It’s an easy car to walk past. Even I glanced over it without a second thought as I strolled inside to look at the well maintained vintage Triumphs, Fords and Peugeots. The tip off came when I was leaving and one of the salesmen told me “You see that piece of crap? That junk may be more important than the building, the land and any car we have inside.” 45 minutes of internet research later and I find out that that “piece of crap” Porsche 356 was built in 1951 and is the oldest running Porsche in Brazil.
Despite its ratty appearance, the car is actually well loved and even driven every day. The thing is that Mauricio Marx, the owner, wants every hand that touched the car – the history of this car to be visible. So to him restoring the car would be hiding “the history, the soul of the car. The car was made like that, so let’s keep it like that.”
The welds on the door handle are the original tin welds on the car. While these welds were created by a German hand, they were not performed by a Porsche employee. You see, Porsche was originally founded in 1931 as an automotive consulting company by Ferdinand Porsche. The end of World War II found Porsche with its founder in jail, coffers nearly empty, and no factory to produce with. So when Ferdinand Porsche’s son designed and sold Porsche’s first consumer car in 1949, they had to outsource the body work to two companies – Reutter and Glaser.
By 1951, production had increased to 1160 cars, but Porsche still relied on these two companies. So essentially those welds that Mauricio was careful to preserve tell a story about the founding of Porsche and how the car, while designed by Porsche, was never actually constructed by a Porsche worker.
The lip under the front and rear bumper used to hold the old chrome bumpers. However, the first owner, Christian Heins, removed them – presumably to reduce weight for racing. You see Heins went to Germany in 1953 to a technical school. During that time, he must have imported this 356 to Brazil, because in May of 1954 he made his racing debut at Interlagos, driving a 1286cc Porsche 356. Heins would race two more times that year, resulting in a total two first place finishes out of the three races he ran that year. The following years found the Porsche retired to daily driver duties as Heins used it to take him and his sister to events such as the First Estrada de Santos Hill Climb in 1958. A picture from that event even shows the car sans the chrome bumpers. Unfortunately, Heins died five years later in an accident at the 1963 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Porsche made its way into Mauricio’s family.
The blue and orange paint on the hood tells the story of how the car came into Mauricio’s possession. While Mauricio’s company, Universo Marx, is relatively young, classic car ownership runs deep in Mauricio’s family. His grandfather first began the family collection with a modest number of cars. Once the collection was passed down to Mauricio’s father, it exploded in size – reaching over 200 cars. In the 90s, when Mauricio turned 18 and wanted a car of his own, his father said “you have 200 cars to choose from.” The one he picked was the Porsche.
Mauricio immediately wanted to enter the car in a local Porsche event, but the car had been sitting since 1970. So he took out the original 1286cc motor and put in a 1.5L motor from a Volkswagen beetle. In addition, he had been enamored with the Gulf Racing Colors since he was a child, so the original silver paint was painted over with the orange stripe on blue Gulf Colors.
Around 2000, both the silver paint and the gulf colors were stripped to reveal the metal body underneath, welds and all. In addition, he pulled the 1.5L VW motor and swapped in a proper, 1.6 liter Porsche engine. This final rebuild was coupled with a suspension and brake upgrade to make the car handle well enough to be Mauricio’s daily driver.
So in a final summation of the vehicle – you have the first model Porsche sold, but not built by a Porsche employee that found its way to Brazil via a world class racing driver who used it to outright win the first two races he ever entered. This excitement was followed by years of neglect, and a generational change in ownership that was marked by two rebirths which culminated in its current life as a daily driver.
The best part about all of this is that the evidence of that history is completely visible. And I think that’s what Mauricio is trying to get at by not restoring his car. Mauricio’s value in the car is derived solely from its importance to his family. Several of the cars in his family’s collection have history with him, and “the history is more important than all other things. I will never sell these cars, because I think selling a car like that is like selling a part of my family’s history.” In a way Mauricio’s love of this car is similar to Doc Woods’ – a man I interviewed earlier. Except in this case - instead of valuing the car for the experience it gives him, Mauricio values it for its soul – for the memories of his family and the past owners that it holds.
This article came from my website, after a friend mentioned that the Oppo community may like this Porsche’s story. If you want to see similar pieces (or this piece with more pictures) you can see my website at nativecustoms.org.