Jon Dev­ereux has re­stored a match­ing pair of 1952 356s

Classic Porsche - - Contents - Words: Alex Grant Photos: Andy Tip­ping


ʻAfew years ago we were driv­ing the Coupé down to Mu­rano for the 356 In­ter­na­tional, and we got caught in a snow­storm go­ing over Inns­bruck,ʼ Jon Dev­ereux re­calls, with sur­pris­ing calm. ʻIt was fine – it was a bit hec­tic be­cause the wipers could­nʼt cope so we were look­ing through a slot as the snow built up on the wind­screen, and on three and a half-inch crossply tyres, you al­ways have to be aware. But I would­nʼt put these cars on a trailer, theyʼre not de­signed to go on trailers.ʼ

Against a back­drop of es­ca­lat­ing val­ues, Jonʼs vi­sion of clas­sic Porsche own­er­ship is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent to most. A love not only of own­ing the ear­li­est cars in the com­pa­nyʼs his­tory, but of the process of re­viv­ing and us­ing them as they were built to be used. But heʼs hardly a typ­i­cal 356 owner; Jon spent years in the air-cooled Volk­swa­gen scene, known for his Small Car Spe­cial­ties work­shop near Bournemouth, and more re­cently heʼs gone back to his roots. The 356B heʼd bought and re­stored as a 20-year-old in 1972 laid the foun­da­tions for an en­vi­able col­lec­tion of early 356s to­day; a Pre-a Speed­ster, ʼ50 and ʼ53 coupés in stages of restora­tion, and these match­ing ʼ52s.

This was a turn­ing point for the 356. The Model 52 (as the car was of­ten re­ferred to in in­ter­nal mem­o­randa), built be­tween March and Oc­to­ber of that year, bridged a gap, com­bin­ing the body bumpers, rec­tan­gu­lar tail-lights and in­board in­di­ca­tors of the first 356s with the cleaner de­sign of the sin­gle-piece bent

wind­shield used on the late Pre-a ver­sions.

ʻI did­nʼt specif­i­cally want a Model 52, but I wanted a body bumper car as thatʼs the purest of the pure,ʼ Jon ex­plains. ʻItʼs as close to a Gmünd as pos­si­ble, and Iʼm not go­ing to find one of those. The pu­rity of the shape – the coupé par­tic­u­larly – is just per­fect. His­tor­i­cally, itʼs quite an im­por­tant car.ʼ

Itʼs also worth trav­el­ling for. Jon un­cov­ered the coupé in Cal­i­for­nia back in 2009; it was a work in progress but in­stilled enough con­fi­dence for his part­ner, Amanda, to book flights while he was on the phone to the seller: ʻThe pre­vi­ous owner had a good list of ev­ery­thing that was miss­ing – which was quite a lot of it – but it was a nice, rust-free Cal­i­for­nia car. He also told me it had been raced, I have no ev­i­dence of that, but it was a bit bat­tered on the cor­ners, had the later trans­mis­sion, and the bumpers had been taken off and lost years ago. So itʼs pos­si­ble, but theyʼve all been raced – havenʼt they?ʼ

Slowed by post-credit crunch ship­ping de­lays, the brush­painted primered shell and its myr­iad boxes of parts ar­rived in the UK in early 2010 and Jon dis­man­tled ev­ery­thing, sys­tem­at­i­cally re­assem­bling what he had to get an ac­cu­rate pic­ture of what was miss­ing. Those miss­ing pieces of the jig­saw come in from all over the world, in­clud­ing a trip to Clas­sic Parts in Saar­brücken to col­lect a 1500cc en­gine, then hunt­ing down the early syn­chro­mesh trans­mis­sion – in­tro­duced in 1952 – to go with it.

ʻThe en­gine was ex­pen­sive and worn out – it had thrown a big end, so needed to be re­built. Itʼs not so much dif­fi­cult to track down parts for these cars, but theyʼre bloom­inʼ ex­pen­sive if you can find them! So if you wanted the rec­tan­gu­lar rear lights then orig­i­nal oness are $800–900 a pop. Things like steer­ing wheels are $2500–3000 dol­lars.ʼ

By com­par­i­son, the Cabri­o­let may have looked like an eas­ier job; again found as a dis­as­sem­bled project car on Th­e­, but this time in south Ore­gon. ʻIt had been taken off the road in 1971 – the chap I bought it from had no idea why. But it had been through sev­eral peo­ple, no­table Porsche peo­ple, and no­body had got stuck into it – fright­ened of it, I guess. There was a guy called Tom Birch

(who runs the 356 Split Registry in Cal­i­for­nia), and the Aase Broth­ers had it at some point. So it had been trail­ered here, there and every­where and no­body had done any­thing with it, other than start­ing it, as it was in hun­dreds of bits and the bot­tom third of the door had been re­placed.

ʻOnce I got it back here and re­ally got into the car, I found out how good it was; it was very straight, and re­mark­ably clean and rust-free, but it wanted the en­gine and trans­mis­sion re­built. It had a crash ʼbox in it and, in tak­ing that apart, I found the crown­wheel had a cou­ple of teeth miss­ing – I guess thatʼs why it was taken off the road in the 1970s. So I sourced one of those and that trans­mis­sion is in the car now, whin­ing beau­ti­fully,ʼ he smiles.

Soft-top aside, itʼs a point of sep­a­ra­tion be­tween the two cars: ʻHav­ing a crash trans­mis­sion does take the edge off the driv­ing plea­sure a bit – Amanda dis­agrees, but for me itʼs slow and youʼre al­ways go­ing to get a crunch, no mat­ter how much dou­ble de­clutch­ing you do. And itʼs noisy; first and se­cond gears are straight-cut, third and fourth are he­li­cal so theyʼre qui­eter, but you al­ways get the diff groan­ing and they make a bit of noise. But they are 65 years old… What do you ex­pect?ʼ

While thereʼs a cou­ple of years be­tween the two builds, the process was the same. Jon as­sem­bled both cars to test- fit parts and make sure they were com­plete, be­fore strip­ping them down to shells ready for paint. Itʼs a process heʼs picky about, the colour matched us­ing a spec­tro­graph-an­a­lysed swatch from Will­hoit in Cal­i­for­nia to get it as cor­rect as pos­si­ble, and lay­ered over the 356ʼs curves by Ross Packard Paint­work in New Mil­ton.

Even so, itʼs an in­ter­pre­ta­tion to Jonʼs taste rather than a di­rect restora­tion: ʻBoth of them were orig­i­nally Fish Sil­ver Grey, but itʼs a very un­in­ter­est­ing, dull, bor­ing sil­ver, and made from the metal­lic par­ti­cles of ground-up fish scales – so itʼs al­most im­pos­si­ble to repli­cate. Ra­dium Green is an orig­i­nal colour for the year, but not orig­i­nal to ei­ther car. Itʼs a great colour for the shape, and the qual­ity is ex­cep­tion­ally good. Much bet­ter than it should be, prob­a­bly.ʼ

Each has its own iden­tity in­side. The Coupéʼs re­assem­bled in­te­rior fin­ished in green leather with match­ing box weave car­pet, while the Cabri­o­letʼs beige seats are coded to its fab­ric hood, a ʻmas­ter­piece of stitch­ingʼ which Jon says took re­search to find some­one ca­pa­ble of recre­at­ing. Rob­bie Oʼrourke may be best known for restor­ing Fer­raris, but whatʼs here is faith­ful re­cre­ation of what the car left the fac­tory with.

And not for the sake of cre­at­ing a mu­seum piece. Af­ter a year-long restora­tion, Jon ran-in the Coupéʼs en­gine with a

re­turn trip to the 2011 356 In­ter­na­tional in Vaals, in the Nether­lands, and thatʼs been just the start. Be­tween them, the cars have toured most of Europe, from Por­tu­gal and Italy up to Swe­den, re­gard­less of the weather and never on a trailer. For Jon and Amanda, driv­ing them is the whole point.

ʻThe Pre-a cars, from ʼ53 to ʼ55, were not the same car as what I call the Pre-pre-a, from ʼ50 to ʼ52,ʼ he says. ʻItʼs an early ef­fort at a GT, but itʼs a bit like the dif­fer­ence be­tween a 356 and an early 911. Thereʼs half the length of sus­pen­sion travel, so they tend to be a bit firm, but once youʼre on the mo­tor­way theyʼre equiv­a­lent, I would say. A bit nois­ier as you have the ear­lier trans­mis­sion, and you have to plan brak­ing but you drive ac­cord­ingly, but if youʼve got it in a slide, theyʼre quite con­trol­lable on cross­plies, and they will go on to 90–95mph. Itʼs good fun.ʼ

For the most part, thereʼs been no need to tam­per with Porscheʼs orig­i­nal engi­neer­ing. Though, with a view to mak­ing the cars bet­ter suited to long-dis­tance use, both run tran­sis­torised dis­trib­u­tors from 123ig­ni­tion, while multi­grade Valvo­line rac­ing oil cuts con­sump­tion in half and re­duces run­ning tem­per­a­tures, too. The 356 may be durable, but thereʼs room for a lit­tle mod­ern tech­nol­ogy to keep it happy.

ʻIf Meccano made a car, it would have been a 356 or a Bee­tle. Thereʼs that Ger­manic ap­proach to a prob­lem in man­u­fac­ture and de­sign, and itʼs re­ally ap­peal­ing for an en­gi­neer like me. I take great plea­sure in work­ing on those cars; I know their foibles, what makes them work prop­erly. But Iʼm not in it for the tro­phies, Iʼve done that; if Iʼve driven a thou­sand miles then Iʼd just as soon get to the bar than start pol­ish­ing the car. If there are flies stuck to the front be­cause weʼve done more than 50mph, so be it.ʼ

Per­haps thatʼs the most ap­pro­pri­ate way to hon­our the engi­neer­ing Jon loves. Once built to of­fer lux­u­ri­ous Con­ti­nent-cross­ing abil­ity, the 356 may have be­come a sought-af­ter clas­sic, but ap­pre­ci­at­ing these cars for their vis­ual ap­peal would seem to be miss­ing a trick. CP


Below right: Both cars fea­ture these de­sir­able and hard to find ʻturbo ringʼ alu­minium wheel trims

Above right: Coupé was lack­ing its 1500cc en­gine when found, a re­place­ment unit in need of a re­build be­ing sup­plied by Clas­sic Parts in Saar­brücken

Below left: Thereʼs not a lot of lug­gage space un­der the bon­net of a Pre-a, most of the avail­able space be­ing taken up by the tank and spare wheel

Above left: Ac­ces­sory VDO in­te­rior mir­ror in the coupé in­cor­po­rates clock

Above: Cabri­o­let was sourced via the Th­e­ web­site as a dis­as­sem­bled project in Ore­gon. It had last been on the road in 1971

Below right: Cabri­o­let also has a Tele­funken ra­dio, this time an IA 50 model

Below left: Cabri­o­let in­te­rior is fin­ished in tan leather and looks sump­tu­ous. Up­hol­stery is the hand­i­work of Fer­rari spe­cial­ist Rob­bie Oʼrourke

Above: Like the Cabri­o­let, the coupé was orig­i­nally fin­ished in Fish Sil­ver Grey, but Jon pre­ferred the look of Ra­dium Green – a hard colour to pho­to­graph!

Below left: Light grey in­te­rior of the coupé con­trasts with the green dash­board. Petri ʻban­joʼ wheel is a great fin­ish­ing touch

Below right: Rare Tele­funken ID 51/52 push-but­ton ra­dio fea­tures in Jonʼs coupé

Above: Built by Reut­ter, the Cabri­o­let strikes quite a dash out on the road. Its aero­dy­namic styling must have stopped peo­ple dead in their tracks back in 1952

Below left and right: Jon is a great believer in driv­ing his cars, de­spite their age and value. The two Porsches have taken him all over Europe on trips to a va­ri­ety of early Porsche events

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