DOWN UNDER DELIGHT
Like a good wine, Geoff Starkeyʼs Oslo Blue 356B coupé gets better with age, culminating in winning top slot in the Australian 356 Clubʼs 2017 showcase parade held in Melbourne at the end of 2017
The story of an Australian 356 from day one to the present day
The stunning blue 356B you see here – one of the first in Australia and New Zealand – has enjoyed a series of loving owners and current custodian Geoff Starkey couldnʼt cherish the car more. ʻThis is my pride and joy,ʼ he says. Porsche 356T6B, chassis number 122178, was ordered by Hamiltons, the Australian Porsche distributors, in early 1962 and accorded factory order number 530. It was completed on 17 October 1962, and Hamiltons received the car just a few weeks later. It was the 19th 356T6B to be destined for either Australia or New Zealand (only 44 in total came to what was regarded as one market in those days), the first arriving in February 1962 and the last in July 1963.
The optional extras ordered by Hamiltons (and still part of the spec today) are interesting; green tint windshield, chrome-plated wheels, head rests, arm rests, horn ring, elastic octopus rear compartment hooks and Talbot Berlin driver ʼs mirror. And right-hand-drive, of course, with instrumentation in English. The factory colour, Oslo Blue, is also true to this day, as is the red trim.
All this information has been dug up by Geoff Starkey, the car ʼs sixth owner, but Geoff admits to being something of a Porsche sleuth and especially so when his own cars are concerned – and there have been many of them! Just take a look at some from the list starting with 356s – a 1957 356A coupé that has enjoyed time on the race track, three 1962 356Bs, one of which was USA delivered but brought to Australia and converted to right-hand-drive.
Four 356Cs, all 1964 built, all coupés with the first being Geoffʼs foray into Porsche ownership ʻThen the bug bit…ʼ All were in Light Ivory although one was originally finished in Irish Green and was imported into South Africa.
There have been five, yes five, 356Bs, one of which was a 1960 Slate Grey RHD Australian-delivered car later restored to Gold Medal level by Geoffʼs brother, Colin. The other four were made up of three Super 90s, a 356B coupé in Ruby red (ʻa project car ʼ), one in Silver and the last in Slate Grey.
More recent machinery has included a 1982 Targa 911, a 1987 911 convertible and 1989 coupé in glorious Guards Red. And currently Geoff is restoring a 1957 RHD Speedster that had been ʻworked onʼ by the previous owner, stripped to bare metal for restoration and then left in the open and untouched for 40 years. ʻItʼs in surprisingly good condition,ʼ Geoff tells me. ʻA challenge, but one I enjoy – I aim to make the car as good as new when I have the work finished…ʼ
Geoff researches the history of cars he finds worth lavishing his time and attention on, cars that have not been involved in serious accidents or abused in any other way and it makes fascinating reading for the early Porsche enthusiast.
And for those who werenʼt aware, the T6B was (logically) a development of the T5B. Porsche 356 aficionados will identify the slightly revised roofline of the T6B – this to accommodate larger front and rear windows (on the coupé only), the coupé also receiving a slightly larger engine lid, now twin grilles, the latter also featuring on all other models across the range. There was also a larger lid for the front boot. Then Porsche added air intake grilles forward of the front screen on all models except the Roadster, and for the driver and passenger there was the luxury of central dashboard vent controls. New model emblems in a block style – 60, S, and 90 – identified the engines.
But back to Geoffʼs current pride and joy, chassis number 122178. As soon as the car arrived with Hamiltons in Melbourne, 122178 was shipped to sub-dealer, Pein Motors up in Brisbane, Queensland, where it was purchased by Theo Reinhold, a man who owned and operated the Rover Mower company based in Eagle Farm, an industrial suburb
of Brisbane. The newly delivered Porsche carried the registration number NQW 109 and became Theo Reinholdʼs company car.
It would be nice to report a happy ending to the tale and all in the garden rosy for the new Porsche, but the fourcylinder Super 1600 engine did not run smoothly – thence starting much mail correspondence between Theo Reinhold and Hamiltons (no e-mail in those days!). But correspondence did not effect a remedy and in the end Theo drove down to Hamiltons – a mere 2000-mile round-trip – and fronted up at the companyʼs workshop!
Porsches ʻDown Under ʼ were in their infancy in those days – when the author bought his Super 1600 Speedster in the early 1960s, it was said there were fewer than 50 in the whole country. But fortunately, Hamiltons employed an excellent workshop, Carrera Motors, under the management of one John Gregory and John got the engine running to perfection to the extent the car was returned to him from Brisbane (another 2000 miles on the clock!) for any service and maintenance work.
Maybe Theo Reinhold got fed up with this arrangement and sold the car to one John Gregory, and the first thing he did was to pull the engine apart, carry out some porting and polishing and also install a new four-pipe extractor system and muffler. Much more dramatic was the substitution of the plain-bearing crankshaft with a roller-bearing unit!
Into the picture now comes Dante (Don) Castaldi who worked at an adjoining car dealership – he had just sold a Bristol 401 and was looking for a second-hand Jaguar E-type. In his search, he was having a coffee with Alan Hamilton (the dealer principle at Hamiltons) when John Gregory swept into view in the Oslo Blue 356B. The car had a chipped windscreen. ʻFix that windscreen and the car ʼs mine…ʼ Thus Don Castaldi became owner number three. The year was 1965.
