WCSTA -04- 1956 Speedster Family Car

Share progress on your 356 related project or full restoration with others!
Message
Author
Jeff Graham
356 Fan
Posts: 39
Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2008 10:08 am

WCSTA -04- 1956 Speedster Family Car

#1 Post by Jeff Graham » Wed Mar 04, 2015 8:49 pm

This contest might just be the kick in the butt I needed to start down the road on a long (very long) delayed restoration of my very special Speedster.

First, the backstory…

Part 1.

In March 1972 I was 9 years old and my dad was looking for a Porsche – specifically a Speedster. Circumstances dictated that it was going to be a Speedster project. So he kept a close eye on the newspaper classifieds (remember those?) and saw this in the Feb 27th Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Classified edited.jpg
I love the note in my dad’s handwriting below the ad “No rust – visible, underneath - rust” That’s priceless.

With terms agreed, arrangements were made to pick up the car almost 2 months later on April 23, 1972. We made the relatively short drive from our Cleveland area home to New Philadelphia, OH, towing a rented car trailer behind the Chrysler Town & Country station wagon. There was still a little snow on the ground, but the roads were otherwise clear.
img3.jpg
My recollections of the Speedster from this era are somewhat spotty;

- It was never really running well, but it lived up to Harry Pellow’s expectations of a “good” Porsche and never stranded us.
- We ALWAYS had a spray can of ether (engine starting fluid) on hand – and used it frequently and liberally. [Note: check back on this later in the story when I reveal the piston and cylinder pictures]
- We had to keep the car at a rented garage space that was about 20 minutes from home, so never really convenient to access for maintenance or a drive
- I had to sit on a boat cushion so that I had a half-decent view from the passenger seat

Going for a drive was somewhat a hassle and didn’t happen often. It always involved first driving over to the rented garage, wrestling with the always near dead battery, and hosing down the carbs with ether in order to get it fired up. Winter in Cleveland, means that there are limited months out of the year for enjoying a drive in the Speedster. [The “underneath-rust” mentioned above was severe enough that the car had no heat]. And my dad was a pretty busy guy. He worked full time at TRW and then taught Managerial Economics at Cleveland State University in the evenings.

But, those few nice days when my dad went through all the trouble so we could go for an open air drive in the Speedster were awesome, and definitely put the Porsche bug in me.
img2.jpg
...to be continued

Per Schroeder
356 Fan
Posts: 111
Joined: Sat Feb 14, 2015 12:23 pm

Re: WCSTA - 1956 Speedster Family Car

#2 Post by Per Schroeder » Wed Mar 04, 2015 8:57 pm

Excellent! Can't wait to hear the rest….
Per Schroeder
Stoddard
LA Lit Meet Organizer

Tom Sinclair
356 Fan
Posts: 52
Joined: Sat Aug 07, 2010 7:35 pm
Location: Preston, ID

Re: WCSTA - 1956 Speedster Family Car

#3 Post by Tom Sinclair » Wed Mar 04, 2015 10:33 pm

Wonderful story. Is your dad still around?

My dad had a '58 Coupe we shared for 16 years.

Tom
Attachments
Porche-1.jpg

Jeff Graham
356 Fan
Posts: 39
Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2008 10:08 am

Re: WCSTA - 1956 Speedster Family Car

#4 Post by Jeff Graham » Thu Mar 05, 2015 2:16 pm

Per - did you see who else was advertising Porsches for sale in that classified ad? Name of that establishment should look familiar to you.

Tom - how cool that you were able to share a 356 with your dad. That sounds like an ideal owner experience; twice the number of hands and wallets to help fix it! You asked me a specific question and I promise I will answer in my next post.

Jeff Graham
356 Fan
Posts: 39
Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2008 10:08 am

Re: WCSTA - 1956 Speedster Family Car

#5 Post by Jeff Graham » Sun Mar 08, 2015 7:29 pm

Back-story part 2 – Amateur backyard restoration

In the years 1975-1978, my dad undertook what I can best describe as an amateur backyard restoration. This type of restoration on a Speedster would be unthinkable these days. But, back then these cars – while still special – were not worth anywhere near what a proper restoration of an Ohio rust bucket would cost. Replacement panels were not widely available and the internet (then ARPANET) didn’t have any helpful 356 restoration sites.

So, with a small budget and very limited shop resources, the first restoration…and a string of compromises…began.

Rust through holes in the floorboards were patched with flat panels and pop-rivets or fiberglass.
Fiberglass patch at rear drivers side torsion bar tube 2 (1024x768).jpg
The hood that came with the car had been kinked and was deemed un-savable. It was replaced with a B hood that never fit well.
Speedster in red primer.jpg
Part of the fit problem was that the car had suffered a major collision on the right front which had been improperly repaired with liberal amounts of bondo. A plan to properly fix this problem with a full nose replacement located nearby in Indiana was scuppered when the “undamaged” nose from Indiana arrived with rust through front to back. So, more bondo was applied to the existing nose and fenders.
Speedster front clip 02.jpg
Another consequence of the collision was that the right front suspension points were pushed back such that the left and right side front to rear suspension measurements are off by 1.5 inches – a problem that persists today. And the inner structure that holds the front torsion bar tubes in place had been crumpled and rusted completely away.
The fix to this problem was two fold;
1. A good friend with a machine shop fabricated some braces which were welded in so that the torsion tubes didn’t completely separate from the body inner structure.
2. Since the alignment was impossible to ever set properly, a set of cheap “BLEM” tires were purchased [BLEM is short for blemished, meaning they didn’t pass the cosmetic quality standards, but were still OK. It’s like buying your clothes off the irregular rack. They’re not quite right, but good enough.] And, those tires were indeed good enough considering that they would essentially be scrubbed down the road from the misalignment.
Reinforcement plate (1024x768).jpg
BLEM tire enhanced.jpg

The rust had consumed the rockers and perforated the heater tubes running up to the cockpit (never mind the heat exchanges were rusted away). So, patches were applied over and around the heating tubes, and a rationalization was made that the car would never be driven in the winter anyway. No heat required.

The car was painted in the climate controlled environment of our backyard in the Cleveland suburbs. It’s hard to believe now that this was considered a reasonable way to paint a car.

Speedster in primer_0002 (1280x977).jpg

The interior was a special project that brought in my mom for assistance. Carpet and vinyl purchased locally was fabricated into a new interior, replacing the red shag carpeting that was installed by some previous owner. That home-made upholstery is still holding up extraordinarily well.

And so, the restoration was complete (kind of).

Speedster at Westchester.jpg

Some of the statements above may come off as judgmental, but they are not meant that way. My dad made reasonable compromises given the budget and resources available at the time. I do not fault him in any way for the choices made.

I didn’t do any work on the Speedster in this time frame, but my dad wanted to tackle a father and son restoration project, so we worked together on a 1931 Model A Roadster.

===

Fast forward now for the next 10-12 years during which I finished high-school went to college, worked my first job and bought a 1972 911T Targa to satisfy my own Porsche needs.

I would, of course, get home to visit with mom and dad every once in a while. This is one of my favorite photos taken on an occasion in 1988 when I drove my 911 home.

My sister probably hates this picture (she doesn’t have a Porsche).

Me (left) with my 1972 911, dad (middle) in the Speedster, and my mom (right) standing in front of her 1967 912.
Graham Family P Cars Sept 1988 (1024x699).jpg
Sadly, my dad passed away after a bout with non-hodgkin lymphoma in 1991, my first year of grad school in San Diego.

And, the Speedster sat un-driven for several years in a garage at my mom’s house in Cleveland.

Part 3 will be the final chapter of the back-story. Then I promise some really good rust pictures.

User avatar
Mark Pribanic
356 Fan
Posts: 2447
Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2008 9:11 pm
Tag: Drive 'Em!
Location: Neptune Beach, Florida USA
Contact:

Re: WCSTA - 1956 Speedster Family Car

#6 Post by Mark Pribanic » Mon Mar 09, 2015 12:22 pm

Cool! Looking forward to part 3!
Mark Pribanic
Registry# 13617
Florida Owners Group Trustee - 2008-2010
Neptune Beach, Florida USA
Instagram: Mark.Pribanic

Jeff Graham
356 Fan
Posts: 39
Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2008 10:08 am

Re: WCSTA - 1956 Speedster Family Car

#7 Post by Jeff Graham » Thu Mar 12, 2015 4:11 pm

Back-story Part 3 – Resurrecting the un-driven

While I was re-starting my life after grad school in San Diego, my mom asked if I wanted the Speedster. She knew that the car meant a lot to me and my emphatic answer was, of course, “Yes.” But I was renting and didn’t have a proper garage to keep the car. So it was better off in the safe garage in Cleveland.

