Having heard some nice reports from various sources about Lewis Hauser and his Karosserie restoration company in Fairfax, Virginia over the last few years, it was great to finally swap a few emails with Lewis this week, discussing one of his most fascinating Porsche projects to date: the 356 Sportolet.
Outlaw Porsche 356
I first came across the 356 Sportolet via a Google search, inspired by Facebook messages to Ferdinand Magazine’s page from a Pre-A owner restoring a car with Lewis. The Pre-A was one of the best I had seen, so I did some more searching and it led me to the Porsche Club of America’s Potomac Region magazine, Der Vorgänger, from June 2013.
In there was a piece on Lewis written by Jonathan Kinberg. It mentioned a 1953 356 Cabriolet restoration that Lewis completed for John Wood in 2008. I remembered a magazine feature on the car a few years ago and being blown away by the quality of the work. Another noted restoration (for Dick Brumme on a super rare 1950 Cabriolet) drew some interesting owner comments.
“I’ve known Lewis since the early 1980s,” said Dick. “He has worked on several of my cars including a ’72 Mercedes coupe, my ’61 roadster and the 1950 cab! He does excellent work and runs a great shop. Everything is done on time and with no surprises. He has a really weird sense of humor, but I like it. He is a good guy!”
My sense of humour often draws the same remarks, so we were off to a very good start. No doubt the Sportolet has drawn a few sideways glances too, so I asked Lewis how the project got started.
Outlaw Porsche 356 Coupe/Roadster Conversion
“The Sportolet started life as a ’56 Coupe. After doing so many of these cars, I thought it would be fun to make a coupe into an open unit. I had a Convertible D dash with cowl and two Roadster doors that I thought I would graft to the car. I also had a Convertible D rear lined up to complete the Roadster, but the guy sold that to someone else.
“After doing the door and dash cowl work, the project stalled for about 5 years. I had the car in my storage shed when a hurricane knocked the corner off the building, just missing the car. I took that as a sign that I needed to complete the project.
“Without the rear clip, I decided one day that the front cowl and hood off a ’62 parts car would look good as the back end of the car. The louvers on the rear cowl came from the inside of a Cabriolet deck lid. The louvers on the hood came from the inside of coupe deck lids. I made the mirror shell out of aluminum, just like the factory did with the Carreras.
“The engine is out of a 912. The seats came out of a GT Coupe. The interior has original door panels: everything else is wrapped with vintage vinyl, taken from various seats and things that I’ve been collecting for the last 30 years. The horns are very rare ‘fanfare’ horns that I took off a Pre-A.
“We finished the car just in time to display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s ‘America on the Move’ exhibit. The car was the first Outlaw to win Best of Show at the 30th anniversary 356 Registry Holiday in Williamsburg, Va. I have since sold the car to Rob Abbott: he keeps it in Southern California.”
What a superb story so far, and nice to know it lives with Rob, who has a great eye for classic Porsche. That means I’ll get to see it in person one day! I sent some of Lewis’ Sportolet pics to a couple of friends and the reception was mixed: seems you either get this or you don’t. Maybe it’s just like Lewis’ sense of humour. If this little Outlaw sums up the man, we should get along just fine.