Dean Jeffries 1956 Porsche 356A GS Carrera Coupe ($765,000)
Written by Shayan Bokaie
Photography by Trace Taylor
- Location: Atlanta, Georiga
- Chassis: 56083
- Engine: DOHC Flat Four 1600 Carrera
- Transmission: Type 716 4-speed
- Mileage: 30,473 Miles Shown (TMU), Less than 100 miles since restoration
- Color: Pearlescent Silver | Custom Black Leather
Dean Jeffries – artist, sculptor, socialite, gearhead, and stunt driver among other things, is one of the most iconic characters in American automotive culture. Among a significant and eccentric portfolio of work was his personal 356A, customized to his liking. Some purists say sacrilege, customizers sing praises—what’s undeniable is Dean Jeffries’ imprint on Los Angeles and gasoline culture. We dive into his illustrious personality, career, and story below as we look around his prized Porsche.
THE MODERN PAINTER
Los Angeles is a beautifully small and well connected town particularly for the automotive enthusiast. Post-WWII LA was a hotbed for automotive inspiration, talent, and collaboration; something that still holds true today. While it’s a tight knit community, new styles and subcultures are constantly born and evolving.
Of all the great movements, “Kustom Kulture” of the 1950s had a large influence on American automotive heritage. At its core was one cool greaser, Dean Jeffries. A factotum of tremendous artistic ability and talent, and later renowned for his limit-pushing, contemporary style, Jeffries was behind some the most iconic and unorthodox automotive creations to date.
Pinstriping was his first gig, and with no formal training or schooling Jeffries learned the art during his military deployment in Germany, spending hours watching the locals work on their motorcycles. Inspired by this, he started working alongside fellow “Kustom Kulture” artist Von Dutch on small pinstriping projects while presumably having a great time.
Jeffries also happened to live across the street from Troy Ruttman, the youngest Indy 500 winner until 2014, (like we said, LA is a small town) who helped him break into painting Indy Cars. By the early ’60s he was responsible for over half of all designs on the starting grid—painting cars for drivers like A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones, and Jim Rathmann to namedrop just a few.
Enter Carroll Shelby and the CSX2000, the very first Shelby Cobra ever produced. The car was famous for being repainted after each car show or public viewing to give the impression that Shelby had a fleet of Cobras, when in reality it was actually the same vehicle. Who constantly painted the car? Dean Jeffries. Dean recalled the aluminum body not being of the highest quality, so he often straightened out the bodywork before painting it in it’s latest livery.
THE LITTLE BASTARD AND OTHER BASTARDS
Dean was always trying new things: he was the first to use aircraft-grade epoxy clear laquer (one of his trade secrets) to implement techniques like “Metalflake” paint. Dean’s style arguably defined his decade of hot-rodders and customizers. Here’s a taste of his style:
Among a colorful pinstriping portfolio, one design stands out in history like a sore thumb, though it was also his most understated. James Dean, who was nicknamed “Little Bastard” by a Warner Bros. stuntman, asked Dean Jeffries (they were pals) to paint “130” and “Little Bastard” on the back of his infamous Porsche 550 Spyder.
Dean’s itch for a Porsche 356 was likely influenced by James Dean (he had one before trading it in for his 550) exposing him to the marque when they’d visit sports car races on the weekends.
DEAN JEFFRIES VS GEORGE BARRIS
Dean’s career largely started with working in George Barris’ shop, Barris Kustoms. George Barris, who ran the shop with his brother, was one the largest names in customized cars at the time. Now, Dean joined as a multi-talented artist and someone that held his own weight when it came to networking and project opportunities.
He began moving from pinstriping to actually building his own cars, and the design credits of some projects—most notably the original Batmobile—were disputed between Jeffries and Barris. These growing pains led to Jeffries setting up his own shop, Dean Jeffries Automotive Styling, where his creations added a new dimension. Each one of these builds has an incredible story of their own, but here is a quick gallery of some of his most interesting cars:
The Black Beauty from The Green Hornet (“Let’s roll, Kato”)
You’d think with a resume like this Dean would have a statue at an automotive museum or seen some great commercial success, but neither happened. While clearly wildly gifted, those close to Dean remember him as extremely modest and only wanting recognition for his creations, not necessarily the spoils.
Let’s get back to the Porsche.
THE KUSTOM KARRERA AKA THE SATIN SPYDER AKA THE MURDEROUS PORSCHE
Only outlaws have this many nicknames, and in a way that’s kind of the same reception Dean’s Porsche has been getting for decades from press to purists.
Dean’s first 356 fitted chrome wheels and custom pinstriping, and while parked outside of his shop one day caught the eye of a young kid who had to have it. He didn’t have the money but what he did have was even better: a 4-cam 356 his dad had purchased. He traded with Dean on the spot, and the customization began.
The car was immediately gutted and taken down to bare metal. Jeffries mocked up his vision for the Abarth-style front nose using a wire basket, and the final shape being created afterwards with steel. He then extended the fenders and recessed the headlights to exaggerate the curves of the 356. Dean used Lucas Flamethrower headlights and fitted custom taillights as well.
He decorated the rear grille with cold-rolled quarter-inch steel rods. His pal Bill Hines, one of the hot-rodding greats, helped out my making a set of working roof vents that were inspired by the 300SL Gullwing.
On the interior, Dean commissioned interior specialist Eddie Martinez to reupholster the seats with black and silver pleated goat skin, in addition to a custom headliner. A custom rear shelf was fitted as well, and Jeffries made custom push/pull knobs for all the buttons on the dashboard.
Mechanically, Jeffries did the engine up to RS-spec—similar to the 550 Spyders. The silver pearlescent paintwork, which cost $100 per gallon, was done with fish scale textures. In total, the car took 7 months to complete, and cost about $8,000.
Amidst the criticism, the car earned 30 first place trophies in car shows around the country, and Dean eventually decided to sell the car to get some cash to buy a home. After failing to sell the car in Road & Track in September of 1960 Dean decided to paint the car in 50 coats of his own Special Pearl Gold Paint. Jeffries ended up selling the car to a man who was, indeed, an outlaw: Albert Nussbaum, of the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted fame. Nussbaum, who was wanted for murder and robbery at the time, drove the Kustom Karrera across the country to Florida with the FBI hot on his trail (they paid Dean shortly after the sale). Once located, the FBI quickly surrounded the house Nussbaum was hiding out in, but he managed to escape while leaving the Porsche sitting in the driveway, where it remained for several years.
After Nussbaum’s brief ownership, the car entered a low point in its life as it bounced around a few owners who performed their own modifications, and was even involved in a small accident. Mercifully, the car found its current custodian, Jack Walter, in 1971, and he cared for it well and brought the car back to its original condition.
Like the previous owners, Jack Walter’s original goal was to get the car drivable, and of course to put his own little touches on it. Over time, he started learning more about the car and what he had, and in 2005 was inspired to restore the Kustom Karrera to its originally modified, Jeffries-era condition, which took 8 years.
Body – The body is completely free of any rust and has never been in any accidents since its restoration by Eurocraft Classics. All the original panels since Dean’s customization have been retained and were restored in 2009, with excellent fit all around. Since Jack’s tenure, the car has been stored in a dry garage and has lived a pampered life.
Paint – In 2011, the car was resprayed by Eurocraft Classics, with paint donated by Glasurit. At that time, Dean Jeffries was consulted on color-matching to ensure total accuracy.
Trim and Glass – All the exterior trim is original and in very good condition. The windshield has been replaced with correct Sigla glass.
Wheels – The original wheels were rechromed by a Stockton Wheels shop during the 2011 restoration and are free of any curb rash or pitting.
In 1957, Dean Jeffries had commissioned the legendary Eddie Martinez to customize the interior, which was completely restored in 2011 to the exact condition as seen in Rod & Custom, Car Craft, Motor Trend, and other magazines between 1959-1962.
Steering Wheel – The steering wheel has been completely restored with the original horn button.
Dashboard & Instrumentation – All gauges work properly except for the ammeter—the current owner suspects this was never connected. The dash is restored using a technique that Dean used originally (he taught the current owner how to do this): a layer of silver leaf is applied to the dash and then a cotton ball is gently applied to the surface and rotated to give the appearance of a turned aluminum panel. Then a black edge is fogged around the instruments and glovebox door with an airbrush followed by a coat of clear to seal everything in. The custom-made hex knobs that Dean made for the headlights, choke, and cigarette lighter are still intact.
Seats, Trim, & Carpet – Seats, headliner, trim, and carpet were restored using the original custom interior pieces created by Eddie Martinez. They were exactly duplicated in pleat spacing and materials per the vintage photographs and the original but timeworn pieces.
Engine – The original 356A 1.5L 4-cam Carrera motor was removed in 1967 and lost over time. In 2013, the car received a freshly rebuilt plain bearing 1.6L 4-cam motor from a ’58 Cab, and was backdated to match the original appearance as seen in the period magazines.
- Original Motor: No
- Engine #: P93046 (the original engine number was P90634)
- Restoration: Backdating involved exchanging the fan shroud for an earlier model, purchasing distributors, and adding chrome plating as done by Dean Jeffries in 1957. Sebring exhaust system was rebuilt. All of the turned-aluminum panels in the engine compartment are originals fabricated by Dean Jeffries during his build. The restoration on the engine was done by ex-F1 mechanics Scuderia Italia in Brescia.
- Compression: A recent compression test shows each cylinder is firing 150+ psi.
- The Drive: Once familiar, the start-up is quite reliable. The seller notes the car accelerates smoothly with a fantastic 4-cam exhaust note.
Transmission – The car does not have the original Type 644 transmission, but a later Type 716 box.
- Original Transmission: No
- Gearbox #: KD29725
- Restoration: The transmission was rebuilt and inspected by Ernie Cabrera in 2011 with all new synchronizer rings and bearings. No replacement gears were required.
- The Drive: The car shifts extremely well and has no grinding issues.
Handling – The suspension and brakes were completely gone through during the restoration and the car is now sitting on Koni shocks.
- The Drives: The car handles like a Porsche should; the feedback is direct and precise and the car is a pleasure to throw around in the corners.
Prior to Dean’s 2013 death, Jack had the pleasure of debuting his meticulous restoration to Dean at Amelia Island in 2009. This car cemented a great friendship between the two and this was certainly one of those magic moments that remind us what our hobby is all about.
In tears, Dean’s only words were: “That’s bitchin'”
As mentioned and documented in the restoration, the exterior and interior has been restored using refreshed almost all original parts per Jeffries’ customization. The motor and transmission are not original to Jeffries’ build, but are in extremely good condition.
1956 – 1957 | “The kid” – Los Angeles, CA
1957 – 1962 | Dean Jeffries – Los Angeles, CA
1962 – 1965 | Albert Nussbaum – Los Angeles, CA / Orlando, Florida
1965 – 1967 | Unkown
1968 – 1969 | Randy Toole – Orlando, Florida
1969 – 1969 | Sandy Hunter – Atlanta, Georgia
1969 – 1971 | Peggy Daole – Roswell, Georgia
1971 – Present | Jack Walter – Roswell, Georgia
The sale is accompanied by extensive records and photos of the car throughout its life and recent restoration.
- Link to all media placements
- Link to photos of Jack Walter (owner) and Dean
- Carbuilder Index article about full restoration with photos
This is a 1 of 1 custom build so there are no direct market comparisons but here are some examples of other 356 GS models:
- Bonhams Pebble Beach 2016 – 1956 Porsche 356A Carrera GS Speedster – $891,000 – Black/Red restored example
- Gooding Pebble Beach 2013 – 1956 Porsche 356 1500 GS Carrera Speedster – $1,485,000 – White/Red 4-cam with 20,000 miles
Desirable 4-Cam 356 – A restored, low-mileage 4-cam motor itself can go for over $250,000, let alone the rest of the car.
Incredible Piece of History – Say what you will about the looks, this car came from the hands and imagination of one of American automotive culture’s most iconic figures. Aside from being an already rare 4-cam 356, there is no other Porsche in the world with a story like this. In period, Dean Jeffries was rubbing shoulders with some of the industry greats, and his shop was a frequent hangout for the likes of Steve McQueen, Jay Leno, and James Gardner. Simply put, he was a badass.
Pioneer of Outlaw Culture – While Dean was an icon of the 50s Kustom Kulture, his Porsche was one of the first outlaws ever, a culture that is still evolving to this day. It’s a controversial design to some, but it’s safe to say it helped jumpstart the Porsche world’s imagination on what was possible.
The Right Custodian – We all know who you buy a car from can be as important as the car itself. Jack Walter, a retired Lockheed Martin engineer, is not only mechanically skilled but a known entity in the customized car world, having known Dean personally and consulted with him to ensure the restoration was done to exact standards.
MEET THE SELLER
This car is for sale by Jack Walter of Atlanta, Georgia, who refers to the Kustom Karrera in its restored glory as “Dean’s car.”