Finally, in October 1995, having saved enough for a down payment, I purchased a house with an attached garage. Wasting no time, one month later in November 1995 I flew to Cleveland, rented a truck and trailer, and loaded the Speedster. Keeping one step ahead of the snow which had started to fall, I drove via the southern route cross-country from Cleveland to San Diego with my mom riding shotgun.

Here’s mom enjoying a relaxing take-out dinner in West Texas. We had to stop outside El Paso to fix a flat tire on the trailer and took advantage of the down time to have dinner. [Mom – now 82 – says she’s not interested in towing a car cross country again. I haven’t tested that statement, yet.]
Dashboard Diner.jpg
With the Speedster now in my garage in San Diego, it was time to have some fun with the car. But, in addition to the extensive rust which had never been properly fixed, the Speedster had suffered years of hard starts (remember the ether-induced starts) and neglect from sitting.

I was initially excited to begin a full restoration. Common wisdom from experts at that time (1995) was that I needed a Coupe donor chassis to replace the rust rotted Speedster undercarriage. The economics of the situation had changed such that the Speedster was now actually worth doing a proper restoration. But I didn’t have the money or space to buy a SECOND 356 to be sacrificed as a donor.

I found myself in a similar position as my dad 30 years earlier. I didn’t have the time or money or garage space to do a restoration job properly. And I was getting married soon, and then we had a daughter, and then we moved to house in a better school district, and then….

So I decided to continue to ignore the metal repairs, and make the drive train reliable enough to properly start, shift and stop. That would allow me to have some fun driving the car while working on mechanicals. After all, the car had been rusty and rotted for 30 years at least and still went down the road without the doors flying open on turns. How bad could the chassis be?

I joined the 356 Registry, got a copy of the Maestro’s engine tune up video and started trying to get the car running and stopping well. Brakes were pretty straightforward, but despite all my efforts the engine never actually started reliably or ran well. There were some fundamental problems. I was never sure if the Speedster would start so it wasn’t much fun to drive.

I dove in deeper. I bought a copy of “Secrets Of The Inner Circle” and the Maestro’s engine rebuild DVD set and started down the path of a full engine rebuild.
Ready to drop engine.jpg

This is what I found in the teardown.
Sorry state of piston.jpg
Other than that, the rest of the engine internals were in pretty good shape. I needed new pistons and settled on a Shasta design intended to be used with the A heads, but allow for a little better compression ratio.

Through the Registry I was introduced to Dick Miller who was a HUGE help. I feel privileged to have known him and I’m sure my engine turned out better than it would have without his help.
Rebuild completed.jpg
With the rebuilt engine back in the car I was finally having some fun driving the Speedster – hard - like it should be driven.

But, within a month of getting the rebuilt engine back into the car, I destroyed the gearbox. I was having a LOT of fun driving the car and maybe I overstressed what the gearbox could handle. I hadn’t ever really paid attention to what kind of transaxle was in the Speedster, but it turns out it was a VW gearbox and it blew up spectacularly.
blown up gearbox.jpg

I really wanted to attend both the Dana Point event and the Porsche Parade in San Diego, just a few months away. A DIY gearbox rebuild would have blown my schedule, so I left the job to a professional. Jacques Lefriant build up a 741 for me with the modifications to work with my A.
shiny 741 ready for install.jpg

Back on the road again and having even more fun, here’s the Speedster at Dana Point
On the grass at Dana Point 2007.jpg

And at the Porsche Parade in San Diego.
At the Porsche Parade 2007.jpg

There was a big kerfuffle at the Porsche Parade because the 356s had to park on the dirt road and they all got covered in a layer of dust throughout the day. I was just happy to be able to drive the Speedster there and back home.

2007-2013 were great years of enjoyment driving the car whenever and wherever. Having done most of the mechanical work myself, I knew that either the car was going to run, or I could make it run again. The backyard paint job was actually a benefit because I didn’t have to worry about door dings and didn’t worry about driving or parking anywhere.

And that WAS fun…

Until last year when the passenger door started flying open on left hand turns.

Which means it’s time to finally address the metalwork which has been delayed for 40 years.

