GT/GT No. 12303

#1 Post by Pablo Esguerra » Fri Feb 05, 2021 3:29 pm

As requested in another post a couple days ago, here's the story on the werks Carrera Coupe 1600 GT/GT No. 12303. Apart from the official (and well documented) history and its racing pedigree, this car had close ties to my own family in the past, belongs to a long-time family friend and 356 enthusiast, but most importantly has a wonderful history!

This was a car conceived by Porsche as a test mule for the recently developed (at the end of 1957) 1600 CC Carrera engine set to replace the 1500 CC one. For this, they took a spare shell they had lying around, stamped it with the serial number 12303 (yes this is a chassis number for a 52 Cabriolet too), and put the newly developed engine in it.
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12303's Chassis Plate
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After it was built in January 1958, it was sent to participate as a Werks car in many different and important races like the 12 hours of Sebring and the Targa Florio, finally being shipped off to Venezuela in November of that same year, capping off a season filled with victories and success at the hands (well, mostly) of the famed Porsche factory driver Baron Fritz Huschke von Heinstein. Before going into the car's history as a werks racer, I'll start with the car's incredible history in South America and then head back to its successes in the 1958 racing season.

After these ten races, the car was set to enter a race in Monza, but instead the car is sent with von Hanstein to Venezuela in November 1958, where there was a road race event taking place: the fourth edition of the Venezuela GP.
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Crossing the line at the IV Venezuela GP
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This was a fully sanctioned international event that took place from Palmarejo to Caracas, covering 755 km using only public roads. The idea was to promote the Porsche brand in unexplored markets like Venezuela, which was at the time an interesting market for Porsche. They chose v. Hanstein, not only for his recent history with the car, but also for his international connections and PR skills. 12303 finished the race first in its class (GT under 1.600 cc) and in eighth place overall, only behind the larger displacement Ferrari’s (six 250 GT’s) and one Mercedes 300 SL.
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Displayed in Venezuela after the race
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After the race, the car was displayed in Venezuela and von Heinstein was approached by a Venezuelan man named Ronchieri, which offered to buy the car for his personal race efforts in Venezuela, to which v. Hanstein and Porsche agreed. Ronchieri campaigned the car in multiple Venezuelan races and finally took part in the road race Caracas-Bogotá: a two stage 1,600 km race connecting both South American capitals that took place in December 1960. The first stage took place between Caracas and the Colombian border, where Ronchieri finished second behind a 300 SL. In the second stage, from the Colombian border to Bogotá, the car broke down just shy of 80 km from the finish line, and did not finish the race.

Coincidentally, for this same event, the current owner of the car, who was only 12 years old at the time, enlisted as a race steward together with his father. They were assigned a checkpoint exactly where the car broke down, and after all the cars went by them, they noticed 12303 parked by the road not knowing anything other than it was a 356 Coupe. When they got back to Bogotá, they talked to his uncle (who coincidentally was also my great uncle and my grandfather’s closest friend), who told him that in fact the car was a Carrera Coupe that belonged to a Venezuelan driver that had a front bearing fail on him and took him out of the race. Upon the impossibility of repairing the car immediately, he parked it there hoping to return later to fix it and bring it back to Venezuela.

However, after a few months, the car remained in the same place and it is when the current owner’s uncle started inquiring about buying the car, and somehow managed to get the Venezuelan owner on the phone to negotiate it. According to the current owner (again, only 12 at the time), who remembers listening to his uncle negotiate the car with the Venezuelan man, it was a lengthy and difficult negotiation, since the Venezuelan argued this was a factory Sebring and Targa Florio winner, which had more value. This was the first time he heard about the car’s special racing history which we'll cover in detail later on. After hearing about this incredible history, the owner’s uncle decided to buy the car together with another friend, paying a premium for its proven racing history.

It's important to note the owner’s uncle was an active racer in Colombia, where he campaigned a Triumph TR2. After he found himself finishing behind my grandfather (and his best friend) in a Speedster several times, he decided to switch out the TR2 for another Speedster, around 58 or 59. He raced this Speedster throughout late 1959 and 1960, when both himself and my grandfather bought Carrera kits for their cars to be more competitive (my father actually remembers the day the crates arrived to his house - Link to our Speedster’s history here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=50195).

After they bought the car, they raced it together in several events in Colombia and Peru, where in 1961, together with my grandfather, they took the three cars to race them in Lima. This meant a triple Porsche Carrera entry representing Colombia in an international race. Unfortunately, not one of them finished the race.

Then in 1962, the owner’s uncle entered 12303 in very popular international race in Bogotá, competing against a 550 Spyder, a very well prepared Austin Healey 3000 and my grandfather’s Speedster.
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San Diego Race in Bogotá Le Mans style start
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Next to the 550, the Healey and my grandfather's Speedster
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He won the race ahead of the Healey and my grandfather (the 550 didn’t finish the race). One of the photos below shows the crowd carrying the winner: the owner’s uncle.
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Ahead of the 550
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The owner's uncle celebrating his win with the crowd
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While these races were going on, and being that Bogota is roughly 8,500 ft above sea level (2,600 m), the carburetors needed more tuning than usual. These tuning rides are the current owner’s first memory of the car: he remembers taking rides with his uncle to tune the car in the only highway in Bogotá. He sat together with his cousin in the passenger’s side, and as his cousin used the handle, he was forced to look for somewhere else to hold from. This is when he found two small holes under the dash where he could hold from by grabbing on with his fingers. These holes were in place to install two switches: one for flashing the lights and another one for the horn, which were used by co-drivers in races where this was needed. These turned out to be key to what happened next.

After that 1962 race, the owner’s uncle sold his share of the car to his partner, who decided to buy himself a Speedster (curiously enough from the current owner’s father), with the objective of swapping out all of the Carrera components from the Coupe and install them in his new Speedster. This way, he could race against the owner's uncle and my grandfather in three identical cars.

Unfortunately, not too long after the swap, the man went into some financial troubles and had to sell both the Speedster and the Coupe to two different people. This meant the cars were separated: 12303 with the normal parts went to Bogotá, and the Speedster stayed in Cali with many of the original Carrera components from 12303.However, despite not having these Carrera components, 12303’s third owner in Colombia decided to install an EMPI engine and entered the car in several races in Colombia in the late 60’s and 70’s, where the car won several races and championships. Unlike the Coupe’s new owner, the Speedster’s new owner did not race the car, decided to swap the engine for a normal one, and stored the Carrera engine away, as he found the car to be extremely uncomfortable and inconvenient for the street.

With 12303 and its original Carrera components separated and far away (in two different cities), the car was eventually converted into a street car and changed hands several times, until it finally ended up in the hands of a violinist from Bogota’s Philharmonic Orchestra. In an other strange coincidence, the Orchestra’s director was a very close friend of my family, and knew my father had just bought another 356 (a ’62 Super 90 which was passed down to me four years ago), and knew something about these cars. The director then called my father and told him a violinist from his orchestra had an old Porsche in his garage that had broken down and didn’t know what to do with it. My father, who had recently bought his S90 decided to call the current owner and asked him to come with him to look at the car, as he knew he would help him figure out what to do with the car.

When they got there, they found an old red A Coupe all covered in dust and dirt, some dents and an old EMPI engine beside it. After they looked at the car, the current owner asked my father if he could offer to buy the car and restore it, if he wasn’t interested, to which my father accepted. This is when the current owner negotiated the car with the violinist and took it back home. As he was cleaning the car, he started to find things about the car that didn’t fit very well with the normal 356A he thought he had bought. And even though most of the usual telltale signs for a Carrera car (like the bucket seats, the special instruments and the plexiglass parts) were missing, there were other ones installed(like the hard oil lines). This is when the owner realized that this could very well be his uncle’s old Carrera Coupe, as he knew that there hadn’t been another Carrera Coupe (original or converted) in the country. To verify his suspicions, he reached under the right side of the dash and looked for were the two small holes under the dash where he used to grab on as a kid when they went for carburetor tuning rides. And to his surprise, they were there.

After realizing the latter, he decided to try and recover the original components that he knew belonged to his new car. He remembered the Carrera engine and components were swapped out to his father’s Speedster in Cali, so he sought out the Speedster’s owner at the time and decided to pay him a visit. He explained the situation to him, letting him know he had his Speedster’s original parts and wanted to swap out or buy them from him. After going through the whole story, the Speedster owner agreed to sell him the four-cam engine and swap out the instruments with him. Even though he had now recovered the most important part of the car, he was still short of the seats, the aluminum doors, the plexiglass windows and the GT fuel tank. Still, he was determined to restore his Coupe to former glory, being almost certain that this was his uncle’s old Carrera.

While all of this happened, the owner happened to be working for the official Porsche dealer in Colombia, which had him travel to Stuttgart on occasions for training purposes. This is when he sought out Jürgen Barth (Edgar’s son) and told him about his Coupe No. 12303. Barth said that the car was a knock-off, that it didn’t (or couldn’t) exist, and that to prove it, he showed him 12303 was a chassis number of a 52 Cabriolet (Kardex to that cabrio below).
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Kardex of 12303. Has a note where they mention there are two cars with the same chassis #
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Disappointed but still convinced something didn’t add up, he returned to Colombia decided to keep looking for the missing parts of his Coupe. Not long from that, the owner decided to open his own auto repair shop and happened to move into a location that used to be the same one where back in the 60’s they fixed all of the old Porsche’s. One day, a rain leak made him ask someone get up in the roof to repair it, and to their great surprise, they found a small attic in the roof rafters filled with old Porsche pieces. This is when he found the car’s original 21-gallon fuel tank.

Then, not much time later, as the current owner arrived at his shop, he found a man in the street standing beside all of his belongings. The man was an employee that worked for a parking lot located right beside his shop (the employee lived there). Looking at the man’s belongings, 12303’s owner noticed a pair of dining chairs that looked incredibly familiar. When he asked the man about the situation, the man replied he’d gotten fired, was moving out and that those were his dining chairs. When he asked him about the chairs, the man said the previous shop owner had given them to him years ago as a gift. These were in fact the car’s original bucket seats, and upon the man’s refusal to sell them to him, he had to go out and buy him a whole new dining set and trade it for the seats. Later on, he also managed to find the car’s original aluminum doors and plexiglass windows and headlights.

As the years went by and having recovered most of the Carrera components that belonged to the car, the current owner started to slowly put the car back together, even managing to assemble and disassemble the complex four cam engine several times. He used it in several vintage car events and enjoyed it thoroughly in Colombia.

Later on, in 2008 his son-in-law (another Porsche fan, owner and vintage racer) happened to come by a man who told him he knew about the 12303 coupe. He claimed to be sure that this was an original factory test mule for the newly developed 1,600 CC four cam engine that would replace the old 1,500 one. As soon as they heard this, he started reaching out to Porsche again, where he finally convinced them to find the original Kardex to his car, which they did.
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Original Kardex
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This was the first step in re-constructing the car’s history with factory documentation and was now sure this was his uncle’s old Carrera Coupe. Later on in 2016, and as stated in the beginning of this story, the factory discovered new documentation in an old Austrian warehouse, where they found multiple documents on this particular car. It not only confirmed it was a special prototype, but that it took part in many different events in 1958:

1. Debuted in the 12 hours of Sebring, January, 1958: the car finished first in class (GT < 1.600), third in overall GT class and tenth overall. It was driven by Husckhe von Hanstein, Herbert Linge and John Cuevas.
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Sebring in 1958 note in the paper with a photo of the car.
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Continued in the next post!!
Last edited by Pablo Esguerra on Fri Feb 05, 2021 10:18 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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The Werks 1958 Carrera 1600 GT/GT No. 12303: Part 2

#2 Post by Pablo Esguerra » Fri Feb 05, 2021 3:36 pm

Continuation of the previous post.

2. After Sebring, the car went to Greece to race at Mt. Parnes Hill Climb, April 1958:5th overall and 1st in class. Driven by v. Hanstein again, and as shown in the work order, the car had its gears swapped for this particular race.
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Work order with a swap of transmission gear set.
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Poster mentioning the car's victory in the GT Class
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3. Targa Florio, May 1958: only a few days later from the Mt. Parnass event, the car was fixed again with a new gear set and entered the Targa Florio driven by von Hanstein again together with Antonio Pucci. They finished 6th overall and first in class (GT <1.600 CC).
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Starting Line at the Targa Florio in 1958
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Targa Florio 1958
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Targa Florio 1958
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Targa Florio 1958
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Targa Florio 1958
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Targa Florio 1958
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4. European Hill Climb Championship at Mt. Ventoux, Provence, France - June 1958: again, a document for another transmission set job done documents the car’s participation. Driven by von Hanstein again, finishing 6th overall and winning overall GT class.

5. 12 hours of Reims - June 1958. Driven by Richard von Frankenberg and Claude Storez. 6th overall and first in GT Class. They raced with a different transmission this time.

6. European Hill Climb Championship, Trento Bondone, Italy - July 1958: driven by von Hanstein again and winning the GT Class.
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Trento Bondone Hill Climb, July 1958
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7. 10 hours of Messina. Driven by von Hanstein and Antonio Pucci, finishing fourth overall and first in GT Class.

8. European Hill Climb Championship, Ollon - Villars, Switzerland - August, 1958: driven by von Hanstein again, finishing first in class and fifth overall.
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European Hill Climb note in the news
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Continued in next post below!

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The Werks 1958 Carrera 1600 GT/GT No. 12303: Part 3/3

#3 Post by Pablo Esguerra » Fri Feb 05, 2021 3:51 pm

Continuation...

9. Avus Race, Berlin - September 1958: driven by von Hanstein, first in class.
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Avus Race in Berlin
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10. Innsbruck Airport Race, Austria - October, 1958: driven by von Frankenberg, DNF.

After these ten races, the car was set to enter a race in Monza, as per another work order to replace the transmission gear set. For some reason instead of going to Monza, this is when the car is sent with von Hanstein to Venezuela in November, where this whole story started.

As further confirmation of the car's amazing history, the car appears in the Rolf Sprenger and Steve Heinrich's book: The Porsche 4-Cam Motor and the Early Years of Porsche Motorsports.
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Details of the build
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More confirmation from the book's research
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The car is currently being being restored to its factory specs, including its engine. Hopefully I can share some pictures of it when the process is finished.

These are some more pictures of the car, some are mine and some from a magazine (9onceplus).
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12303 in the owner's garage a couple years ago
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The silver T6 on the left is my own S90 that I’m currently restoring.
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12303 beside 3 other 356's at a track event
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The reason I decided to type up this story in English, obviously aside from the fact that it is a very interesting story, is because the current owner is a long time family friend whom which we’ve had a special closeness due to our passion for 356’s. Almost thirty years ago, when my grandfather’s Speedster popped up for sale in the 90’s he even passed on offering on the car, knowing my father had also given him the chance to buy this special car a few years back. He’s also a very successful businessman in the auto industry in Colombia as well as an accomplished racer, both at the national and international level. But most importantly, 12303’s owner is a true gentleman. He has seen me and my interest for these cars grow increasingly over the years and I’ll never forget a very special moment for me as a young kid. When I was 16 and raced in my first vintage event, he called me up on stage (as he was handing out trophies to event winners) to make a special mention for me, as I had just become the third generation in my family to race a car in our racing club events, a very special and defining moment for me!

I hoped you enjoyed reading this story as much as I did writing it. Most of the information was shared by the owner but this link has all the pictures and writes up the story in Spanish: tinyurl.com/l6dbfx9f. I’ve also taken some info from an article from 9onceplus, a Spanish Porsche magazine.

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Re: The Werks 1958 Carrera 1600 GT/GT No. 12303

#4 Post by Joris Koning » Fri Feb 05, 2021 4:10 pm

Pablo,

Very cool story, thanks so much for sharing. I believe the below picture might be the engine in 12303. Not 100% sure.

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Re: The Werks 1958 Carrera 1600 GT/GT No. 12303

#5 Post by Jules Dielen » Fri Feb 05, 2021 4:29 pm

Thank you Pablo, what a fantastic story!
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Re: The most important Porsche in South America: The Werks 1958 Carrera 1600 GT/GT No. 12303

#6 Post by Debbie Cooper » Fri Feb 05, 2021 11:00 pm

Hi Pablo,

I absolutely agree with Joris and Jules, except I would add "super" before fantastic from Jules post!

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Re: The most important Porsche in South America: The Werks 1958 Carrera 1600 GT/GT No. 12303

#7 Post by george kehler » Sat Feb 06, 2021 9:54 am

Phenomenal story and write up, Pablo !!
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Re: The most important Porsche in South America: The Werks 1958 Carrera 1600 GT/GT No. 12303

#8 Post by Richard Emerson » Sat Feb 06, 2021 12:21 pm

+1
george kehler wrote:
Sat Feb 06, 2021 9:54 am
Phenomenal story and write up, Pablo !!

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Re: The most important Porsche in South America: The Werks 1958 Carrera 1600 GT/GT No. 12303

#9 Post by Graeme Langford » Sat Feb 06, 2021 5:45 pm

Thank you Pablo for taking the time to enlighten us with an absolutely fantastic story. Truly wonderful :)
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Re: The most important Porsche in South America: The Werks 1958 Carrera 1600 GT/GT No. 12303

#10 Post by James Davies » Sat Feb 06, 2021 7:32 pm

Great story Pablo. Thanks for sharing. This should be in the magazine.

Btw, the 1952 Gläser cabriolet 12305 still exists, just a couple numbers off the 12303 Gläser cabriolet. Not many others from this short run of duplicate chassis numbers from 1952 and 1957-58.

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Re: The most important Porsche in South America: The Werks 1958 Carrera 1600 GT/GT No. 12303

#11 Post by Spencer Harris » Sat Feb 06, 2021 11:18 pm

Terrific history and documentation Pablo. Thank you for sharing it with us!
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Re: The most important Porsche in South America: The Werks 1958 Carrera 1600 GT/GT No. 12303

#12 Post by Jeff Adams » Sat Feb 06, 2021 11:38 pm

Great post Pablo. Your personal history with this significant car makes the story even more interesting and gives us a great perspective.

The chassis tag with the 1500GS notation is also interesting, and your description of the car being the first 1600cc Carrera got me thinking. Before reading your story, my thinking would have been how could 12303 be the first 1600 with engine 95002? To answer a question from your other post, engines starting with 95xxx would be 692/3 GT. The original engine from 12303 should be stamped 692/3 in the upper center, easy to see. I originally thought that the 692/2 1600 GS engines came first, so there would be no way any car with a 692/3 engine could be the first 1600. After studying the Heinrichs / Sprenger book, I was wrong.

The book shows 12303 with a finish date of January 24, 1958 and the original engine to be 95002, the second 692/3 1600 GT engine. Engine 95001, the first (by serial number) went into GT coupe 105558 which had a finish date of December 1, 1958 - 10 months later.

For the 692/2 1600 GS cars, the first engine 93001 went into GS coupe 103880 with a finish date of June 12, 1958 making this the first 1600 GS car by both engine serial number and production date. Assuming all the above to be correct, this means 12303 would be the very first 1600cc four cam car made by at least 5 months.

The chassis tag in your pictures looks very original to me. Even though the car was a 1600, maybe Porsche had not tooled up to stamp the 1600GS on tags yet so just used one of the existing 1500GS tags to identify this prototype car as a Carrera.

I don't know this for sure, but I think all the first year production 1600 Carreras were considered to be 1959 model year cars. A handful of 692/2 1600GS cars were made in mid-late summer 1958 but not many. Only two 692/3 1600GT cars were made in calendar year 1958: 12303 in January and 105558 in December. The December 1958 car would definitely be a 1959 model year.

The second 12303 Kardex has very little information on it. Pablo - how did you know it had 95002 as the original engine? From the Heinrichs book only, or do you have other documentation? The proof must exist somewhere besides the Kardex for it to be in the book.

Do you have pictures of the engine? Would like to see those if you can share...

