Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Porsche Speedster Typ 540 Quintessential Sports Car Hardcover – 2004
|New from||Used from|
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The book is more of a series of collected essays than a progression of chapters, with six coauthors and another who wrote the introduction. The best way to give you a sense of the book is to describe these sections:
Preface, by Steve Heinrichs: I know, who cares, the Preface... but the author does a good job in two pages of summing up why these cars are still so relevant: "The automotive world has profited greatly from the new technology, but... not all the changes in the automobile have been for the best. Gone for the most part is the special, earthy tactile connection between driver and car." The tone isn't one of the Speedster as sterile historical artifact, but as a sort of time traveler that may be as relevant today as it was in 1954.
The Age of Imminence and a Car for the Ages, by Owen Edwards: In a way, this was my favorite chapter of the book, as it starts to put the Speedster into historical and social context - the great schism between the huge and growing American cars of the 1950s and sports cars discovered in Europe by returning GIs. Edwards discusses car design of the era, glitz versus understatement, and the rationale for the widely held view that the Speedster is worthy of the "quintessential" in the title: "Any car lover - even those benighted souls who believed fervently in Detroit's rightful hegemony - responded to a first sighting of a Speedster with the kind of eye-popping astonishment that invariably accompanies a close encounter with something that is precisely what it ought to be. The Speedster was (and remains) quintessential, like a piece of Eames furniture..." The author's personal recollections bolster this perspective. If the car is social history, the Speedster looms large.
In the Beginning, by Charles Stoddard: This chapter describes the origins of the `Typ 540' project, with much detail around the beginnings of Porsche, the role of importer Max Hoffman and the Typ 540 Sport Roadster which is the sometimes forgotten forerunner of the Typ 540 Speedster. Stoddard was almost obsessed with the details here, and they make for a good read even if the detail can get overwhelming. Because Stoddard met Max Hoffman, his account of Hoffman's business methods, and the arrival of the Type 540 Roadster in the United States is probably as definitive as anyone other than a restorer is likely to need.
The next two chapters, by Donald Zingg, are in a way the heart of the book: The Prototype and Development of the First 200 Speedsters and the Evolution of the Standard Production Speedster. As the titles suggest, these chapters tell the story of how the Speedster came into being from a technical perspective, and how the design was changed over time by the engineers based on production and cost constraints. Zingg covers a lot of ground, from changing side curtain and top latch designs, to sales instructions for Porsche distributors, to color combinations and shipments.
In the next chapter, Marco Marinello takes up The Carrera Speedster, a car which brought the Speedster significant racing victories even as the factory was planning to supersede it. The author describes the challenges Porsche faced in designing and adapting its famous four-cam engines to the Reutter-built Speedster bodies. This chapter includes a useful appendix of its own, listing the chassis numbers and installed engine numbers of these now very valuable cars. Marinello also writes a fascinating chapter on Speedsters in Racing and gives an overview of the emergence of amateur racing in the United States, as well as Speedster successes in Europe. The photography here is perhaps the best of the entire book, with a photo of the Liege-Rome-Liege route being breathtaking even in black and white. (Much of the book is black and white, by the way - a small price to pay for important period photographs.)
Jim Perrin describes Advertising and Printed Material in what is probably the most visually engaging chapters in the book. What is especially useful here are the color charts, and how these materials were used in dealerships. Porsche today is a marketing power house, so it borders on astonishing to see what they were printing during the Speedster era.
Lee Raskin, noted James Dean enthusiast, contributes a chapter called Celebrities Pose with a Rising Star. Not surprisingly, this tells the story of the James Dean-Lew Bracker Speedster, and also includes brief accounts of Steve McQueen, Herbert Von Karajan and Paul Newman, whose 'Lew Harper' character in a film `owned' a Speedster. (As a bonus, Raskin reveals the chassis number of the Dean Speedster, so you can check it against your own Speedster -- if it matches, your insurance agent will be very happy to adjust your premium.)
Lastly, we get the appendices, listing every Speedster and Convertible D built with their paint codes and engine specification, the paint codes apparently pulled from Reutter's records rather than the incomplete Porsche Kardex system. Accompanying charts provide analysis of production quantities by color and other detailed information.
Having been bored with, and under-informed by, a couple of other Porsche 356 books, I bought this one with some trepidation. The $140 cover price is steep. But it is obviously a low volume book, nicely printed and bound, with hundreds of photographs, and this is likely as complete a history of the Speedster as we will ever see. I suspect the steep price is the result of this being privately published, as Dennis Adler's beautifully printed 'Porsche: The Road from Zuffenhausen' from Random House is at least as well produced and designed, and half the price. But, Adler and others really don't know Speedsters as well as the authors of Porsche Type 540, and you won't find this level of detail or accuracy in any of the usual coffee table Porsche books (of which there are far too many).
And the Speedster deserves this coverage: for many enthusiasts, the Porsche 356 is an important car, but it is the Speedster that still looks like it could be the fastest car ever built. Now that electronics have pretty much completely taken over the automobile, and even "sports" cars weigh well over 3,000 lbs, classic sports cars are a kind of refuge. The authors do a fine job of conveying the importance of the Speedster as it was back then, and why it matters now.