1963 Porsche 356 B Cabriolet Reconstructed by Workshop 5001 First Drive: Amazing Grace

This is the story of a hot rod Porsche 356 that most of you will never personally see, let alone drive. It’s a “1 of 1” in the truest sense of the word. (Porsche built two 993 GT1s, y’know?) It costs as much as an LA house, has no A-pillars, glass or a heater, and at 5-foot-11, sitting upright means my chin’s clear windshield . The car is painted the same color as the Amazon delivery truck that haunts your street – in this case specifically a non-metallic Mercedes-Benz Graphite Gray – and even its name borders on the ridiculous. But this souped-up old time capsule tub is actually one of the most charming, loveable, awesome and joyful cars I’ve ever driven. A million dollars? Sure, why not? At the risk of sounding like Lucille Bluth (“I mean, it’s a banana, Michael. What could it cost, $10?”), the 1963 Porsche 356 B Cabriolet crafted by Workshop 5001 is both contemporary and relevant versus the state of the automotive landscape.

name game

An implied and possibly bogus threat from Porsche’s legal department has drawn Southern California-based Porsche hot rodders into a strange contest to see who can come up with the dumbest, most awkward name for a given car. Singer’s creations are notorious as “Porsche 911 restored and redesigned by Singer”. Rolls right off the tongue, right? That’s how seriously Singer takes this threat: The company has for years refused to let me drive its cars because I, in turn, refuse to sign a document giving Singer final approval of my story. The reasoning is that maybe I’ll utter the scary words “Singer 911” and Porsche will suddenly, instantly and completely sue Singer out of existence. Singer claims he’s not concerned that I might write, “A Singer is just a leather-covered 964 with a big engine and sticky tires.” We remain at odds.

Likewise, Orange County-headquartered Gunther Werks (which has allowed me to drive several of its cars without signing a damn thing) insists on naming its creations “Porsche 993 Remastered by Gunther Werks.” In order not to be inferior, the real name of the car you are reading about today is 1963 Porsche 356 B Cabriolet Reconstructed by Workshop 5001 Car #3 Open Sports Racer. Not really. I have to think Porsche’s legal department has better things to do, but I don’t seem to know anything. Let’s call this one car #3 and move on. However, the full title might sound cool rolling across the auction block in the year 2049. Could.

What is it

It’s not just that car #3 differs from the other seven (so far) super special Porsches Workshop 5001s. Car #3 is the only 356 the company will ever produce (there’s that 1-of-1 thing). You see, Workshop 5001 is a 911 specialist. Owner and master Porsche engine builder Marlon Goldberg always wanted to try to build a money-free 356. When the right customer came along, he and his team did just that. Interestingly, and vice versa, the well-known Porsche 356 hot rodder Rod Emory built very few Outlaw 911s, the most famous being his 911K. Go with what you know, you know?

I’ve come to believe that every musical instrument contains a specific song. This idea is probably the closest it has ever been to spirituality, and that’s okay, but I really believe in it. There is an intrinsic pattern, a specific combination of notes that the instrument must play. The song is burned into the fiber of the wood, the molecules of the metal. It’s there and it needs to be heard. The same goes for cars, although I’ll be the first to admit that I have no idea what song a Toyota Corolla Hybrid wants to sing. When it comes to cars, it’s not really a song, rather there are specific places, places, speeds, tracks and/or roads where each vehicle is happiest, performing at its best and revealing its true form. For example, you might not think much of driving a Mustang convertible down a canyon road, but drive along the Pacific Ocean from LA to San Diego around sunset: abracadabra, the ragtop Ford transcends into a masterpiece. However, a truly sublime car excels in more ways than one. Take the Porsche 991.2 Speedster for example. Happily stuck in a traffic jam, tearing up a side road delightfully.

The ride

Coming back to Workshop 5001’s 1963 Porsche 356 B Cabriolet, the #3 Open Sports Racer is just as at home cruising the ocean as it is chopping up a narrow and winding canyon. I spent a perfect 80 degree day speeding through Malibu where Car #3 felt acutely and definitively in its comfort zone.

“The Momo wheel has ‘California’ written right on it,” pointed out Goldberg, from the east with a moderate to heavy Long Island accent. “We drew inspiration from places like Malibu. If the car was in New York, it would live in the Hamptons.” And it would be happy there, although not nearly as happy as it is here in Southern California. Dare I call it terroir? Whatever the deal, the siren song of LA is deeply embedded in the metal of Car #3.

