I will argue that the Glöckler-Porsches were early flickers, puffs of smoke in the weeds, and the tinder didn't really catch fire until the 550 came along


Walter Glöckler occupies an honored place among Porsche owners. Not only was he one of the first to race a Porsche, he was also one of the first owners to take a standard Porsche and make substantial changes to it in order to make it more competitive. The mid-engined Glöckler-Porsche specials he built were the inspiration for Porsche's mid-engined 550 sports racers. Walter Glöckler was a successful Frankfurt auto dealer who obtained one of the first Volkswagen dealerships after the war and rode VW's success to prosperity. The Glöckler shop was run by Hermann Ramelow.

The 1952 Roadster offered here, the third Glöckler-Porsche, adopted the standard Porsche rear-engined layout, with the rear suspension in its "proper" trailing arm configuration. Based on a standard Porsche cabriolet floorpan, Ramelow undertook the now-standard lightening modifications, removing everything that was non-essential and drilling out much of what was left. A 1,488-cc Porsche engine, again tuned with high compression to run on alcohol, made 86 hp. Weidenhausen created the body from aluminum, with a nose that bore close resemblance to the 356 Porsche, but which had semi-skirted rear wheels and cutaway rear corners similar to Glöckler-Porsches #1 and #2. The standard two-seat interior layout of the cabriolet was retained, and lightweight bucket seats were fabricated and installed. Still, its standard Porsche floorpan and two-seat interior brought a weight consequence despite Ramelow's massive lightening efforts, and Glöckler-Porsche #3 weighed some 1,133 pounds.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1966 Chevrolet Corvette 427/425
Years Produced:1966
Number Produced:9,958 coupes
Original List Price:$5,475
Tune Up Cost:$350
Distributor Caps:$12
Chassis Number Location:Cross brace under glovebox
Engine Number Location:On block in front of right cylinder head
Club Info:National Corvette Restorers Society 6291 Day Road Cincinnati, OH 45252
Investment Grade:B

This 1952 Glöckler-Porsche Roadster sold for $616,000 at RM’s “Automobiles of Arizona” auction on January 18, 2008.

Oaks grow from acorns, Microsoft started from a couple of kids playing with computer code, and World War I started with a single bullet. Everything has to start somewhere, and frequently you don’t know until much later whether a given spark will fizzle out or become a forest fire. Sometimes it’s neither, just the first puff of smoke. The three Glöckler-Porsche specials were the first racing Porsches, no question, but whether they were the beginning of Porsche racing is an interesting conjecture.

Aside from supplying the components, Porsche had little or nothing to do with the first two Glöckler-Porsches. They were truly specials, custom tube-frame chassis that used the VW-based Porsche powertrain and rear suspension mostly because they were lightweight and available (and because Glöckler was a VW dealer). Glöckler turned the whole package around in the chassis so they were mid-engined (engine ahead of the transaxle) instead of rear-engined like the 356.

The reversed trailing arms created some strange suspension geometry, but they dealt with it with very stiff springs. The two specials had some real success in 1950 and ’51 and caught Porsche’s attention at a point when there was enough commercial success to consider racing as a viable way of generating publicity. Porsche started down the road toward being a racing car company.

The third car was constructed in 1952 and the factory was actively involved in its creation, with the result that it was more Porsche than special. Based on a standard cabriolet floorpan with the standard rear engine layout, it was effectively an ultra-lightweight, custom-bodied 356 with a hot-rod engine installed, even badged as a Porsche and carrying an appropriate chassis number. I don’t think there is any question that it is the first true racing Porsche.

Being first doesn’t convey importance

Being first, though, does not necessarily convey importance beyond primacy. By the 1952 season, Mercedes was racing the prototype 300SL, Aston Martin and Jaguar competed with 3.4-liter racers, and Italy had both Ferrari and Maserati filling the international grids. An 86-horsepower Porsche 356 special didn’t make much of a splash. Glöckler had some class wins before selling it on to Max Hoffman in America in the fall of 1952, but it certainly wasn’t the giant killer that we have come to expect from Porsche. That came along in 1953 with the project 550 cars.

I’m not a Porsche historian, but I think it is safe to suggest that with Glöckler-Porsche #3, the engineers realized that if they were serious about winning, they’d have to do a lot more than build a lightweight 356, so they set about designing a proper racing car. Project 550 was born. Tiny, light, tube-framed and mid-engined, the 550 was the spiritual successor to the first two Glöckler-Porsches, engineered to take maximum advantage of the Porsche engine and drivetrain. The 550 was an immediate success and quickly established the giant-killer reputation Porsche proudly maintained until it effectively joined the ranks of the giants in March 1969 when it introduced the 917.

Let’s go back to the forest fire analogy. When did it start? I will argue that the Glöckler-Porsches were early flickers, puffs of smoke in the weeds, but the tinder didn’t really catch fire until the 550 came along. Academic, yes, but I think it has real bearing on the importance and value of the subject car.

I’m not questioning either the importance or the collectible nature of this car. It is the first, with all that comes with such a title, but I think a buyer has to be very careful here. It’s not a 550, or even similar to one. If anything, it’s the prototype Speedster. Where do you look for comparable values?

And there is another issue here. As I’ve often held forth, a collector car’s value is a combination of what economics calls utilities. That it is historically important is one, that it may be beautiful would be another, and how much fun you can have using it is always a huge one. The 550s are important, beautiful, and (I’m told by those with experience) an absolute joy to drive. They’ve got it all. I’m guessing here, but I seriously doubt the subject Glöckler-Porsche is any fun to drive, if it can be driven at all.

If you raced, it would be horribly slow

Let’s look at the engine. According to the auction data, the engine makes 86 horsepower on alcohol, and I have to trust they’re telling the truth. There are problems here. First of all, alcohol is an almost impossible fuel to run, as you have to drain the entire system after every use to prevent the alcohol from absorbing moisture and turning to jelly in the lines. Even if it’s historically correct, it’s not usable. Second, 86 horsepower is an embarrassment. Vintage racers are comfortably getting 140 hp-150 hp out of their 356 engines (on gas) these days, so if you did race it, you’d be horribly slow. It is apparent that the car was restored as a static museum piece, not as something you could use.

So what we’ve got is a 1952 Glöckler-Porsche Roadster that is sentimentally important but not seminal to Porsche’s history, and that has effectively zero “go play with it” value. Who is going to buy it and why? I’d suggest that this car is pretty much limited to being a static bookend in somebody’s racing Porsche collection, and my friends, that’s a limited and tough market. Newcomer commercial developers from Tulsa simply aren’t going to bid on a car like this; you’re selling to pros who know exactly what they’re doing.

This 1952 Glöckler-Porsche was first presented at a Gooding auction in January 2006 in Florida, where it failed to sell at $680,000, then was at the Worldwide auction in November 2006 in South Carolina, where it got to $630,000 and didn’t sell. Before selling at RM for $616k, it sat for at least a year on a major collector web site without result. It’s apparent to me that the few potential buyers for this car were simply willing to wait until the seller dropped his expectations to what they considered to be acceptable before stepping up. I’d say carefully bought.