Joris - it is very possible your picture is from 12303. The engine clearly has Weber 40 DCM carburetors which were not used on any previous 356 Carrera engines until the 692/3. It also has an early 1500 style breather tube and must have early throttle linkage which is behind the fan shroud, towards the front of the car. Most of the 1959 1600GT cars I have seen used the later breather can mounted on the firewall and later throttle linkage with the cross bar and vertical drop links to the carburetors.

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Re: The most important Porsche in South America: The Werks 1958 Carrera 1600 GT/GT No. 12303

#13 Post by James Davies » Sun Feb 07, 2021 10:49 am

Jeff Adams wrote:
Sat Feb 06, 2021 11:38 pm
The proof must exist somewhere besides the Kardex for it to be in the book
Jeff, I'm pretty sure Steve relied on the Reutter books and Porsche production books, in addition to the Kardex info to get these details. Those hand-written Porsche production books are the only things, for instance, that list the radio serial numbers. And these are much more reliable than Kardex for the mechanical specifications of the car, especially if the Kardex is blank! =) And of course the Reutter books have very detailed information on all materials used to make the body.

See Dick Koenig's article in 356 Registry Magazine v23 #6 pg 26-30 showing these production notebooks and the sort of info they contain.

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Re: The most important Porsche in South America: The Werks 1958 Carrera 1600 GT/GT No. 12303

#14 Post by Pablo Esguerra » Sun Feb 07, 2021 11:19 am

Jeff Adams wrote:
Sat Feb 06, 2021 11:38 pm

The book shows 12303 with a finish date of January 24, 1958 and the original engine to be 95002, the second 692/3 1600 GT engine. Engine 95001, the first (by serial number) went into GT coupe 105558 which had a finish date of December 1, 1958 - 10 months later.

For the 692/2 1600 GS cars, the first engine 93001 went into GS coupe 103880 with a finish date of June 12, 1958 making this the first 1600 GS car by both engine serial number and production date. Assuming all the above to be correct, this means 12303 would be the very first 1600cc four cam car made by at least 5 months.
Jeff, thank you for your notes. This was a sort of prototype car to serve as a test mule for the 1600 engines, and the owner was told 95000 was the first engine developed and was never assembled, 95001 was left in the factory, and 95002 was put in this test mule body they had lying around. The idea was to promote the advantages of this newly developed engine in the 1958 racing season.
Jeff Adams wrote:
Sat Feb 06, 2021 11:38 pm
The second 12303 Kardex has very little information on it. Pablo - how did you know it had 95002 as the original engine? From the Heinrichs book only, or do you have other documentation? The proof must exist somewhere besides the Kardex for it to be in the book.
From what I know, the Porsche museum confirmed all the information, the owner must have copies of this documentation.I will share your notes with him and hopefully answer your questions. I will try to get pictures from the engine to share with you!

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Re: The most important Porsche in South America: The Werks 1958 Carrera 1600 GT/GT No. 12303

#15 Post by Dick Weiss » Sun Feb 07, 2021 12:33 pm

Pablo,

Many thanks for the complete story of the 1600 Carrera cp participating in the race(s) in So. America in 1958-1959.
Is there any history of any Speedsters entered in the Caracas Gran Prix for Sports Cars during those years?

My 1500GS (the 1st of 4-steel-bodied) Speedster was entered in 1-of them by the VW/Porsche dealer(?) there and
the former Service manager shipped the car to the USA via Houston, TX, but I found it on a used car lot in San Antonio
during my vacation trip in 1960 w/my 1958 Normal Speedster (purchased from Glockler in Frankfurt, GR), made a deal
for purchase. It had Firestone racing tires on the front, standard brakes; etc. I made a tow bar to flat tow it 1200
miles home w/my 1st Speedster and I still have the Carrera 60-1/2 years--driving it w/a pushrod engine since the
engine has been apart for a crank rebuild. My 84061 Speedster is back in a German collection.

There's much more to the car's present history, but I'm really trying to track down it's activity during its time in So. America. I hope there is some background available of who drove the car and/or where it finished.

All the best,
Dick (83948)

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