1954 Glöckler-Porsche 356 takes fringe Porsche history to Monterey

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Porsche’s factory team took its first international win at the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans with a 356 Gmund SL Coupe, but privateers throughout the 1950s contributed the majority of wins and podiums. One such garagiste was Walter Glöckler, a Volkswagen and Porsche dealer as well as motorcycle and car racer in Frankfurt. With engineer Hermann Ramelow, Glöckler built seven custom racers, six of them using VW and Porsche parts hung off the pair’s homemade tubular chassis. After the duo caught Porsche’s attention, their sixth car, the 1953 Glöckler-Porsche 1500 Super, became a development chassis for the eventual Porsche 550. Their seventh and final car is this, the 1954 Glöckler-Porsche 356, created to race the 1954 Mille Miglia. It’s headed for RM Sotheby’s auction block during Monterey Car Week.  

Based on a 1954 356 Pre-A chassis sourced from Porsche, Glöckler and Ramelow put an early iteration of the recently developed Fuhrmann flat-four boxer in back. This was the same engine developed for motorsports in the 550 Spyder, and Glöckler had a personal connection to it: Two 550s took the top two spots in their class at the 1953 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of them driven by Glöckler’s cousin Helmut Glöckler. A four-speed manual transferred power to the rear wheels.

It’s not clear why the designers fitted a coupe body. Hardcore factory racers of the time were almost all spyders, but Porsche privateers were still campaigning the Porsche 356 coupe. The roof wasn’t the only unusual choice: There’s the upright profile with sweeping, scalloped front fenders and tailfins; the novel door cutout that extends into the roof; the third, low-mounted headlight; and the split, wraparound rear window for keeping an eye on competition pulling up behind. Even more intriguing, the same man who penned the 550 bodywork, C. H. Wiedenhausen, designed this aluminum sheetmetal.

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The builders couldn’t finish the coupe in time for the intended race, so they took it to the 1954 Liège–Rome–Liège road rally instead. An oil issue demoted them to limping over the line out of the placings.

The coupe moved to the U.S. later in 1954. By the 1970s, it was sitting in a Hollywood junkyard in pieces. A German Lufthansa employee found it, bought the parts, and hauled them all back to Germany in 1993. A German collector picked up the pieces in 2005 and had them restored to concours quality. Save for a new aluminum front panel and an engine swapped from a later Porsche 550, this Glöckler coupe is exactly as its namesake built it.

It’s reported to have been put up for sale in 2014 through a Munich dealer, the current owner buying it in 2016. RM Sotheby’s has set a pre-sale estimate of $750,000 to $1 million.

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Porsche motorsports traditionalists put off by such fringe offerings will find plenty more from Stuttgart that’s right down the middle. There’s a 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder raced in the U.S. for three years, a 1970 Porsche 914/6 GT that came sixth in the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans, and one of the racers that compelled the return of the Whale Tail in 2018, the 1977 Porsche 953 K5. In the Monster Racing Legends section, there’s a Holy Grail 1968 Porsche 911 R, one of young engineer Ferdinand Piech’s first production-based projects, plus a 1983 Porsche 956 Group C car that competed twice at Le Mans and that won the 1983 Brands Hatch 1000 Kilometers, as well as a Dyson Racing 1986 Porsche 962 campaigned in IMSA all over the U.S.  

And then there’s the grandaddy, a 1970 Porsche 917K from the John Wyler Automotive Engineering works team, replete in Gulf colors. It ran Le Mans in 1970 but wasn’t the winning 917K. Victory in a fictional Le Mans would come a year later, though, since this was the chassis used as the victory car in Steve McQueen’s 1971 movie Le Mans. With a pre-sale estimate of $16 million to $18.5 million, the 917K by itself represents two-thirds of the combined pre-sale estimate for all 25 Porsches RM Sotheby’s plans to auction in Monterey. Happy bidding. 

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