ACE Porsche 356 Speedster Hot Rod Replica

The Porsche 356 is considered the first real model of this German brand, so it is of course expensive (price around ten million crowns) and rare. So rare that I accepted an offer for a ride with a “replica” (I’ll explain those quotes below), specifically from Pilsen Atom Car Engineering with thirty years of experience building similar parts.

And why was the Porsche 356 produced between 1948 (the first piece was completed on June 8) and 1965, first in Gmünd, Austria, then in Zuffenhausen, Germany, designed by Erwin Komenda? For example, introducing for the first time the typical design and shape that the 911 automaker still honors today. Either by creating it directly Ferry (Ferdinand Anton Ernst) Porsche. It was offered as a coupé, convertible and Speedster. The car was light, so the four-cylinder boxer was not handicapped at all. The original 356 model was produced until 1955, the 356 A model was created for the next four years, then the 356 B type was carried over for the next four years and the 356 C for the last two 911 years.

Photo: Miroslav Matousek

I’m writing about the movie Top Gun and then I’ll take a picture of the car next to the MiG…but try to find a memorial with an F-16

The original Porsche 356 weighed between 771 and 1,041 kilograms, largely thanks to aluminum bodywork by Reutter, which later became seat manufacturer Recaro. This replica with a laminate body is of course lighter. In addition, manufacturers usually choose the attractive low-windshield Speedster, invented in 1954 by American importer Max Hoffman. His creation fascinated the automaker, and after all the parts produced, it was just dusty in the California sun. They had so much more style and sexiness than a regular convertible. But of course there is a draft in it, because it has no side windows or windshield. You can put on a roof, but don’t expect the Speedster to ride in the rain. It’s just a summer car.

That look just got me

And of course, the same goes for this wonderful replica. The first thing you are interested in is the special deep black lacquer. It is a color used in motorcycles and looks stunning on a large surface. The color highlights the beautiful, sexy curves that persist in Stuttgart cars to this day. In fact, it doesn’t look like an extreme sports car, on the contrary, it looks nicer and friendlier than the old Beetle. At Atom, they have chosen the best of the different versions of the Porsche 356 so that the result is the best. It is therefore not an exact replica, but rather a hot rod inspired by the iconic German model. It probably draws the most inspiration from the 356 C model, but Speedsters weren’t originally produced based on it. But the C versions were mostly without bumpers. Also special are the original Fuchs wheels and replica discs.

Photo: Miroslav Matousek

Even the luggage compartment can be elegant

Even though the car is simple and easy, you can recognize the attention to detail. For example, the door closes with a nice soft click. But again, thanks to the fact that there’s not much inside, there’s nothing to discuss. Most replicas have Beetle instruments because the original Porsche turn signals are expensive. But it’s worth it. The red leather upholstery is absolutely luxurious and fits perfectly into the shaped seats. There are of course only two. Behind them, the luxuriously padded luggage space is much better than the other under the front bonnet. By the way, it doesn’t have a classic brace, but you support it with a golf club. You wonder why ? I prefer to ask why not! Luxurious upholstery hides the tank, and there must be a reserve in the package. The golf motif is then also used in the interior, where the gear lever head is also a real golf ball. The inspiration from another German automaker is obvious.

You don’t just relax inside

However, the ergonomics are of course somewhat limited by the dimensions and the concept of the car. The pedals are, of course, misaligned, and the Type 356 doesn’t really hold up for a few hundred miles. But he’ll never use it like that again, will he? The clutch pedal works long enough, but I was happy with the accelerator pedal in the form of a rotating wheel. Thanks to this, the gas is dosed with very good sensitivity. The result is that I don’t want to get out of the car at all, I’m beautifully connected with it.

Photo: Miroslav Matousek

The interior is simple, but nothing important is missing

The concept at the rear is obvious at Porsche, the technology was then borrowed from the Volkswagen Beetle, as well as a shortened platform. So an air-cooled flat-four OHV boxer lurked in the back, but Porsche gave it a new cylinder head, cams, intake and exhaust. In the end, they finished it off with a dual carburettor, so performance was more than double that of the stock Volkswagen, and it really isn’t just a trampled Beetle, as the scoffers claim. Also, a four-cylinder Carrera model has been sold since 1955, which is rare and quite expensive. The car was good enough for racing, so there’s no need to roll your nose on modest technology. Some racing versions were modified by the Abarth company, which was otherwise more related to the Italian Fiat.

