What do an art car, ice-racer and a Zagato-bodied sports car have in common? Simple, all three are built upon Porsche platforms. Today’s episode of our weekly automotive column The Petrolhead’s Corner is all about weird and wonderful things with a Porsche badge. We’re talking about the retro-cool Porsche 968 L’ART, the wonderful Porsche 356 A Speedster Zagato Coupé “Sanction Lost” and Renée Brinkerhoff’s unique Porsche 356 A “Antarctic”. So without further ado, let’s take a closer look at these cars.
Porsche has a very long and well-documented history and it is one of the most beloved sports car manufacturers. Through its years it managed to do the unthinkable by coming from very humble beginnings, often on the brink of bankruptcy in the early days, to producing close to 300,000 cars in 2021. The focus for Porsche has always been on pushing technological boundaries, overcoming obstacles and slaying giants, mostly through the art of racing. Back in the early days of the brand, it was still very much a “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” type business. Through countless racing victories, including a record 19 victories in the Le Mans 24 hours endurance race.
But outside of Porsche, there have been quite a few people doing some obscure things to the cars coming from Stuttgart, Germany. We’ve seen a unique four-door Porsche 911, a road-legal 917K race car, and even a 356 replica built with genuine Porsche parts smuggled across the border between East and West Germany. And yet, more of these fascinating stories are uncovered from time to time, including these next three.
Porsche 968 L’ART Speedster
I’ve made it no secret I was born in the eighties, and one of my earliest conscious automotive memories is seeing a Porsche 968 parked somewhere along the route to school and back. It was blue, with a blue soft-top and matching blue wheels, a real embodiment of car styling in the early nineties. It’s also part of the reason I love the brand so much. Picture something like this Porsche 968 below, but in blue;
I’m not looking to talk about my personal history per se, but when I first saw pictures of the Porsche 968 L’ART it brought back a flood of memories of that particular Porsche 968 in blue I saw so often. This unique concept art vehicle, for lack of a better term, is a collaboration between Porsche and Parisian fashion brand L’Art De L’Automobile. Arthur Kar is the founder of the company and worked as a Porsche mechanic as a teenager so there’s somewhat of a genuine connection between the two.
The Porsche 968 L’ART started out as a standard Porsche 968 coupe and was built over a period of 18 months. In the process, it lost its roof, headlights and a bunch of other parts and gained a rather sleek, unique new look. It remained a fully functional car too, so you could still cruise around in it if you want. Its launch coincided with the 968’s 30th birthday as the original was built between 1991 and 1995.
According to Porsche and Arthur Kar, it is made to look like a retro-nineties car with an updated and modern flair. And to be honest, if you were around in the early nineties, no doubt you can see the reference to car culture back then. Looking at pictures of it also reveals more details every single time. A stand-out feature is of course the updated front and rear ends, and the lack of a roof. Up front, the headlights are gone but the outline is still somewhat there. That makes it look like the car has eyebrows of some sort, which is simultaneously weird and intriguing.
Over to the rear of the car, you will notice the taillights integrated into a sort of plinth, another styling element very common in the 1990s. When lit up, the right side also reads “KAR” as a reference to Arthur Kar. The only other visual branding is the recessed “Porsche” name in the front and rear bumper, and the inside of the door sills. The interior is also modernized a little and is finished in black and green. The final touch is the black Porsche wheels which come with green wheel covers according to some of the images. It’s all delightfully retro, right?
More information on this radically fresh Porsche 968 L’ART can be found over on TopGear.com
Porsche 356 Carrera Zagato Coupé “Sanction Lost”
This little gem of a Porsche has a truly remarkable story, as it is 1 of only 2 ever made. Yet, it was made between 2015 and 2017 believe it or not and is an inch-perfect recreation of an original 1957 car. Its story starts with Porsche racing driver Claude Storez, one of France’s most promising talents in the 1950s. Amongst his accolades are a class-win at the 12H of Reims in a Porsche 550 RS Spyder, a class-win at the Liège-Rome-Liège road rally in a Porsche 356A Carrera, and more. He also participated in iconic races like the 24H of Spa Francorchamps, one of the most challenging events in racing history.
