DELWYN MALLETT

finally admits to his aluminium fetish as he prepares his Speedster for the worst of winter…

Red Speedster 300dpi.jpg
Silver Speedster 300dpi.jpg

The problem with owning a Speedster anywhere outside California is that they are hydroscopic. Received wisdom has it that nothing at Porsche is achieved by accident. Ergo, the fact that a 356 Speedster ships water almost as fast as the sinking Titanic can only be as a result of some deliberate calculations on the part of Zuffenhausen’s finest.

 

It has been said that Porsche didn’t really want to build the Speedster and it was only the persistence of US agent Max Hoffman that forced it through. I’m sure that as revenge the curve of the Speedster screen was plotted with malicious care to channel rain into the cabin with maximum efficiency, and the roof has as much weather-defeating capability as a badly pitched boy scout’s tent in a hurricane.

 

With an event fast approaching and facing the prospect of lining up alongside recently restored and ‘perfect’ Speedsters, and being in possession of a unique, purpose-built, aluminium hardtop, I thought that I’d fit it to make an attention-grabbing statement. Not quite sure what the statement was intended to communicate, but something along the lines of ‘I know yours is perfect but mine looks really cool with its aluminium lid’, sort of thing. That, and it might also deflect some of those irritating comments such as ‘When are you going to get it restored?’ or ‘Nice to see one that isn’t restored’. (Mercifully, as it was a Porsche event, there would be none of the really irritating ‘Is it a real one?’)

 

Manoeuvring the wobbly aluminium shell from the back of my garage suddenly pitched me back 40-years to my annual Speedster ‘Winterising’ ritual. Back in the late sixties and early seventies. I used my Speedster as an everyday car. During the summer it was a soft-top but come autumn, as the temperature dipped, the hardtop went on. The first owner of my Speedster obviously relished the thought of idyllic wind-in-the-hair summer motoring but then was confronted by the thermal shock of running a windowless and almost heaterless car through an English winter with only a flimsy layer of unlined canvas between him and the elements.

 

Fortunately for me he decided to have a bespoke hardtop made by Peel’s Coachworks, of Kingston-upon-Thames, complete with sliding side-windows. Peel’s was a well-established coachbuilder and they did a good job on the Speedster top – but it still let in water when it rained. Winterising also necessitated a good supply of rags to try and stem the flow of water around the windscreen, a plastic knee cover to ward off drips and a layer of newspapers on the floor to soak up the considerable amount of water that would be shipped after only the briefest of journeys. When it got really cold, gloves, scarf and a wooly hat were added to the kit, plus a small scraper for removing ice from the inside of the screen.

 

The almost imperceptible flow of warm air to the screen vents failed to arrive with enough gusto to overcome the speed at which the driver’s breath condensed against the cold glass. Eventually the Speedster retreated into temporary retirement, due to an excess of ferrous oxide in sensitive places, and its hardtop, as a weather-beater, was redundant – but destined to be reincarnated in a second life. In anticipation of using the top on Speedster number two, which is silver, I stripped off its red paint with the intention of getting it resprayed – and immediately capitulated to the seductive appeal of bare aluminium.

 

Suddenly, what had been a practical necessity had turned into a cosmetic accessory. Speedster-two was already rolling on satin-finish CenterLine alloy wheels and sporting Carrera alloy bumper trim, and dropping the unpainted roof on completed the ‘alu-look’. Is it now an ‘Outlaw’? It seems that with the naked top you either ‘get it’ or you don’t. Mostly, of course, it’s a generation thing, the young generally more positive than the old.

 

I must confess that to most people it remains an artfully sculpted but slightly battered sheet of aluminium in desperate need of a coat of paint. But to those who share my appreciation of aluminium aesthetics and its echoes of anarchic hot-rod style, it has got ‘the look’ and I’m happy to ignore the opprobrium of the majority to share my pleasure with the few.    

 

Love it or loathe it I’m smitten by the ‘alu-look’ and I’m now seeking a large aluminum suitcase to bolt to the luggage rack to complete that trans-continental, sophisticated traveler look. Just call me an alu-poser. DM