A clever technique with humble origins

Here too, the Beetle engine with its typical sound. At Atom Car Engineering, they have been working for Beetle for a long time, they can repair and modify engines, so they won with the Speedster power unit. After all, they also have experience building racing engines, so finding a few horsepower wasn’t a big deal. The air-cooled boxer four-cylinder therefore has direct fuel injection and is tuned to 140 hp, although it wouldn’t be difficult to tune it up to 530 hp.

Photo: Miroslav Matousek

The elegant shape combined with the beautiful color will do wonders

The fully synchromesh four-speed manual transmission also has mechanically precise operation, and the individual shifting is very satisfying. The steering is absolutely clean and without distortion, which is one of the most important characteristics of sports cars. The car itself may not be extremely fast, but I feel like it’s going fast. However, you have to try a little behind the wheel, choose the track and watch the ideal speed, because the absolute value of power is simply as it is.

No extra pounds

Remember that the Type 356 is lightweight. The original Speedster with a 16 kilogram weighed 762 kilograms and 58% of that weight is on the rear wheels. Luckily, the brakes are powerful enough and the lightweight car tames beautifully docilely. In addition, the maximum speed is quite reasonable and is ideal around 110 km/h. The highway is simply not home to such a car, better to go for some hilly zigzags with a nice surface, there you will enjoy driving.

Photo: Miroslav Matousek

Cars and planes, they say they go together

The chassis forms torsion bars and is more tuned to the graphic. It doesn’t like potholes and your back won’t either. But that’s something to expect from a car of the same type, isn’t it? While the Speedster is wonderfully legible and rides beautifully clean when you step on its neck, it can play around and slide its ass sideways. However, it is so beautifully sensitive that you know everything well in time. I have nothing but praise for the ride – it unrolls beautifully lightly and has no lag at all. Driving 356 is a lot of fun and you can’t even enjoy it. Finding yourself with the car in a moment of fusion is a real beauty.

It seems impractical, but it has many advantages

The advantage of Beetle technology is reliability and availability. And also easy maintenance and serviceability, because everything is easily accessible. The minimum of electronics, in turn, meets the motto that what is not in the car can not be wrong. Thanks to valid approvals and documents, the car is on white marks and ready to be used immediately on ordinary roads for a fraction of the price of the original, for around 1.5 million crowns, although it depends on the interior, paint and other things you choose. When the car was a gift, the company also provided a bespoke luxury bag with a steering wheel, which you could give away under a tree, for example. However, Atom Car Engineering no longer plans to resume production of the 356 replicas, there are many original 356 types for sale, so they will prefer to focus on the previously introduced replicas of the 550 Spyder model.

Photo: Miroslav Matousek

He can really play with the engine at ACE

When the time of the 356 approaches, the mythical Porsche 911 arrives (then under the original name 901). Nevertheless, the old model is still quite popular (of course less than the successor) and wins the polls for the best car of the 1960s. Replicas are still produced. Of the original 76,000 cars, only about half survive, and one of the most expensive specimens is one once driven by singer Janis Joplin. It was sold in 2015 for $1.8 million (about CZK 40 million). But Speester also belonged to Steve McQueen or James Dean. Pierce Brosnan, Tom Cruise, Matt Damon or you remember Dylan from the series Beverly Hills accompanied him to the cinema. I know all these cars, that’s why I enjoyed driving this replica so much.

Of course, it’s not the most practical car, but it has a lot of style and charm and will give you a unique feeling behind the wheel. And when you ride with it, you’ll see the joy and excitement and maybe a pinch of envy in the eyes of other riders and passers-by. It’s no wonder these cars elicit genuine passion from the driver, and even owner Míra can interpret the hours passionately about her as sparks of excitement dance in her eyes. In the end, this is the best proof to me how great and exceptional this car is. For many, a similar 356 in replica form would be a dream come true, that’s clear to me. After all, who would drive the real Type 356 on the road at the price of surviving specimens, when they can actually enjoy cheaper but superb replicas behind the wheel? Yes, it’s not a real Porsche, but I wouldn’t consider that a mistake in this case.

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