One of the things that’s so great about old Porsches is the way they can serve as blank canvases for ambitious project cars – vehicles that can take on whatever form its owner wants.
Or at least that used to be one of the things that made them great. Today it’s a bit different…
With the values of air-cooled Porsches heading into the stratosphere and no signs of coming back down, it’s much harder justifying the idea of buying one with a bunch of modifications in mind.
But what about the replicas? Volkswagen-based Porsche 356 replicas have long been alternatives to those who want the classic Porsche experience without shelling out the massive amount of money needed to own a real one.
In many ways, these classic Porsche replicas are the perfect platform to have some fun with. Case in point, this ’57 Speedster replica built by brothers John and Edison Sarkisyan.
Coming from a background that includes some stunning air-cooled VW builds, the Sarkisyans found this Beck Speedster body for sale last year and over the course of six months transformed it into a beautiful display piece for the 2015 SEMA Show.
Inspiration for the Speedster project came from famed builders like Rod Emory and Singer Vehicle Design, the focus being on both performance and aesthetics with plenty of handcrafted touches inside and out.Anatomy of an Outlaw
When they found the Speedster body it had no chassis and no extra parts, so the Sarkisyans essentially built the car from the ground up. They started out by fitting the Beck body over a fully reinforced ’64 Beetle chassis that’s been shortened by 12 inches.
Other modifications to the chassis include a front beam that’s been narrowed by four inches, Bilstein shocks in both the front and rear, lowering spindles up front and a set of custom spring plates.
Powering the Speedster is a 1915cc Volkswagen engine built by JayCee Enterprises. It breathes through a pair of 48IDA carburetors and has been dyno measured at a stout 153 horsepower.
But it’s not just the mechanicals that impress – it’s the presentation of the the motor and the engine bay. The stacks on the carbs for example have been anodized red, and there are billet parts everywhere. All tin pieces have been powder-coated and pinstriped, and the firewall has been covered in a quilted leather upholstery, as has the deck-lid. The attention to detail is just stunning.
As for the body, it was a two-month process to get it perfect, and it’s hard to argue with the results. The color is a Nardo Gray that’s accented by a couple different lighter shades of gray in the pin-striping.
The pin-striping actually comes as a nod to the lowriders of Southern California, which along with high profile Porsche builds was another inspiration for the Sarkisyans on this project.
The wheels are Fifteen52 Outlaws measuring 15×4-inch up front and 15×5-inch in the rear with custom extended center caps. And like the body itself, the wheels have been custom color-matched in no less than four different shades. Completing the vintage look are a set of classic Firestone P560s from Coker Tire.Handmade Heaven
Things really reach another level when you look at the Speedster’s cockpit, which John designed himself. The seats? They were built from scratch to fit perfectly in the cabin, and the steering wheel is a one-off piece from Budnik.
A Porsche 550-style handbrake has also been fitted, as has a one-off shifter. Even the pedals were handmade specifically for this project.
John also loved the way luggage is displayed inside classic European cars and wanted to include this in the Speedster build. Only in this case, the cargo area would house the car’s audio equipment. Cleverly integrated among the handcrafted upholstery is a high-end setup that includes components from JL and McIntosh.
As you might imagine, the smell of the leather is strong and John loves the way the scent adds to the Speedster’s personality. Crafting the interior was a huge challenge he says, but it was all worth it in the end.
John tells me the response to the Speedster build has been fantastic. In fact, he’s decided that he wants to build another 356 (or perhaps even two) for the 2016 SEMA Show. This time he plans to use original metal bodywork and wants to get even crazier.
Real deal or replica? At this point it doesn’t matter. The Sarkisyan’s Speedster is a creation all its own.
Photos by Louis Yio
John & Edison Sarkisyan’s ’57 Beck Outlaw Speedster
Volkswagen 1915cc built by JayCee Enterprises, JayCee 48IDA carburetors, custom Ron Lummos breather box, custom A1 exhaust, billet accessories & linkage, custom powder-coating, pin-striping & anodizing, custom leather wrapped firewall & deck-lid
Freeway Flyer 4-speed manual gearbox, custom reinforced transaxle frame
Suspension & Brakes
Shortened ’64 Beetle chassis, narrowed front beam, Bilstein shocks, lowering spindles, custom spring plates & covers, Wilwood front brake calipers
Wheels & Tires
Fifteen52 Magnus Walker Outlaw wheels with custom paint, 15×4-inch (front) 15×5-inch (rear), Coker Tire Firestone P560 tires 145/15 (front) 155/15 (rear), tire lettering from TireTread
Custom Nardo Gray paint with pin-striping throughout, one-piece fuel filler, re-chromed & hand-engraved trim
Full custom interior with one-off seats, custom red leather upholstery & carpet, one-off Budnik steering wheel, custom handbrake, custom shifter, custom door panels, custom luggage area to house audio system with leather straps