However, I wasn’t prepared for the ride quality. I knew the 356 would be fast because Goldberg built the engine and I drove three other workshop cars numbered 5001. (A build is only a Workshop 5001 “numbers car” if it goes through a full restoration/transformation sans the engine and everything else.) I therefore had an educated guess that it would be fun and lively, sound great and all of that Doing things that a seven-figure car better be doing damn well. All in all, I never thought it would be so comfortable, so forgiving, and so relaxed. A Honda Accord dreams of driving just as well. “I’ve always felt that a 356 could do with more horsepower,” Goldberg said, ignoring the fact that the only 356 he’s ever built puts out almost twice as much as an original. “That’s why I made sure to keep the original suspension geometry.” Little else is left.

Porsche built the 1963 356 Bs towards the end of the model’s life; The 1.6-liter, pushrod four-cylinder made 88 hp and 86 lb-ft of torque and sent it through a four-speed manual transmission. Car #3’s powertrain is an air-cooled 2.6-liter flat-four Polo engine with 164 hp and 141 lb-ft of torque mated to a 901 five-speed manual transmission. In 2022, 164 hp doesn’t sound like anything, but you best believe the engine stalls outright. Since car #3 doesn’t have any glass at all or even A-pillars, chances are it’ll weigh less than the production version. But numbers are nothing to worry about here. Car #3 is experimental, a test, a hypothesis, a theory of a car that has now been tested.

As happy as I was cruising the PCH, it was time to meet Goldberg up in the hills. I happened to arrive in a 2022 Porsche 911 GTS, a fully modern sports car that has the performance to flirt with a supercar. Goldberg climbed into the GTS and followed me as I drove car #3 up a narrow, winding road through the Malibu Canyon. “Yes sir,” I thought to myself. “That’s what driving is about.” Nothing is perfect, especially a car, but I would go to war with the army I wanted. Engine, grip, handling, brakes, soundtrack, weather, scenery – everything was perfect. And then I heard tires squeal. Not the tires of car #3, mind you. No, the all-new high-performance Pirellis 911s howled in pain as they tried to keep up with a dull gray bathtub that had less power than a Honda CR-V. The meat on the 356 made no sound. The car didn’t fight at all.

What does it all mean?

I’ve spent a lot of time over the years telling people not to modify their cars. I am of course a hypocrite since my own car was modified. But I still discourage people from doing it because I’ve seen how much time large groups of highly skilled engineers with centuries of collective professional automotive engineering experience put into setting up a particular machine. Still, do you have the chutzpah to think that cutting a spring and/or screwing in a strut bar will get you better results than them? boychik, fat chance! So what Workshop 5001 has accomplished here borders on the miraculous. I’ve driven many Porsche 356s, the absolute best being the awesome 1953 America Roadster. This 356 beats it. As stripped down as a car that didn’t even come with turn signals, Workshop 5001’s #3 car feels even more basic. Rarely have I enjoyed a ride more.

What’s the point of thinking – let alone writing – a review of a seven-figure one-off that remains hidden from its private owner? We have to look at the old riddle “If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it”. That is, if an extremely talented ex-Ferrari/Singer engineer builds the best Porsche 356 in history and no one knows it exists, does it matter? I have left out part of the story so far: I have known car no. 3 for two years. The customer who commissioned the build did not include Workshop 5001 in any way in the press. No pictures, no nothing. What has changed? I do not know. Maybe the person wants to sell it? But when I got the call to say I could drive and review this amazing little hot rod, I jumped at the chance. And I’ll come back rich in the next life, because spending half a day with that wonderful car is great – and not having it whenever the mood strikes is an automotive felony.

Photography by Ekaterina Gorbacheva

1963 Porsche 356 B Cabriolet reconstructed from Workshop 5001 Car #3 Open Sports Racer specifications
BASE PRICE $1,000,000 (MT estimated)
VEHICLE LAYOUT Rear engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door roadster
ENGINE 1.6 L / 164 hp / 141 lb-ft SOHC Flat-4
TRANSMISSION 5-speed manual gearbox
TARGET 1,400 pounds (estimated)
WHEELBASE 82.7 inches
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 152.4 x 65.4 x 42 inches
0-60MPH 5.0 sec (MT European daylight saving time)

#Porsche #Cabriolet #Reconstructed #Workshop #Drive #Amazing #Grace

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