The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773
Lot 223
1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop
Coachwork by Reutter
Sold for £303,900 (US$ 393,414) inc. premium

Lot Details
The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773 The John Coombs,1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop  Chassis no. 80773
The John Coombs
1955 Porsche 356 'Pre-A' Speedster with Hardtop
Coachwork by Reutter

Registration no. 723 UYV
Chassis no. 80773
*Very rare and desirable early Pre-A Speedster
*Imported from Virginia, USA
*The subject of two paintings by Jack Vettriano
*Extensively restored

Footnotes

  • Racing driver John Coombs had enjoyed considerable success in his chosen career, including a win in a minor Formula 1 race, before giving up competitive driving to concentrate on running his Guildford-based Jaguar dealership. He continued to prepare and enter cars under his own name for other drivers, including stars of the day such as Ron Flockhart, Roy Salvadori, Jack Brabham, and Bruce McLaren. Coombs' name will be forever be linked with that of Jaguar, his Mark 1 and Mark 2 saloons being at the forefront of British saloon car racing throughout the late 1950s/early 1960s. A connoisseur of fine motor cars, John Coombs had been looking for a Porsche 356 Speedster for his wife, and found this example in the USA in 2004.

    Although Ferdinand Porsche had established his automotive design consultancy in the early 1930s, his name would not appear on a car until 1949. When it did, it graced one of the all-time great sports cars: the Porsche 356. A cabriolet followed hot on the heels of the original Porsche 356 coupé, and then in 1952 a trial batch of 15 America Roadsters was constructed at the behest of US importer Max Hoffman, who had persuaded Porsche of the potential for a 'cut-price' entry-level model. The Roadsters' successful reception in the USA led to the introduction of the Speedster model in 1954. The Speedster's inspiration is also credited to John Von Neumann, Porsche's West Coast distributor, who had chopped down a Gmünd-built coupé in the late 1940s to create a lightweight competition car. Explaining such a car's appeal Neumann once said: 'Guys want to go, on a Saturday night in June, down Sunset Boulevard with their elbow over the door and the girls can see them in the car.' Plus ça change...

    Instantly recognisable by virtue of its low, wraparound - as opposed to V-shaped - windscreen, smaller and entirely retractable hood, lower door waistline, horizontal trim strip at the level of the door handles, and twin bucket seats - all of which served to emphasise its sporting image - the Speedster was, in effect, an 'economy' model intended to compete with the cheaper British sports cars. The Speedster was powered initially by the 1.5-litre version of Porsche's horizontally opposed four, gaining the new 1.6-litre, 60bhp engine with the introduction of the improved 356A in 1955. Priced at $2,995, the Speedster was the lightest of the 356s, enjoying a commensurate performance boost that meant over 100mph was possible. Allied to its already renowned handling characteristics, this meant that the Speedster was an instant success in the burgeoning American sports car racing scene.

    Testing the Speedster alongside its Coupé sibling in 1956, Road & Trackmagazine declared, 'A more comfortable sports car for long, high-speed journeys would be very hard to find and certainly no other car achieves the combination of comfort, performance and fuel economy of the Porsche Continental Speedster or Coupé.' Its combination of style, performance and value for money made the Speedster deservedly popular - 4,822 examples being constructed between 1954 and '58 - and today this most handsome of the 356 variants enjoys iconic status.

    For some time John Coombs had been looking for a Speedster for his wife. Over a number of years he purchased four examples from all over the USA, all of which were rejected upon arrival in the UK on account of rust. The Speedster offered here was found in Virginia in 2004, purchased and shipped to the UK in February 2005 where it was subsequently restored over a two-year period by Barry Beeson.

    The bodyshell was dropped off at Gomm Metal Developments, where it underwent strengthening and had any rust removed prior to repainting in August 2005. Meanwhile, all mechanical needs were attended to, including preparation of a new 1,600cc engine by Eric Studer. The bodyshell was returned in January 2006 and the engine in July, and in August 2006 the Speedster was submitted for its first UK MoT test. In the course of the rebuild the steering mechanism was improved by making an idler box so both track control arms could be of equal length. Other improvements include an oil cooler and conversion of the clutch mechanism to hydraulic operation. In August 2007 a new crown wheel carrier was fitted to the gearbox, and the final-drive ratio changed.

    UK registered as '596 UXV', the Speedster was used for numerous rallies and tours in this country and in Europe. In September 2007, the Porsche was driven to Bordeaux to take part in its first Paul Michaels tour, and subsequently took part in more Paul Michaels tours of Provence. During the intervening years, the car was moved to Monaco to escape the British weather. Artist Jack Vettriano was working on a series in the Côte D'Azur and was looking for a car to paint outside the Automobile Club de Monaco. Jackie Stewart told him to call John. Having just completed the restoration of a Bugatti, John asked Jack to come to the apartment, promising that he had the perfect car. They went down to the garage and John revealed the Bugatti. However, the Speedster caught Jack's eye and that was that. Two paintings of the car were produced as part of a series named Homage to Tuiga.

    In 2013 the car was registered with the Monaco plate 'X900'. Approximately a year later it was shipped back to the UK and the registration '3 PU' was transferred to it. That has since been retained and the DVLA has issued a new age-related number: '723 UYV'. Finished in silver with a black interior, this beautiful Speedster remains in generally excellent condition, even though the restoration is now 10 years old. Offered with current MoT and a V5C Registration Certificate, it represents a wonderful opportunity to acquire one of these most sought-after Porsches.
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