Article by Wernher Hartzenberg
People have always put great importance on certain dates. All through mankind’s existence time has played a huge role. First it was measured by dusk and dawn, then came weeks, months and years. Soon it all got formulated into a calendar. I’m not superstitious and believe that what will happen, will happen. In my books 11/11/2011 was just going to be another day in sunny South Africa. There was however one event that happened that day, which stood out more, than let’s say, the day before. It came in the form of a phone call from a gentleman by the name of Deon Smith, who knew of an early Porsche that was possibly for sale. He had gotten my number from someone who had met me while I was restoring Silverado and heard that I had a passion for early air cooled cars. He broke the news that it was a Convertible D and that there was a potential buyer from the United Kingdom. He also told me that the car belonged to his cousin, who was unfortunately diagnosed with cancer and knew that his dream of one day restoring the car was growing slimmer by the day. We talked about the car and ended the conversation with the mutual feeling that the car should stay in South Africa.
Attending a Porsche Concours as a young boy.
As a young boy my dream was to one day own a Speedster. It was the most beautiful car I’ve ever seen. I once tried to make this dream a reality at the age of ten, when I entered a competition to win a replica Speedster. I still remember mailing several hundred entries off, trying my best to win this iconic car, even if it was a replica. Luck did not come my way that day and so the dream continued.
Deon and I stayed in contact and I soon realized that he was just as passionate about classic cars as I was. He invited me to his house to view some pictures of the Convertible D. I soon discovered that he had an impressive collection of his own. Deon is not just another collector, but rather a master at building up his own classic sport cars. I could immediately tell that perfection was the lowest bar he sets for himself.
Up to this point there was no guarantee that #85903 was going to stay in South Africa, but Deon kept his word and updated me with any news.
I started doing more and more research on Convertible D’s and soon discovered that this was indeed a very special Porsche. In 1958 Porsche acknowledged that Speedster sales were dropping after 4 years in production. Customers wanted a daily driver with comfort that they could also take to the track on weekends. Porsche knew that something needed to be done to satisfy their customers’ needs and decided to keep the exact same body shape, but to add a touch of comfort. The result ended in the windshield being slightly higher, roll up windows instead of curtains and the same comfortable seats that the Coupe used. There were other minor changes, but these were the more notable ones. Karosseriewerke Drauz was contracted for this project. This took some weight off Reutter’s shoulders, as overall sales were still soaring for the very popular 356 Porsche Coupe. The “Speedster D” (Drauz) or Convertible D as it was named in its solitary production year of 1959 was only manufactured in left hand drive. With 1331 cars produced, less than 600 are known to exist worldwide, of which 3 reside in South Africa, according to my knowledge.
We were privileged enough to purchased #85903 in February 2012 and by doing so, ensured that another air cooled wonder stays in South Africa.
Here is what I know thus far about #85903:
- The car was born 27/01/1959.
- On 21/05/1959 the car was imported into South Africa and sold to Mr. Vizianakis by Lindsay Saker.
- #85903’s original colour was Silver Metallic, but through the years changed to White/Ivory (pre 1980) and also Red (1981 to 2012).
- The car was stripped in 1980 to be restored by then owner Johan van Zyl, but soon after was sold to Jannie Nel.
- #85903 stood in Mr. Nel’s garage for the next 3 decades awaiting restoration.
Convertible D’s came out in four standard colours namely Silver Metallic, Ruby Red, Ivory and Meissen Blue. We are leaning towards Meissen Blue as the new colour, although there are a few special-order colours also to be considered.
I would like to thank Jannie and Mariana Nel for allowing me the opportunity to take this iconic car back to its original beauty. I also want to thank Deon Smith for making a lifelong dream a reality. Without Deon’s help none of this would have been possible.
Jannie Nel passed away on 26/03/2012. May he rest in peace.
Mariana Nel and myself the day I collected my dream car.
My first time in the driver seat.
Rear wheel drive.
1980 when the colour was Ivory.
Waiting in good company before being loaded.
Original Workshop Manual and receipt – 1959