1954 Glöckler-Porsche 356 Carrera 1500 Coupe heads to auction
From the beginning, Porsche and motorsports have been inseparable. It’s almost impossible to imagine a time when Porsches did not compete in — and win — every race, from top-level endurance events to amateur sprints all across the globe. This isn’t to say Porsche always had the resources to fund a world-beating works team, though. Indeed, in its earliest years, while the company was still establishing itself, Porsche relied on outsiders to explore the inherent performance potential of its offerings. Walter Glöckler was one such outsider.
A Frankfurt-based Volkswagen and Porsche dealer from the very early days, he had been a motorcycle racer before World War II and, to satisfy his need for speed, he and engineer, Hermann Ramelow, constructed a series of special race cars in the late 1940s. The first used no Porsche components, but things changed when Glöckler recognised the value of Porsche’s engineering. Watchful eyes in Gmünd, then Zuffenhausen, paid close attention to the so-called Glöckler-Porsches. In fact, Glöckler’s lightweight, rear-mid-engine racing spyders, particularly the 1953 Glöckler-Porsche 1500 Super, are acknowledged as inspiration for, and direct predecessors of, the famous 550 Spyder. For his sixth and final Porsche-based car, Glöckler acquired an original 1954 Pre-A 356 chassis, number 12213, direct from Porsche. Power came from a very early example of the Ernst Fuhrmann-designed four-cam ‘vertical shaft’ flat-four, an advanced engine well-suited to this forward-looking vehicle. It was matched to a four-speed gearbox.
Conceived to compete in the 1954 Mille Miglia, this special car would be the sole Glöckler-Porsche coupe, an unusual choice in an age when most race cars were open-topped. Frankfurt’s C.H. Weidenhausen, the coachbuilder responsible for the first two 550 RS prototype bodies, executed the coupe’s curvaceous aluminium panels. The bodywork’s overall design would have already stood out for its nearly vertical headlamps (plus a low-mounted central front light) and its tailfins, but the unique coupe roofline made it quite unlike anything else on the road or track. A huge, split backlight gave nearly panoramic views, all the better to spot pursuing rivals, while roof cut-outs for the doors eased entry and exit when a helmet was worn. Unfortunately, the car wasn’t completed in time for the race, instead debuting at the 1954 Liège– Rome–Liège road rally. Walter Glöckler’s cousin, Helm Glöckler, and co-driver, Max Nathan, piloted the sporty coupe over the course of the demanding event. Despite oil supply problems forcing a technical retirement, the duo is said to have driven the coupe across the finish line.
After the race, the car spent time at the Porsche factory. By the close of 1954, it had been exported to the USA. Later, in the 1970s, the car was acquired by Rudi Klein and was parked in his famous sports and luxury car salvage yard near Los Angeles. It would stay there until Hans Heffels, a Frankfurt-based Lufthansa employee, negotiated the return of the Glöckler-Porsche to its homeland. He was, however, unable to take on the demanding overhaul required, resulting in the car remaining in a decidedly disassembled state until 2005, when classic Porsche collector, Hans Georg Frers, obtained the air-cooled speed machine and commissioned a comprehensive restoration. Ulrich Weinberg of Zetel, Germany, was tasked with repairing the bodywork, preserving all original aluminium, save for the front panel (which is still with the car today). At some point in the first decades of its life, the car’s original engine was replaced by the punchy 1.5-litre four-cam no.P90016, which was originally installed in 550 Spyder chassis 550-0026 (such swaps were not uncommon at the time). This complex engine was entrusted to specialist, Armin Baumann of Switzerland, for a complete rebuild.
Acquired by the current owner in 2016, this remarkable Glöckler-Porsche remains in excellent restored condition. Accompanied by restoration documentation, a historical file, correspondence from the Glöckler family and a FIVA identity card, this is a significant piece of the Porsche motorsport story and an ideal candidate for many of the world’s top historic rallies. Those of you interested in seeing the car in your garage can bid on it when it appears at RM Sotheby’s Monterey Sale, 12th-14th August. For further information, visit rmsothebys.com.