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The El Salvador Speedster

I remember a few years back at a 356 Registry Holiday a well known 356 market personality was giving a talk on values of 356s and where they were being bought and sold, etc. He completely left out one of the biggest regular marketplaces for early Porsches — EBAY. I brought this up and he scoffed saying something to the effect of there are no 356s of any real importance on EBAY. He then went on to talk about the large auction houses and the cars for sale there, saying that was the market, not EBAY. I remember looking around the room and thinking, “all these guys have 356s but I bet not one bought it at an RM auction.” The speaker and I agreed to disagree but I left there thinking what I already knew: there are cool 356s to be found on EBAY. I don’t remember seeing my friend George Kehler in the audience that day but luckily he does scan EBAY for cars.
George has a nice collection of Porsches and a nose for finding cool ones, like the early 911S that was found sitting in a driveway, that came loaded with Factory Race stuff and has Al Holbert provenance. A couple of years ago a 1955 Pre-A speedster came up on EBAY, VIN 81039. George remembers it like this,
“I found the car on Ebay. about 3.5 hours away and was the only person to look at the car in person.”

This is the picture that appeared on EBAY.

Like a lot of these cars it was in the hands of someone who didn’t know a whole lot about what they are selling.
“The owner (of the Speedster) had a Corvette driving local muffler shop owner sell the car (only in the South!!) who did not know a “thang ’bout these furrin cars”, says George.
There were a couple of clues about the history of the car that got George interested fairly quickly. He explains,
“He had a small pic of a driver named Pedro Rodriguez who drove the car in 1958. I was not familiar with him at the time. But the b/w photo drew me to the car and I knew that made it special.”

Mr. Kehler didn’t fully know the history of the car but there was enough there to get him intrigued, and I suspect it was a good Speedster to boot so they did a deal, once the muffler shop guy called the owner on his Sat phone.
Once George had the car he starting digging into the history and that is when the fun really started! Through the help of an author who was working on a book about the famed Rodriquez Brothers, he was able to get into touch with the original owner, a man by the name of Roberto Reyes. George remembers it like this,
“I was able to locate Sr Reyes via Sr Carlos Jalife who wrote the book on the Brothers Rodriguez. He was just about to finish writing this book when I contacted him via a Fl internet forum. He said that it was “the lost Speedster”, mentioned in his book.”

All of a sudden a hunch and a black and white photo had turned into Porsche paydirt! The story of the car just came flying out after that.
“The Speedster was directly imported to El Salvador expressively for racing. It won its class in 8 out of 12 races. I am only the third owner with the original still living, Sr Roberto Reyes and who sent me all his trophies that he won with the car. It was driven by a then 18 year old Pedro Rodriguez to a class victory in the III Santa Ana Races (El Salvador), April 1958. In this race, it raced against two Porsche 550s, three Mercedes 300SL Gullwings, one Jaguar D Type and various other Triumphs, MGs, etc. I recently found video shot by a drivers nephew.”
The video came from a man in Miami, who was glad to share it.
“I then came in contact with another gentleman in Miami whose uncle drove a 300 SL in the race with Pedro and he made a 16 mm movie of the race (he was 16 years old at the time). He sent me the video.“

This was not George’s last contact with fans of the car from Miami.
“The original owner Sr Roberto Reyes, has a son who lives in Miami as well and recently drove up to see the car. He wrecked the car and was thrown clear of the car, which flipped. He was so happy to see the car again after 40 plus years.”
So what started out as an interesting Speedster on EBAY had now turned into a rare Porsche with racing provenance. How often can you track the whole history of a former racecar? Luckily George was able to do just that. The car has a special meaning to him.
“I feel that this car represents a link to a lost period of races in a part of the world that is not known for car racing. Porsches were raced all over the world, even remote Central America!”
The real question now that George had the car is what to do with it? Restore it? Show it? Race it? He decided on the former, not the latter.
“I recently did a sympathetic restoration. The car has 46K miles and is a lot of fun to drive. Won the Most Significant Porsche Award at the 2010 Fairfield County Concours. “

The Speedster restored.

George with his Speedster.

The car will also be shown at the Porsche Race Car Classic in Carmel, California on October 16th.

This Speedster proves that EBAY is a viable place to look for rare and interesting Porsches. George Kehler followed a hunch based on a grainy EBAY picture and it paid off big time. A cool car in a nice collection, what more could a Porsche ask for?
For more information on the upcoming Porsche Race Car Classic please go to:

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—Adam Wright


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