Claude Storez approached Zagato, the famous Italian coachbuilder, to construct a lighter, more aerodynamic body for his Porsche. He allegedly was inspired by the success of small, lightweight Italian racers such as the Abarth 750 GT Zagato. In 1957 Claude Storez bought a Porsche 356 Speedster and shipped it to Italy to be rebodied. At the hands of the Zagato team, it would receive a gorgeous new body, much in the style of the little Italian coupes that raced throughout Europe at the time.
During the first few races, Claude Storez competed in with his new Porsche 356 Carrera Zagato Coupé the car looked very promising. The new body was much more aerodynamic and he was even able to take the fight to a far more powerful Ferrari 250 GT during a race at Reims, France, in 1959. Unfortunately, this would also be his last race ever, as he suffered a fatal crash at Reims’ Thillois hairpin. The death of Claude Storez was major news in France as it was just 4 years after the horrific 1955 Le Mans 24h disaster in which 83 people lost their lives, and 180 more would be injured. Shortly after the race the car mysteriously vanished never to be seen again.
The original car remains lost to this day but by the early 2010s, US car collector Herb Wetanson had a wild idea for Zagato; recreate the original 1957 Porsche 356 Zagato Coupé. This started a years-long project, using original photographs and a concept drawing found in the archives to ultimately build 18 of these cars. Half of them would be open-top Speedsters, and the other half would be the Coup;e you see here. All were built on an original Porsche 356 platform and fitted with new bodies built exactly like the original. This one is a little bit extra special though, as it is one of only two Coupés built with the exact same engine type as Claude Storez’ car, Porsche’s famous “Carrera” racing engine.
The project got the name “Sanction Lost” as the original remains a mystery and to date has never been found. The recreation cars would be built between 2015 and 2017, and one Speedster and One Coupé would be finished in the cream-and-red paint you see here. In November 2021, RM Sotheby’s auctioned off the duo with a hammer price of GBP 455,000 for the Speedster and GBP 426,875 for the Coupé.
The images and information on the Porsche 356 Zagato Coupé “Sanction Lost” is sourced from Silodrome.com
Porsche 356 World Rally Tour Antarctica
The third chapter in today’s Petrolhead Corner is perhaps even more remarkable than the first two. This story revolves around amateur rally driver Renée Brinkerhoff, and her worldwide adventure in a 1956 Porsche 356A. Taking to racing and rallying quite late in life, she took her vintage little sportscar across all continents and through all sorts of terrain.
It all started when a family member bought the Porsche 356A to restore. She felt an itch and went through the Porsche Track Experience, and took part in the 2013 Carrera Panamericana. One of the most gruelling endurance rallies out there, she finished first in class and competed three more times and finish every single time. This all led to launching Project 365 World Rally Tour, starting the Valkyrie Racing team and the Valkyrie Gives charity organization. Together with her daughter, she competed in rallying events across the world, such as the East African Safari Classic and the famous Peking-to-Paris race. The goal is to raise awareness about people trafficking and raise funds to combat it.
Late in 2021, after a delay of nearly two years, Renée set off to tackle the last remaining continent on her Project 365 World Tour; Antarctica. This required a massive rebuild of the plucky little 356 as it’s not fit for traversing ice and snow for miles on end in standard trim. Through the help of Kieron Bradley, a chassis design engineer and experienced polar expedition member, it was transformed into something Porsche purists will scoff at. The rear tires are replaced with a set of custom-built tracks, and at the front is now a pair of ski’s to flatten soft snow for more grip at the rear. A special crevasse bar was mounted to prevent any unwanted dives into ice cracks, along with a special pneumatic inflatable jack system to lift out of deep snow or exchange the tracks and skis for spiked tires if needed.
Renée Brinkerhoff took off from Antarctica’s Union Glacier airstrip along with British co-driver and explorer Jason de Carteret for the 356 miles round trip to the South Pole. The entire run took the duo five days, as extreme cold sometimes knocked out two of the engine’s four cylinders. The skis needed to be reattached a couple of times, and a damper had to be replaced. The entire endeavour is extremely impressive, especially considering it’s done in a 66-year-old car. Renée drove more than 32,000 kilometres in the little car, all privately funded or through the help of sponsors and in the process raised over half a million USD for her Valkyrie Gives organization. And if you have any concerns about the environmental impact, it is said the entire expedition was carbon-positive.