The lure of a great “barn find” has taken on a life of its own in the world of classic cars, with many musty relics being hauled from long-term storage, some of them achieving startling prices at auction.
The lure of a great “barn find” has taken on a life of its own in the world of classic car collecting, with many musty relics being hauled from long-term storage, some of them achieving startling prices at auction.
There is a certain romance attached to discovering a desirable vintage car that was put away decades ago to collect dust, especially a rare car that remains in original condition without damage or the ravages of rust.
So it is with great excitement that ClassicCars.com announces its own “barn find” discovery, and it is one that pushes all the buttons for rarity, desirability and condition: an original 1957 Porsche 356 Speedster that was put into storage more than 50 years ago.
Found resting in a small private garage in Southern California, the low-mileage Speedster was uncovered for the first time in decades by its long-time owner and a team from ClassicCars.com. The classic Porsche was stored under a wooden framework that protected it from damage and was completely covered in tarps so that, until it was revealed, it was impossible even to tell that a car was under there.
As the layers were pulled back, the Speedster emerged.
“This was so exciting,” said Roger Falcione, president and chief executive of ClassicCars.com, as he recalled seeing the Porsche for the first time. “The car has been stored for a half century, and we were there to see it come out after so many years.
“We’re gratified that the owner chose ClassicCars.com to market his prized possession.”
The Speedster looked like a lost treasure finally being revealed once again. Nestled beneath the framework and supported by blocks, the car appeared to be in remarkably good condition, dusty and dingy but complete and intact. Once it was rolled out into the driveway, we could see that the mild California climate and careful dry storage had preserved the car in good condition and free of any signs of rust damage.
The classic Porsche is in the possession of its third owner, Mike Dyott of Los Angeles who said he bought the car in 1960 for $2,000. He drove it on the street and successfully competed with it on the many race tracks that once were scattered around Southern California, most of them long gone, in such places as Gardena, Riverside and San Fernando.
His car was highly successful in competition, Dyott said, competing and winning against more powerful cars funded by wealthy drivers and sponsors. A collection of trophies shows just how well he raced.
For Porsche enthusiasts who have seen their vintage sports cars soar in value in recent years, a classic Speedster is one of the most sought-after models. These simple, lightweight roadsters with their signature “bathtub” bodies were originally designed as entry-level cars for Porsche.
But from the get go, Speedsters were admired for their unique styling, and motorsports fans quickly discovered their potential on race tracks. Speedsters were only produced by Porsche for a few years. Today, they have become highly valued collector cars.
As the Porsche was uncovered and brought out into the daylight, Dyott stood back and eyed it again after not seeing it for so many years, even though the car was stored in his home’s garage. Although the car was put into storage in 1965, he explained, it was relocated once when he moved to his current home more than a quarter century ago.
But he did not exactly put the car in the garage. Actually, he explained, the garage was built around the car.
“When I moved here, the house didn’t have a garage,” said Dyott, a retired engineer. “The Porsche was parked in the back yard under a cover. So I got a permit (from the city) to build a garage up to my property line.”
He had the concrete slab poured and once it had dried, he rolled the car onto it. Then he built the walls, the roof and the utilities while the car sat nestled within the small construction site. And there it remained.
When the car was recently removed from the garage, it had to be jockeyed away from the wall using a roller jack to get it in position to be pushed out the door for the very first time since the garage was built around it.
Protected from the elements, the Speedster shows no apparent signs of rust or other structural problems. The bumpers and windshield were removed for racing, and a rollbar and custom tonneau cover are attached. A check of its chassis number proved its authenticity, and the odometer shows just over 50,000 miles.
The car still sits on its magnesium-rimmed Porsche racing wheels shod with the 50-year-old racing tires. The car remains set up for racing, equipped with four-wheel disc brakes, which are non-original but made by Porsche, and a later performance-tuned 356 engine under its hood.
The car comes with a huge collection of parts, such as the original bumpers, front-hood handle, windshield frame (though not the windshield), side strips, steel wheels, hub caps, drum brakes and AM radio, as well as boxes of spares, accessories and performance parts (“I’m not a hoarder, but I am a conservator,” Dyott said). Unfortunately, the case for the original engine has been lost.
Dyott was already a motorsports fan in 1960 when he bought the car, although he said he had no plans to compete on the track with his Speedster. He used it as his everyday car at first, but soon decided that he was not getting everything he wanted out of it.
“I felt too confined to the roads and I felt I was a good driver and wanted to get out there and compete, which is my nature,” he said.
The Porsche stayed legally registered in California and Dyott still drove it on the street during the time he was racing, he added. And he always drove the car to the local tracks, which required a bit of subterfuge.
“The wife didn’t know I was racing,” he said. “So I would drive it to the track and there I’d take the bumpers and the windshield off and bolt on the roll bar and get it through inspection. After the race, I would take off the roll bar and put the windshield and the bumpers back on and drive home.”
The attraction of racing a Porsche was that it had a reputation as a giant killer, Dyott said.
“It could beat cars with one-third of the horsepower,” he said. “It appealed to me that you could get so much out of so little if you did it right.”
Part of doing it right was keeping up the momentum on the track because much of the competition could out accelerate him if he slowed too much for turns. So, he said, he roared through the turns as fast as he could, which is why there are repainted sections on the car’s flanks.
“I would run through the turns flat out and rub up against the hay bales, and they left yellow marks on the sides,” he said. Being a pragmatic sort, he merely painted over the unsightly wear marks even though the color wasn’t a match
Dyott raced the Speedster for just a few years before he decided to put it away with the intention of restoring it to original and driving it only on the street.
Racing was becoming a problem because of internal politics that effected his own commitment, including what he felt was an unfair fine and suspension for a minor infraction.
So he turned his competitive spirit to motorcycle racing and put the Porsche in storage with every intention of getting it back on the street.
“I envisioned putting it back on the road; that’s why I kept it all these years,” Dyott added. “It was running when I put it away.”
He hopes to sell the Speedster to someone who will understand the car, give it a second life and enjoy it for the classic sports car that it is.
“I felt that it would be better in the hands of somebody who could appreciate it and know its history and know what a classic Porsche really is,” Dyott said. “To see this go to somebody who gets the fun out of it that I did, that was the key for me.”
Whoever buys the Speedster will have a tasty project on hand, perhaps restoring the Speedster to its original glory or else putting it back on the track for vintage racing, where it could continue its winning ways.
Read the story of the Porsche in the owners’ own words: