Saturday, June 25, 2011

HHR's 356 Bonneville Build

Goal: To set a land speed record for the fastest 356, then be able to return the car to street use.

That's just what Graham Henderson is setting out to accomplish, his dream car. No small undertaking, it now stands at something like 150 mph and that's in a body design that's about 60+ years old. To do this he has enlisted the help of Kent Porter of Precision Chassis Works in Arizona who understands the task well. Part of the plan is to build a tube frame below the body, install a 911 engine, not hanging out over the back, but in a mid-engined configuration, do all the safety mods that are required, like a full roll cage and fire system along with all the small tuning to make the car run like a tiger out of the Malaysian Jungle.

Graham owns a few classic air-cooled Porsches from a 993 down, however he fell in love with Porsche 356A coupes when he was a very young architect working in London, and spotted a little silver torpedo sitting on a local street. He was smitten and decided that one day he was going to own one. Subsequently he found and bought a right hand drive, type A coupe in Malaysia. The car has been in storage for the past 13 years in Kuala Lumpur and just in the last week it arrived at the Port of Los Angeles where it will be trucked to Gilbert, Arizona for the beginning of the project.

The "Along For The Ride" blog will follow this adventure with Team HHR to record the story and show photo updates as the car is rebuilt to make a run at record speeds. A separate page (that can be found along the top header) will provide updates to follow all the way to "The Salt". Be sure to check it out and send your comments and questions here.

The 356 A coupe minus widows and trim as rescued from Malaysia. Image © HHR

The 356 A coupe minus engine as it sat in Malaysia. Image © HHR

Extremely rare right hand drive. Image © HHR

The A coupe after it arrived at the Port of Los Angeles waiting for transport to Arizona.
Image © HHR

HHR's logo. Image © HHR


  1. This came in via email.

    Hi Graham…
    That’s a car !
    I have no consideration for all American things you show most of the time but this Porsche is so perfect in design!
    I feel your quest for a perfect shape and high powered motion of it…
    This is where you are so good, matching crazy ideas and realities of engineering.
    I wish you all the very best for it!
    Take good care

  2. This came in via email.

    Hi Graham

    The idea of a mid engine powered 356 has been in the back of my mind since the early 80's. Every year, I fine that concept with updated components. In my mind that is. In the truest sense, I am an authenticity nut. I have two 356's; a 1962 S90 Roadster and a 1963 S90 Sunroof Coupe.

    Any help I can give you and John please do not hesitate. I would live to see your car run at Bonneville.

    A's I mentioned to John your story and pictures should appear in the 356 Registry's website. I am getting ready to head off to a museum tour right one, but if you need help, I can do that later tonight.

    Keep The Faith


  3. Graham emailed...

    Hi John & Roy,
    Thanks for the mail and we're pleased that the project is getting some interest on your side of the Atlantic ... over here not many people know how special an old A is ... and that there are so few Right Hand Drive survivors left ...

    All the best and regards,

  4. Graham email...

    Hi Roy,

    Pleased to hear that you've had the same thoughts ... and obviously this is not a new idea it's just that we intend to take the idea into a reality. I started kicking around the idea of a mid-engined VW beetle in 2007 and made the attached drawing for a car we called the Beexster on 8th July, 2007 and sat on it for some time ... then about a year ago I found Kent on the web as I had made my mind up to build a beexster and we sort of hit it off and then one idea led to another and then I felt I had found the right guy to go the whole "Porker" with and build a Beexster and my dream 356A Coupe in one go . . .

    The A body is tired, there's no engine and the floors are shot so, keeping it original isn't really an option, so why not build an amazing outlaw???

    Please do give us some feedback too on John's blog if possible too ... we want to get the word out there and see what the general feeling is for the project ... we know it will upset some of the trad' guys but once we are finished then I think they will like the end result . . .

    As a 356 owner you could let us know what we should keep and what we need to develop ... one option is to sling in the engine of Horrace the Second in there for Bonneville and rebuild her afterwards with a nice 3.6 N/A engine ... Horrace the Second our 500bhp track car, Herbie's nemesis ... and that engine of his should help her fly . . .

    Thanks & Regards,

  5. Why waste a perfectly restorable 356A right hand drive coupe, to build a mid engine race car? If your going to build a tube frame mid engine race car, I suggest that you use a fiberglass reproduction body, which could still be made street legal after your record attempt(s). That way, there would still be one more surviving 356A Coupe, hopefully properly restored.

  6. Graham is the guy for this build, he doesn't bullshit he just does it. I am sure this will be a spectacular build, and I look forward to seeing it someday!!!

  7. Looking to run it next year? Or should I look for you out there in August?

  8. Hi Rob,
    Good Question . . . to which we don't have a clear answer yet - this project is going to take some time, we want to push the envelope of the "tub" and get up-there where no 356 has gone before ... making 500bhp with a turbocharged aircooled 911 engine is possible - it's keeping the aero of the car balanced that is the greatest challenge .. you are not an aerodynamicist by any chance? thanks & regards, Graham

  9. Graham,

    We should talk. I can provide you a lot of bonneville info. I still have a record standing there from the 80s in a 911. 211.714 with a 2 liter, 220.6 with a 3.0. Fastest recorded 229mph with the 3.0 Send me an email at with contact info.

    Denny Kahler