One of the most eagerly awaited outlaws to hit the UK scene, Phil Jarvisʼs 1958 356A is a masterpiece of low-key style…
Thereʼs little doubt that Phil Jarvis is a hardcore fan of everything air-cooled, whether it originates from Wolfsburg or further south in Stuttgart. His stable of cars – well, more accurately speaking, ʻvehiclesʼ – is a regular potpourri of the German air-cooled scene, with the earliest example in the collection dating back to 1942!
Phil is a 40-something-year-old director of a company which makes high-density office storage systems – you know, the sort of shelving units youʼll see in archives or large offices where space can be at a real premium. Heʼs married to wife Suzanna and has pair of 17-year-old twin sons, Ollie and Joe. But we think it would be fair to guess that heʼs also ʻmarriedʼ to his car collection.
The oldest vehicle in his garage is the 1942 VW Type 166 Schwimmwagen – the Porsche-designed amphibious ʻjeepʼ used by the Wehrmacht in the Second World War. Among VW collectors, the Schwimmwagen is regarded as the Holy Grail, with few examples surviving the war, and even fewer in full working (swimming) order.
Then thereʼs the 1952 ʻstandardʼ VW Beetle – these early domestic market VWS came with cable brakes, a nonsynchro ʻcrashʼ gearbox, no body trim and very few creature comforts. They, too, are sought after as relatively few have survived untouched or upgraded.
How about the 1958 Deluxe Beetle – that has the ʻworksʼ, with hydraulic brakes, part-synchromesh gearbox, chrome trim and a more luxurious interior. Next in line is a pair of VW Type 2s – thatʼs factory talk for Transporters or Buses etc. One of them is a so-called ʻ11-windowʼ Bus, but
the other is a panel van, which goes by the name of the ʻFire Busʼ. This is something rather special, being powered by an absurdly powerful VW engine that has propelled it down the quarter mile in 11.42 seconds! Thatʼs quicker than most modern supercars by some margin.
But, as fun and exciting as the Fire Bus might be, itʼs not exactly the most practical vehicle of all, while the other Volkswagen badged vehicles are at the opposite end of the performance scale, being better suited to quiet potters through the country lanes. So what does Phil turn to when he wants a little more action? Well, being a diehard vintage VW fan, then the obvious choice is a something with a Porsche badge – and an old one at that. Enter the 356A…
ʻThe car was brought into the UK from California back in 2009 by Steve Murphy,ʼ Phil tells us. ʻIt was then passed on to Steve Walker, who sold it to me back in early 2013. At the time it was bright red – possibly Guards Red – and on close inspection it was clear that there had been corners cut when it came to prepping the bodywork for paint. That led me to believe that underneath the respray lay a car that was full of filler and other nasty surprises.ʼ
Phil decided to run the Porsche the way it was for a while, just carrying out basic servicing of the stock 1600 engine. It looked great, lowered over black steel wheels and with plenty of ʻattitudeʼ. ʻIt was an awesome car to drive,ʼ says Phil, ʻand even though not concours, it had a look and feel about it that was just right.ʼ
“IT WAS AN AWESOME CAR TO DRIVE…”
However, nagging away in his mind was the belief that all was probably not as good as it could be under that red paint, as shiny as it may have been. ʻEarlier this year, I decided to give the car a bit of a makover,ʼ says Phil. ʻThe plan was to keep the red just the same but give it a budget repaint just to make it look a little better for a while. I didnʼt really want to get into a full resto right now, rather just leave it for a few years before getting stuck into it properly.ʼ
At least, that was the plan, but others had a different idea. ʻThe car went into Spikeʼs workshop with the instruction that I didnʼt want a restoration, but a simple repaint. I told him that I didnʼt want to get a phone call in a few days telling me it needs a resto…ʼ Spike, though, had other ideas.
ʻSpikeʼ is Andy Finch, a longtime VW enthusiast and one of the best paint and bodywork experts around. His business, Spikeʼs Vintage Restorations, is based in Maldon in Essex and has been producing award-winning cars for many years. Andy (or rather Spike, as he is universally known) is not one to cut corners, so Phil was on a hiding to nothing trying to persuade him to do a quick blow-over…
ʻA week or so went by and I fended off the first phone call,ʼ laughs Phil, ʻthen a few days later Spike called me again and said I needed to seriously think about doing this properly as the car was proving to be a lot better than weʼd first thought.ʼ Now you could be forgiven for thinking that if the car was rock solid, then a quick blow over would be fine, but Spike wanted to make the most of a solid foundation and do the repaint properly. Phil decided to go and take a look.
ʻI went up to the workshop and discovered that around a third of the car had already been bare-metalled, showing that, under the badly applied red paint, there was solid factory-original metalwork with hardly a sign of rot at all,ʼ says Phil. ʻWe decided to go ahead and remove the rest of the paint and discovered that the car was “matching numbers” in terms of its body panels – the doors, bonnet and engine lid all carried the same serial number stamping as the body.ʼ
So, from being a quick repaint it turned into a full bare-
metal resoration. As it turns out, only the door bottoms needed a little attention, as did one of the sills, but apart from that the bodyshell proved to be rock-solid. As for the mechanics, well, things turned out just as well: ʻI put some new front shocks on the car, but that was all!ʼ smiles Phil, these being Bilsteins to match those fitted at the rear.
Records show that the 356A coupé had come from the factory back in 1958 painted the very attractive Meissen Blue which, as Phil puts it, ʻwould have been the puristsʼ choiceʼ but he had other plans. ʻIʼd had a 1959 356A once before which had been painted Aetna Blue, which is similar to Meissen Blue, and I wasnʼt keen on yet another pale blue Porsche. I looked at some colour swatches for 356s of that era and hit upon Turkish Red, but a few days later I was looking on line and came across Terracotta, which is a 1955 colour. OK, itʼs not right for the model year but I like it and thatʼs what counts!ʼ
The bare bodyshell was primered in colour-matched epoxy primer, after which it was primered again, flatted and then sprayed with high-build primer before the final rub down and another coat of primer. The Terracotta was then applied, followed by a clear coat on top for a mile-deep shine. ʻIt looked amazing once it was painted,ʼ says Phil, ʻbut as soon as we started putting it all back together, the idea of adding the black stripe came up, followed by the gold detailing. I especially like the gold bonnet handle as it looks like itʼs been anodised – I love the details added to the number plate light, too. ʻWe were going to polish the aluminium brake drums but we made the decision to paint them gold, too. I think it works really well against the black steelies and whitelettered tyres…ʼ The latter may not be to everyoneʼs taste, admittedly, but itʼs the kind of detailing that sets Phil Jarvisʼs car apart from many other outlaw 356s. Itʼs also a tip of the
“I CAME ACROSS TERRACOTTA, WHICH IS A 1955 COLOUR”
hat to earlier days of hot-rodding when white-lettered tyres were the new thing, or to race cars which always used to have lettered tyre sidewalls.
As for the gold drums, well they tie in nicely with the other touches, such as the pinstripes either side of the black stripe and the ʻFrench-specʼ yellow headlamp lenses and turn signals. And did you spot the blanking covers made to conceal the bumper mounting holes on the front and rear aprons? A neat way to tidy things up while still allowing the option of installing bumpers at a later date.
The interior was returned pretty much to standard with the notable exception of the front seats, which have been replaced with Speedster buckets – but not just any Speedster bucket seats. Those in Philʼs car have been given the works by Spike and his crew, with the backs being painted in satin black, while the sides are now body colour, with the backrests and seat pads trimmed in black to match the back seat and door cards. This was carried out by Anthony Ward at Dubholstery. The steering wheel has also been restored and finished in gloss black.
The restoration was carried out over an amazingly quick three month period, a rate of work which gives an indication of how enthusiastic Spike and the team were about the project. After all, it was at their insistence that Philʼs car received the ʻfull montyʼ rather than a brisk blow-over.
The car ʼs first trip out was to the Silverstone Classic event, followed soon after by a drive out to Spa Francorchamps, where these photos were taken. Unfortunately on the way there, an oil cooler seal let go, spraying the engine bay with oil! Once that was sorted, Phil looked forward to Classics at the Castle at Hedingham. The car formed part of a display by Spikeʼs Vintage Restorations, which attracted a lot of interest as it was the first time they had exhibited at a Porsche event.
Clearly the engine has its heart set on making life difficult for Phil as, just as we were going to press, he posted on Facebook that, due to a carburettor spitting back, one of the foam airfilters fitted to the aftermarket Dellʼorto carburettors caught fire. Fortunately Phil had a fire extinguisher to hand so the damage was limited to the underside of the engine lid and some tinware, but it does mean a trip back to Spikeʼs for some remedial work.
Phil is understandably disappointed but philosophical about the setback. Overall, heʼs a very happy man, though: ʻThis project wouldnʼt have happened without Spike and his teamʼs dedication to their work, and without their knowledge I donʼt think the car would have looked half as good as it does now.ʼ CP
Above: From side-on the slight lowering job is more obvious. The lack of chrome trim and the black wheels give the car a stealthy look
Below left and right: Only when Andy Finch started to remove the red paint did it become clear how sound the bodyshell was. There was none of the expected rust repairs and filler…
Above: Speedster seats have been paint-matched to the exterior, with black padding to match the rear seat and door cards
Below left and right: Once the bodywork had been fettled (the only repairs needed were to the doors and sill), it was time for the high-build primer and first hand-flatted colour coats
Below: Out on the road (well, the Spa Francorchamps track, actually) the 356A really comes alive. Itʼs beautifully finished and tastefully understated
Above right: Gold bonnet handle, badging and the yellow headlamps all add to the unique look
Above left: Dashboard is beautifully detailed, with paintwork to match the quality of the exterior
Above: Probably our favourite view of the car, the rear three-quarter angle shows any early Porscheʼs lines to perfection
Below left: Every corner, every nook and cranny, has been finished to show-quality standard by Spike
Below right: Sebring-style exhaust system gives the coupé a purposeful rasp. Check the yellow lenses on the reversing and number plate lights…