Don was taking up a new position as hotel manager in Hobart, across the Tasman Sea in Tasmania and naturally 122178 went with him. Tasmania is a small island with hills and valleys and twisting roads, not unlike Sicily where Porsches excelled in the Targa Florio. Don tells how, ʻThe car took to the Tasmanian roads like a duck to water…ʼ He had raced in the Australian Armstrong 500 and the car with Don behind the wheel enjoyed life to the full, but with marriage on the horizon and a house to buy, the Porsche eventually had to go.
Owner number four was Gary Clarke, another Tasmanian, and the car stayed on the island – and remained there for another 36 years, only being used for special trips and adding a mere 20,000 miles to the existing 50,000. The car remained in excellent condition – owner number four giving it the same loving care as its previous three. Minor work was carried out – the engine tinware painted while some other engine parts were chromed.
Gary Clarke was a panel beater and during his ownership of the 356B he decided to repaint the car. He did this meticulously – taking all of five years! The car emerged from his paint shop in the same factory Oslo Blue and even the inside of the doors rubbed down and painted to the same
“FIX THAT WINDSHIELD AND THE CAR’S MINE…”
gleaming standard as the exterior. By now the roller-bearing crank had become noisy and was changed back to the standard plain-bearing type.
I have said that Tasmania bears some resemblance to Sicily but, unlike the Italian island, it still has a race. This is known by all Porsche owners in Australia as Targa Tasmania (the race attracts Porsches and their owners from throughout Australia) and one such competitor was Mark Tuckey of Mark Tuckey Furniture in Sydney with another 356T5B, a 1960-built car.
Porsche owners engage in conversation at every opportunity and one such between Gary Clarke and Mark resulted in Mark buying the car and 122178 returning to the Mainland and to Sydney. The year was 2011. Local dealer, PR Technologies to the north of Sydney, maintained 122178 for the next five years, in which time the exhaust muffler was replaced, a new clutch fitted, along with a new set of tyres.
Now Geoff Starkey, the sixth and current owner, comes into the picture. Geoff bought the car from Mark on 11 November 2016 and now uses 122178 as his club car. In February 2017 while driving home, a young lady ran into the back of the car while on her mobile phone. Fortunately, it was not a heavy ʻshuntʼ and only the bumper was damaged, the bodywork remained unscathed. The lady was very apologetic!
Geoff took 122178 to a top Porsche panel shop in
“A YOUNG LADY DROVE INTO THE BACK OF THE CAR”
Sydney, Exclusive Body Werks, owned by Ron Goodman. Ron stripped and checked the body and engine and refinished 122178 to factory specification.
As a point of interest, four years earlier, Ron Goodman had come into the possession of the Super 1600 Speedster which belonged to the author in the 1960s when living in Adelaide and working as a budding journalist.
The Speedster was used as daily transport, plus for hill climbing and club track racing. I had seen the car on the forecourt of Champions, the Adelaide Rover dealers, raided my piggy bank and swapped in my year-old VW Beetle, only selling the Speedster when my Aussie bride and I took off for the UK a few years later.
The car is now owned by an enthusiast in Orange, New South Wales. (The story of me and the Speedster in those early days was told in issue #35 of Classic Porsche).
Geoff Starkeyʼs Oslo Blue 356B, now resplendent from its attention at Exclusive Body Werks, set off on the 550-mile journey from Sydney on the last days of November 2017 for the Australian 356 Register and Club Annual Parade held at Coma Park in Melbourne, where the car took top honours.
Geoff tells me it rained most of the way down but the 356B performed perfectly, ʻand not a leak anywhereʼ. The bonus, of course, was taking the top honours, Best Car in the Show… ʻIt was an even more satisfying drive back to Sydney, he grins!
Nowadays, 356T6B, chassis number 122178, is as good as new, if not better! The car has covered a mere 74,300 miles, never involved in any serious accident, and meticulously maintained. Geoff Starkey is a lucky man! Or does he make his own luck? CP
“THE BONUS WAS TAKING THE TOP HONOURS… ”
Above: At one point in its life, the engine was rebuilt with a roller-bearing crankshaft, but now relies on a regular plainbearing type
Below: Original red interior is as good as new. Extras include headrests and arm rests, both specified at the time of ordering – the speedometer is calibrated in miles-per-hour
Above: The 356B poses before the water at Akuna Bay in the New South Wales Ku-ring-gai National Park
Left: Chassis number 122178 shortly after delivery to Theo Reinhold in Brisbane, Australia, in October 1962
Below left: Danta (Don) Castaldi became the third owner of 122178, taking the car with him to Tasmania Below: Original Kardex lists options and date of delivery to Australian importer
Above: Geoff Starkey stands proudly by his fifty-five year old 356B with a trophy that says ʻCar of the Showʼ at the 2017 Australian 356 Club Annual Parade
Below: The car received a repaint in the original factory colour, Oslo Blue, following a minor accident. The work was carried out meticulously by Ron Goodman at Sydneybased Exclusive Body Werks