Staying True – The Onassis Porsche 356 #115368GT
Staying True – The Onassis Porsche 356 #115368GT
There's a group of guys over in Germany focused on the artistry of the air-cooled automobile, and with each photoset that they toss into my inbox, I'm more and more impressed by their vision and taste. As evidenced by a number of Porsche builds that have graced the pages here on StanceWorks (911T + 912), the gents at Rooshers have a knack for air-cooled automobiles. They approach each build with a unique perspective that balances between two ends of the spectrum. Time spent in the surf-skate world of extreme sports has given the crew an irreverent outlaw nature with contemporary pop-styling roots, but yet they all share a profound respect for the way things once were, when everything felt a bit more authentic. The results continue to capture my attention with each project that rolls out of the shop. Their builds carefully skirt the line between a period-correct sports-purpose machine and a fun, youthful take on the classic Porsche platforms. In my eyes, it's the perfect balance between holding true to the cars' history while still finding ways to inject their own personal style into each one, a challenge that can be tricky as one navigates the classic car building arena.
I get excited whenever I see a new photoset from the Roosher's Daniel Schaefer awaiting me in my inbox. Every dropbox link was packed with inspiring imagery and details, and on this particular occasion, a 356 was waiting for me as I clicked the download button. Tom Gaedtke is the founder of Onassis, a Porsche Agency that specializes in bringing dreams to life, whether it be custom fabricated parts, or carefully thought-out car builds. The Porsche 356 build, dubbed the Onassis #115368GT or 'Grand Tour', is the latest vehicle born from the agency. The project was an exercise in moderation, seeking to build upon the 356's racing roots while still maintaining the comfort and practicality that you'd expect from a Grand Touring car on a day-to-day basis.
The story began nearly 10 years ago, when an unfortunate, last-minute turn of events dashed Tom's dreams and brought an abrupt end to a deal purchasing a 1952 Porsche Bent-Window Coupe. Fortunately, as one door was slammed shut, another opened before him. As the initial dejection wore off, Tom kept his sights aimed at the 356 platform and recalled a lonely Porsche that sat unloved in a barn for 15 years. In a familiar tale, the 356 had gone under the knife in 1988 to begin restoration, eventually receiving a fresh paint job in 1993 before the owner's attention was whisked away by life's changes. Forgotten, the car sat unattended with its parts spread across a slew of boxes. Tom's persistence eventually led to an appointment with the owner in 2008, when they struck a deal and transferred ownership, offering the 356 a new lease on life.
In new hands, the 356 would act as the showroom for the parts and vision of the Onassis Porsche Agency, offering a testbed for prototypes and displaying the custom parts on offer. Onassis serves to bring life to the parts that Tom has conjured in his head, and makes them available to the rest of the community. Perhaps most well-known from the collection, a custom machined short shift kit sits atop the tunnel, shining in its utilitarian demeanor. Atop the aluminum shaft sits one of Onassis's homages to Porsche's iconic 917 racer, a wood grain striped shift knob that has been handcrafted in-house. Onassis's custom touches echo throughout the rest of the interior as well. A machined housing helps to replace the standard clock with a 60-second timer reminiscent of the Chrono pack setup found in later 911s, and a custom quick release hub helps to mount a VDM RSK steering wheel in front of a Carrera 2 tachometer. A set of the iconic 356 buckets have been employed and buckled in with a classic set of green lap belts that play off the exterior colors. In the back, the negligble rear seats have been cast aside and a simple roll bar was fitted. A chocolatey brown color engulfs much of the upholstery with a one-off carpet laid throughout, and a Moca Brown leather utilized on the seats and door panels. It's a warm, rich accent that plays nicely against the Fjord Green paint outside.
The exterior plays it cool with an understated appearance. Everything remains as expected for the most part, with most parts being re-chromed to liven their shine once again, but subtle accents hint at the sporty nature of the Grand Tourer. Following in the footsteps of the 356 racers that competed on circuits around the globe, the bumpers have been left in the garage, giving the car a sleeker, lighter look that cleans up nicely. The door handles have been drilled out, a style modification that has become common recently in the outlaw Porsche world, but Onassis chose to keep the rest of the exterior a bit more subdued than the other outlaw builds of late. A Raydyot mirror riveted to the driver's side door plays to the aerodynamic sport coupe nature. In the tub-like wheel wells sit a set of rare 5-inch-wide Magnesium race wheels, designed for the 356 in the 60s, and Tom has wrapped them in a period correct set of street-legal Avon race tires, the cr6zzs.
With the aesthetic and comfort aspects of the car sorted, Onassis had to back them up with proper mechanical elements underneath. Behind the mag wheels sit a set of drilled and vented disc brakes and Koni red shocks. Zero offset drop spindles lay the body down over the front axle while the rear factory swing axle was restored to its former glory. In the engine bay sits a 1600cc four cylinder that feels stronger than ever. A 1964 912 block houses a counterweight crankshaft that guides a set of H-beam rods and 83.5mm Shasta Pistons in and out of Mahle cylinders. A compression ratio of 10.75:1 blasts against the ported 356SC heads. Up top, a pair of 40mm Solex 40PII carbs pull air down through custom Onassis trumpets and mix it with fuel from the 6V vintage Bendix pump. Following ignition, the fumes are pushed out a 38mm exhaust that Onassis built. Weighing in wet at just around 1,830 pounds, the 1600cc engine has enough grunt to really fly.
Onassis has assembled a car that displays the perfect amount of restraint for a classic while still allowing their creative sides to shine and add a unique character to their 356. One could easily envision this car blasting through the streets in the 60s without thinking twice, but at the same time, Onassis's personal vision is apparent in the custom touches that are sprinkled throughout the build. I continue to be inspired by the approach they take with these sports purpose Porsches that they share with us. I hope that it's an approach that I see more of as the younger generation steps into classic car ownership, paying respect to the car's history while also placing one's own personal touch on it. I will leave you enjoy the rest of the photos from Daniel Schaefer, the man behind Onassis's media side, as I impatiently wait to see what he and Tom have up their sleeves next. Knowing Onassis, it's bound to be good.