Original 1956 Porsche 356 1500 GS Carrera Returns to Pebble Beach

Time capsules come in different shapes and sizes, but we like the one owned by Dr. Robert Craig. His unrestored 1956 Porsche 356 1500 GS Carrera is headed to the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance — a homecoming of sorts.

Craig was in the audience at the 1956 Pebble Beach Road Races, where he watched Dan Dickey’s 356 Carrera take third in its class. “It was so beautiful and had that great turbine-like Carrera sound,” said Craig. “I was so impressed, I even took a picture of the car while it was racing.”

The next year, Craig came across a similar 1956 356 Carrera sitting on a dealer’s lot in Belmont, California. Although he already owned a 356 Speedster and barely had the means to pick up the car, he bought the car for a whopping $4950. Although Craig wouldn’t discover the car was Dickey’s 356 for another year, the love affair began instantly.

“After paying that much money,” he explains, “I drove it regularly. People thought I was nuts, even eccentric, but I wasn’t much for following other people’s patterns.” Craig did, however have to follow maintenance patterns. An engine overhaul, which ran a substantial $1600, came in 1958, prompting Craig to wrench on the car himself.

Still, as he began to start a family, the Carrera became less of a priority. With 40,000-some miles on the odometer, Craig decided to pack the car up for storage.

“I determined that the cost to run a former race car as my only car was a bit excessive,” he said, “but I always stored it inside. It seemed museum-worthy.”

Time has proven his instinct correct. The original 356 Carrera is nothing short of an idol in the eyes of many Porschephiles, let alone one with race provenance. Better yet, Craig’s car was proven to be the 41st Carrera ever manufactured and the first sold in the Bay Area.

After retiring from NASA in 1990,Craig spent the next decade squaring away the mechanical bits. Luckily for him, he had all the parts needed for the rebuild. Better yet, the car started on the first try. “It ran like a new car and reminded me what it was like when it was new,” Craig says.

Apart from the general maintenance and engine work, the remainder of Craig’s 356 is largely original. If you’d like to get a glimpse of a true survivor, the car will be on display at Pebble Beach — its first return in nearly 53 years — on August 16. For more information on the show, visit www.pebblebeachconcours.net

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