Coming up in Part 4 – the ugly undercarriage and really rusty bits.

Jeff Graham
356 Fan
Posts: 39
Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2008 10:08 am

Re: WCSTA - 1956 Speedster Family Car

#8 Post by Jeff Graham » Tue Mar 17, 2015 9:29 pm

Part 4 – State of the nation / ugly and rusty underneath


The first time the passenger door opened on a left hand turn, I was in a state of denial. I rationalized that the door must not have been shut properly. Thankfully I didn’t have a passenger in the car at the time.

But after I stopped and shut the door and then it happened again, and again, there was no denying the gravity of the situation. I don’t recall where I was at the time but I had to drive home holding the passenger door closed with my right hand. Having to hold the passenger door closed kind of takes the fun out of driving the car and also means that taking passengers is out of the question.

Pictures of rust and rot and ugliness were promised, so here they are;

== CAUTION. If patch panels, pop rivets, fiberglass, duct tape and bondo frighten you, please stop here and read another thread ==

Starting with the driver’s side front structure – from torsion bar tubes forward toward the battery box. Obviously rusted out structure has been patched with a mix of sheet metal, pop rivets and very long bolts with square nuts.
Drivers side front structure underside with pop rivet patch pannel (1024x768).jpg

And a close up.
Drivers side front structure underside 3 (1024x768).jpg

[Side notes: First, why both pop rivets and bolts on the same patch? Second – why the square nuts? There is probably a proper application for square shaped nuts but not on a 356. Third – had I paid attention before and cut those bolts down to near flush, I probably could have reduced my Cd significantly and gained a couple mph on the straights! ]

Diagonal member looking back (1024x768).jpg
This is the other front underside from a different angle where the battery box patch and some sort of strap (again with the really long bolts and square nuts!) has been place to hold the rusted out fender brace to the chassis.

battery tray from underside - passenger side with brace 2 (1024x768).jpg
Same location looking forward.

Right front inner wheel well (1024x768).jpg

And a pic of the underside of the nose.

nose underside (1024x768).jpg
And now looking toward the back along the longitudinal.
Passenger side rocker looking back (1024x768).jpg

Not exactly straight as an arrow.

In a previous post you also got a look at the makeshift welded in plates that hold the front suspension to the chassis. In case you forgot, that looks like this…

Front structure 1 (1024x768).jpg

Going up top, here is a shot of the trunk area. If you recall from an earlier post, the passenger side had some sort of collision damage that had never been properly repaired. This is the passenger side of the trunk area.
passenger side trunk 1 (1024x768).jpg
passenger side trunk 2 close up (1024x768).jpg

Jeff Graham
356 Fan
Posts: 39
Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2008 10:08 am

Re: WCSTA - 1956 Speedster Family Car

#9 Post by Jeff Graham » Tue Mar 17, 2015 9:35 pm

Then moving further up, there is the trunk drain channel with rust through drain hole!
trunk drain channel with extra drain hole 2 (1024x768).jpg
Further down the drain channel at the nose area where the bondo seems to have accumulated.
trunk drain channel at nose (1024x768).jpg
What about the floor board? Surely there is some good stuff there.

Passenger side – a mix of sheet metal patch panel with some sort of tar like mixture and duct tape!
Passenger side footwell with patch panel and duct tape (1024x768).jpg
I did not put that duct tape there which means that it has been there for at least 20 years. [Dad if you put that duct tape there and you are able to read this from the great beyond, I love you, but really? Duct tape? BTW - thank you, dad, for saving for my college education and not spending frivolously on floorboards for the Speedster].

Here’s the driver’s side rear footwell that has a custom brace attempting to hold the seat rail in place. I say attempting because it isn’t at all secure, resulting in the drivers seat occasionally shifting in a turn. Particularly troubling if I’m trying to hold the passenger door closed at the same time.
Drivers side rear footwell with brace attempting to secure seat frame (1024x768).jpg
The jack receivers are present, but you wouldn’t dare attempt to use them.
jack receiver drivers side (1024x768).jpg
And, finally, I believe I promised some fiberglass pictures.

There are fiberglass patches several places along the underbody, but the most egregious use, IMHO, is at the rear torsion bar (both side) which seems like a structural location that probably deserves a little more metal and less glass fiber.
Fiberglass patch at rear passenger side torsion bar tube 2 (1024x768).jpg



I love this car and especially love driving this car, but I’m afraid that it is about to crack into two pieces (has that actually ever happened?).

== Side note / tangent for the surfers in the forum. If you’ve ever broken a board, then you know that feeling of swimming in with 2 halves of a surfboard [or one half attached to you on the leash and the other half floating in the soup]. Well, I imagine myself riding home in the flatbed tow truck some day with two (or worse, one) half of a Speedster. ==

I drove it yesterday half loving the experience and half knowing I was on borrowed time, but always feeling VERY lucky to ever have the chance to drive a Speedster under any circumstances.

It desperately needs metal repair and it needs pretty much every metal panel repaired or replaced. And that, my 356 brethren, is why I’m entering the WCSTA contest with this car.

Writing this story has been pretty fun and possibly therapeutic also. Any questions, comment or suggestions would be welcomed. Thanks for reading…and go drive your 356!

Cheers,
Jeff

Per Schroeder
356 Fan
Posts: 111
Joined: Sat Feb 14, 2015 12:23 pm

Re: WCSTA - 1956 Speedster Family Car

#10 Post by Per Schroeder » Wed Mar 18, 2015 11:09 am

Wow, that's terrible!

Are you going to be wielding that welder or do you have a shop picked out?
Per Schroeder
Stoddard
LA Lit Meet Organizer

Jeff Graham
356 Fan
Posts: 39
Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2008 10:08 am

Re: WCSTA - 1956 Speedster Family Car

#11 Post by Jeff Graham » Thu Mar 19, 2015 1:49 pm

Hi Per,

That's a great question, and a tough one to answer.

If this was the year 2024 and I was retired it would be easy. I would be doing all of the restoration work myself. But right now I have a full time job, a middle school child who I want to spend time with before she's all grown up, and a wife I enjoy being with.

I've been reading Ron Roland's book (again) and he has a very pragmatic section up front that walks the reader through a gauntlet of questions to get an understanding of the reasons why and whether the reader is prepared to perform a full restoration themselves. Do they have the skills, lifestyle, motivation, supportive wife, sufficient garage space, tolerant neighbors, etc. to survive the task and be happy with the outcome. Today, when I go through those questions, the outcome is a resounding "no." Could I get to a "yes?" Absolutely. But not today.

My current thinking is to find a shop in Southern California that would be willing to take on the metal work and paint. I could take on the teardown and rebuild of all the mechanicals.

I had a discussion with a well respected shop a number of years ago and they agreed in principle to this type of arrangement. It's time to rekindle that conversation.

Jeff

Per Schroeder
356 Fan
Posts: 111
Joined: Sat Feb 14, 2015 12:23 pm

Re: WCSTA - 1956 Speedster Family Car

#12 Post by Per Schroeder » Thu Mar 19, 2015 2:20 pm

Cool. It certainly is a worthwhile project, both financially and familial.
Per Schroeder
Stoddard
LA Lit Meet Organizer

User avatar
Greg Bryan
356 Fan
Posts: 2980
Joined: Sat Oct 04, 2008 1:05 pm
Location: San Pedro, CA 90732 Fallen Leaf, CA
Contact:

Re: WCSTA - 1956 Speedster Family Car

#13 Post by Greg Bryan » Fri Mar 20, 2015 11:28 am

Looks like repairs I would have made ...
Greg Bryan

Per Schroeder
356 Fan
Posts: 111
Joined: Sat Feb 14, 2015 12:23 pm

Re: WCSTA - 1956 Speedster Family Car

#14 Post by Per Schroeder » Fri Apr 03, 2015 9:30 am

How did the discussions with the shop go? Who is going to do the work?
Per Schroeder
Stoddard
LA Lit Meet Organizer

Jeff Graham
356 Fan
Posts: 39
Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2008 10:08 am

Re: WCSTA -04- 1956 Speedster Family Car

#15 Post by Jeff Graham » Mon Apr 06, 2015 3:49 pm

I'm still getting back in touch with the shops I talked to many years ago, and also some new ones. Of course, part of the decision process involves visiting the shops and talking with past customers - it's gonna take some time. And this darn job keeps getting in the way of my free time!

Bottom line is no decision yet on who is going to do the work. I will take some time to write down my criteria and notes from my shop visits, as that might be interesting reading for some.

Post Reply