Originally delivered 26 November 1956 and shipped to Lancaster County Motors in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, this U.S.-specification Speedster was sold to local scrap-metal dealer Manny Smith, who enjoyed it until 1967. With approximately 32,000 miles recorded, Mr. Smith decided to part with his beloved “Bathtub” in order to help pay for a new private airplane. The second owner was Robert Howry Jr., also of Lancaster, a very successful fifth-generation meat-cutter.
Although he claims there was no particular person or event that led him to a love for sports cars, Mr. Howry will tell you that after a less-than-stimulating experience with a Buick, he knew there had to be a car out there that could make the journey thrilling. “The local undertaker had a pretty fast Buick, and I liked that car, so I bought one.
But if you had a Buick DynaFlow, you quickly realized there wasn’t much performance.” So, Mr. Howry, like so many young men of the post-war period who discovered the joys of rapid motoring, invested in a sporty British car – a 1952 Jaguar XK 120. For less than $2,000 at the time, he was well on his way to becoming a part of the new European sports car scene.
After a few years and quite a few well-driven miles with the Jag, he sold it for just a few dollars less than what he paid, and then invested in his first Porsche, a 1955 356 Continental coupe. Mr. Howry drove the Continental many miles and took full advantage of the excellent handling of that amazing little car. Eventually, he also came to understand the sturdiness of Ferry Porsche’s cars when he dozed off and struck a pole. The Porsche was totaled, but fortunately Mr. Howry escaped injury.
After entering the Army in 1958, Mr. Howry soon found himself in West Germany where he took advantage of the situation by acquiring another Porsche, a 1959 356 A Super sunroof coupe. He drove this car all over Europe, piling on some 17,000 miles in less than seven months. His tour completed, Howry returned to the U.S. after loading the coupe on a freighter out of Bremen. Mr. Howry waited in New York for the ship to arrive, then drove the Porsche home to Lancaster.
He eventually joined the Susquehanna Sports Car Club, as it was one of the only ones around at the time, and that is where he met Joan, his future wife, who was driving an Austin-Healey 3000. In the meantime, Mr. Howry had gone through a series of reliable little VWs of all types for his business. A few years later, this Super Speedster entered his life.
“I was always a ‘coupe guy,’” says Bob Howry, “but Manny had his convertible for sale, and he said it was certainly worth $2,000 – so I bought it.” When asked why he bought a convertible after so many wonderful experiences with Porsche coupes, Mr. Howry responded, “Well, that Speedster was just so darn good-looking. I didn’t really want it, but it just looked so pretty!”
Now that he owned a Speedster, Bob Howry Jr. wasn’t sure what to do with it. A tall and rather lanky gentleman, he found that he was not particularly comfortable behind the wheel. He would only drive the car an additional 3,000 miles over the next 51 years, but he could not bring himself to part with it.
The Speedster spent most of that time carefully stored in a special garage space, coming out occasionally for special events, such as the 1979 Porsche Parade at Reston, Virginia, where the elegant little roadster won its PCA Concours class. There were also a few tours when he and Joan joined other club members on the road, letting the Speedster test its capabilities.
In his half-century as the Speedster’s custodian, Mr. Howry diligently maintained the car. “I always looked after the red leatherette interior and made sure the oil was changed and the engine ran well,” he says. He even made sure the original rubber trim was preserved, treating it with glycerin (from the Porsche dealership) about once a year, and it presents nearly as new to this very day.
The factory paint (Glacier White, code 5713), a special-order color, is nearly all original; however, the front lid was repainted a decade ago after a minor shop mishap. The lid had been removed to allow the gas tank to be pulled out, cleaned, and repainted. Standing on edge, the lid slipped to the shop floor and was scratched. Otherwise, the car remains unmolested. It left the factory with U.S.-specification sealed-beam headlamps, instruments, and bumper guards.
This wonderful Super Speedster is supplied with its original side curtains, tool roll, jack, and spare, along with its pull-through leather key fob, manuals, and many other unique original parts. Mr. Howry never erected the folding top. Even though the lure of adding Porsche chrome wheels was too strong to resist in 1969, the original steel wheels also remain, quietly awaiting the enjoyment and appreciation of the car’s next caretaker.
This car has been properly looked after by Mr. Howry’s long-time friend and mechanic Dave Baker, of Classic Auto Restorations in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, an experienced 356 specialist.
When asked to provide his assessment of the Speedster, Mr. Baker simply says: “I like original Speedsters, and this is a doggone great, well-running example!”