Bred for the Track, This Devin Porsche Speedster Is Racing Once Again
My fondness for Porsches is hereditary: as early as the 1960s, my father owned and raced everything from 356s to an RSK to an RS60 and a 904. Sometime around 1980, I climbed into the driver’s seat of a Porsche and was hooked.
I went on to race a 356 coupe for almost 20 years and loved it but also found myself looking for something a bit more…special. Specifically, I wanted a 356-based Porsche Special. After some time spent scouring the Pacific Northwest, I came across a tattered Devin-bodied car in McMinnville, Oregon, where it was awaiting restoration at the hands of the legendary father-son Outlaw duo Gary and Rod Emory.
With some historical digging, I learned that this car originally left the Porsche Factory in 1955 as a red 356 Pre-A Speedster. Its serial number (80356) tells us that it has the unique claim of being the 356th 356 Speedster built. The original chassis and serial number plate remain intact, and traces of the original paint were evident until the most recent restoration.
In 1956, the car was crashed and a Devin body was selected as a lighter weight and less expensive way of resurrecting the car. Devin bodies were $295 at the time and were well known for Italian styling, light weight and competitiveness on the race track. The Devin design originated with an Italian car called an Ermini.
Devin bodies were custom made in 27 different sizes and many detail configurations. It was not until 1958 that Devin made the more well known Devin “D”. Devin Ds had tube frames and Porsche 356 or VW running gears. They also had no front opening and raised rear bodywork to accommodate the rear engine flat 4 fan shroud.
At the time, #80356 needed a new body and in 1957 the only available Devin bodies were for front engine, water-cooled chassis. These bodies had a large mouth (unnecessary and inappropriate for an aircooled, rear engine car) and a lower (more attractive, but problematic) tail.
This particular car evolved from having a “lizard back” to clear the upright fan shroud, to a flat fan with a corvair style fan belt arrangement. The front mouth was also reduced to a size required for oil coolers.
This car raced in 1958 and 1959 at little-known tracks such as Minden, Tracy, and Stockton, and also at well-known tracks such as Riverside and Laguna Seca. It was driven on the street for a few years in the early 60’s and then languished through various restoration efforts for the next 45 years in California, Oregon, and British Columbia.
Only five Devin-bodied, 356-chassis cars were known to have been built. The most famous one–built on a Speedster chassis–was owned by Richard Boone and appeared on the cover of the May, 1958 edition of Motor Trend before it was eventually destroyed in a house fire.
While rare, my car is no garage queen. Any chance I get, I hit the road and head off to two of my favorite tracks–Sonoma (for its technical difficulty) and Laguna Seca (for its historical significance). What better way to appreciate these cars’ unique combination of speed and curves than on a legendary race track?
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Owner and Photographer: Gregory Campbell and Bert McBride
Year, Make, and Model: 1955 Porsche Speedster, body by Devin
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada