Pagosa Springs, Colorado
I'm proud to say that my car is now located at home, in the newly opened Porsche Museum, in Stuttgart-Zufenhausen, Germany. I used to live in Stuttgart from 1983-1986 when I was on duty with the USAF at HQ US European Command Headquarters. The new musem is a far cry from the one we visited when we lived there. The museum at that time was a very bland, almost decrepit building - an old shop with wooden doors and two rows of 60 watt bulbs over the 20 cars on display. It was so dim you could barely see the cars. That's all changed with the opening of a new $130 million facility in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen.
Having been infatuated with Porsches at an early age, then many other kinds of sports cars for decades, eventually my interests drifted back to Porsches. Here is where incredible luck (OK, and some stupidity - read on) entered the picture.
I'd seen many beautiful Porsche Speedsters over the years and would have loved to own one. Ironically, as I was taking my sister-in-law to look for a Corvette (I now own a beautiful 2002 Corvette Targa Coupe), I noticed what was labeled as a 1956 Porsche Speedster being pushed out onto a lot at a local sports car dealer ("The Toy Store") in Colorado Springs, and immediately stopped to talk about it. My sister-in-law's Corvette search had to wait. That has to have been the least amount of time ANY car has sat on a lot before it was purchased on the spot. Checkbook in hand, I later drove it home.
I knew that RS in German stood for "Rennsport", or Racing Sport. I figured the car was unique - only later did I find out just HOW unique it was (keep in mind the stupidity factor I previously mentioned). I wrote a letter to Porsche North America asking for information. What I got back was WAY less than complete. All it did was to confirm the car was a Speedster and the year on the title should read 1955, not 1956. That was one year closer to being among the first Speedsters ever built. Nothing was mentioned about the identification as noted on the manufacturer's data plate, as seen below:
I put many a mile on that wonderful car, driving it to work, trips around the Colorado Rockies with the family, and to go to shopping occasionally. What great experiences it gave me! I worked at Peterson AFB outside Colorado Springs, and would drive it to work as often as I could. One day, despite a clear start to a September day, I noticed that it clouded up quickly and - horror of horrors - started to SNOW! By the time I could get to my car and start the 12 mile drive home, the streets were packed with snow and ice.
Everyone who is familiar with Speedsters knows the term, "dreaded over steer". In the snow, that became MUCH more pronounced. I took my time going home. The low clearance ended up causing snow to pile up under the car. I wasn't taking chances, and tip-toed home. There would be another day I would also drive 80820 in the snow - but it would be in Alaska - in January - with no heater - at 20 degrees below zero. Read on for more on 80820 and the snow.
The Air Force transferred me to Elmendorf AFB, Alaska about a year after I bought the car. I decided to have it shipped to Alaska, and drove it from Colorado to Seattle. Enroute, I saw another Speedster heading the opposite direction on Interstate 70 - such a chance meeting in the middle of the Utah desert! Headlights flashed and waves were exchanged. I stopped to see if he would return, but he kept on heading East. I drove the Speedster to the Department of Defense port where it was to be put in a shipping containter to protect it on the long trip north. Everything went well until I flew home and had a note on my desk telling me to call the DOD port officer.
When I did, the shipping manager there said they couldn't ship the car. He gave me the option of coming back to pick it up or he was such a nice guy that he would be happy to buy it from me. I called his bluff and went to the Peterson AFB Transportation Officer who helped me out. He called and read the riot act to the port transportation officer. The end result was that my car was placed in a container and shipped north. I think the Seattle DOD port officer wanted to force me into selling him the car.
The photos above of Speedster Carrera 1500RS 80820, were taken when it was on display in Anchorage at an indoor car show in January. I drove the car to the show wearing a full face helmet, a heavy duty parka and insulated pants and gloves befitting of an Iditarod participant. The wind chill at 60 mph when the absolute temperature is about 20 below zero is an almost incomprehensible 62 degrees below zero F - 80820 had no heater.
Eventually, I did have to sell the car. Having paid $5,000 for it, and putting many a mile on it, I was happy to sell it to an art dealer for cash and artwork worth about $25,000. I needed the money to improve a home we had just purchased after moving from Alaska back to Colorado. My wife and kids came first. As I see it, that buyer was the biggest loser in this story - and he probably doesn't know it. He gave it away to a friend who had done him a favor in his business. The guy receiving it as a gift sold it, and it later ended up on a Porsche dealer's lot in Boulder, CO.
A new buyer ended up with Speedster serial number 80820, and did some more research on the car, but this time directly with the Porsche factory - which is what I should have done! That "stupidity" thing is making itself more well known. He contacted me in Alaska (I had returned to Alaska after an assignment in Stuttgart, Germany - home of the Porsche factory), having traced me down by some receipts for parts that were still with the car and told me that 80820 was one of a kind. I sent him a few original pieces that I had found in a box to ensure the car was as whole as possible. I also sat in a dark corner for a long time, contemplating what had happened. Eventually, I rationalized it all away, then accepted and rejoiced in the fact that I was now and forever would be a part of automotive history.
The then current owner had received a detailed letter from Porsche in Stuttgart, Germany (ironically, I had recently spent three years there courtesy of the US Air Force, at HQ US European Command). They told him of the uniqueness of 80820. Turns out, it was the only Porsche Speedster Carrera to wear an RS name tag. No wonder I had noticed missing and extra parts on the car as I was rebuilding it!
Along the way, the original Four Cam 1500RS Carrera engine from the Speedster was removed and (heresy of all heresies!!??) used to power a "drag bike" in Texas! Magically, the owner of the car at that time found the engine and bought it, reuniting 80820 as a whole. The car then was put up for sale, and the next owner, Steve Heinrichs, purchased 80820.