Tuesday, June 19, 2018
DriveWerks

From Swiss Cheese to Bathtub Bombshell

We all secretly dream of the elusive barn find. Whether it is word of mouth, or seeing an old car parked under a cover and finally getting the courage to contact the owner, the thrill of the chase is so enticing for any classic car buff. When Dan Giusti got wind of a 1961 Porsche 356B Super 90 Cabriolet that had been sitting for nearly three decades, he had to act quickly.

Before this little red Porsche had become part of the stable, his wife Donna had daily driven a 356 and later a 911 Targa for many years. As time went on, priorities changed and different cars were bought and sold. However, the Stuttgart Special had made enough of an impact that the Giusti’s promised to get another one if the opportunity were to present itself.

Regardless of the show quality finish, it’s still a car that gets driven regularly because that’s exactly what it was meant to do.

One day Dan had received a call from his son David who had spotted an old Porsche in need of some TLC. It was sitting in a garage across the street from where he was working that day. Dan took a quick drive over to meet the owner and asked if he was interested in selling the car. It turned out that the Porsche had originally belonged to the owner’s son who had passed away in the 1980’s. The intent was to get the car restored, but those plans never came to fruition. The owner wasn’t quite ready to part with the car, but Dan gave him his contact info in case he changed his mind. A few months and a phone call later, the 356 was being loaded onto a trailer ready for its next chapter.

Turning Back the Clock

The first order of business was to get the car stripped down. The shell was sent to the media blaster which revealed some less-than-stellar news. Despite being an original California car, residence in Santa Cruz for many years meant the salt air took its toll on the poor bathtub Porsche. Under the surface the car was full of rust, Bondo, and ugly patchwork. Looking more like a piece of Swiss cheese, Dan had the body shop press on and begin the panel repairs. Well over a year was spent in the body shop, but by the time the work was completed, the newly painted Signal Red 356 was rust-free and ready for assembly.

When the Porsche arrived back home, Dan got to work reassembling the car. By no means is Dan a stranger to turning a wrench. He has built and owned a multitude of Hot Rods, Muscle Cars, and Restomods in his time, so restoring a West German icon meant a change of pace from his previous builds. In went the rebuilt flat four 1600cc engine along with the 4 speed transaxle. The interior was trimmed in fresh black leather, paired with a German canvas soft top and boot cover. All of this may sound easy, but a lot of time was spent getting the details just right, specifically the various trim pieces and weather stripping. Once everything was tidied up though, the bathtub had a shiny new lease on life.

The results of the restoration look superb. It’s about as close to a time machine as you can get. Everything from the thin rimmed steering wheel to the original Blaupunkt radio takes you back to a time before Ralph Nader was telling automakers how cars should be built or what they should look like. And that’s just it, the Porsche captures the innocence of the early 1960’s, even if some of us weren’t around to see it. More importantly, the 356 shows us the roots of the Porsche brand. While new Porsches are heavily technology based, there was once a time when a Porsche was a bare bones sports car not dissimilar to a certain Volkswagen Beetle. It’s because of the 356 that the Porsche name gained its first band of loyal followers. Without the 356, there wouldn’t be a 911 still being sold today.

Artwork in Motion

In the world of high dollar collector cars, it’s not often you get the chance to see one out in the wild. With the vintage air cooled Porsche craze in full swing, 356’s and early 911 cars are usually regulars at car shows or auctions. Dan and Donna like to show their 356 cab at different venues, where it has placed several times. Regardless of the show quality finish, it’s still a car that gets driven regularly because that’s exactly what it was meant to do. Let’s face it, this is the one time when you don’t care who sees you sitting in the bathtub.

-JC

 

SPECS

  • Year: 1961
  • Color: Signal Red
  • Drivetrain: Rear Engine Rear Wheel Drive
  • Engine: 1.6 OHV Flat 4 cylinder
  • Power: 90 hp
  • Torque: 90 lb/ft
  • Weight: 1900 lbs.

 

 

 

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