1955 Porsche 356

Porsche has built some wonderful cars in its half century as a manufacturer, creating a legacy revered by enthusiasts and an image that is instantly recognizable. Erwin Komenda’s first 1948 Gmund coupe is clearly echoed in Porsches right up to today’s Carreras and is still effective, efficient and attractive. Porsche’s classic profile as a blend of style and substance highlight the marque’s purity of design.

Australian Jeff Dutton had well-established credentials as a Porschephile, not only owning barns full of them over the years but also crafting numerous unique creations,
including a wide-bodied 356 Speedster and variants of the Turbo, RS and RSR models. Yet his desire to develop a unique Porsche-based automobile that would still be recognizable in the tradition of Komenda’s immortal style convinced him to build this car as a Porsche project to end all Porsche projects.

Starting with a mid-engined 914-6, Dutton added a race-prepped 3-liter 279-hp RS-spec engine, breathing through a pair of three-barrel Webers, mated to a close-ratio Type 915 five-speed transmission. A set of full-trick 934 brakes provides retardation to offset the modified engine’s urge.

It was not easy to make a Komenda Porsche out of a boxy 914; however, Dutton’s solution started with a worn-out 1955 356 Continental Coupe. Porsche purists might argue with the approach, but a quick tape measure survey demonstrated that the dimensions were compatible other than the wheelbase, which was 13.8 inches longer in the 914-6 chassis than the 356 body. While creating a mid-engined Porsche based on the classic Gmund form might seem extreme, it was an exercise with Stuttgart precedent in the 550A Le Mans coupe and the 904.

The Continental’s nose fit the 914-6 pan well, but from the doors back the project got interesting. Hot steel sheets were stretched over the space occupied by the three-liter six to form a gentle curve from the chopped roof, with its 10-inch high split windshield, to the tapered and flowing tail. The expanse of curved metal between the doors and rear wheel wells was broken up with inset louvered panels, a concept successfully translated from the RSK.

The Silver Bullet is alive with details. Polished scoops replicate rear quarter windows; a polished aluminum engine cover conceals the 915 transaxle; the engine lies below another polished and louvered panel that takes the place of the rear window, accented by a rooftop cold-air intake periscope. This detail is seemingly drawn from the 1996 911 GT1 racer, but in fact was created for the Silver Bullet in 1992. The engine air intake periscope is mirrored by a roof-mounted rear-view mirror and, even more imaginatively, a low mounted rear-view mirror looking through the passenger’s door.

This car stands as a work of art while working as a Porsche as well, an attribute not shared with many other customs. The Silver Bullet has completed several high-speed events in Australia and is presented in exceptional condition. In addition to high-speed road events, its custom design and superb execution make it a welcome entrant at rod and custom shows, where it has garnered several awards in its native Australia.