Max Hoffman convinced Porsche it needed a lightweight convertible to compete with Jaguar and Austin-Healey.
1952 Porsche 356 ‘America Roadster’
This isn’t technically a Speedster, but the Type 540 (Typ 540 K/9-1 to be very precise) – known more commonly as the America Roadster – started the idea. The American Roadster was the direct predecessor of the Speedster. U.S. importer Max Hoffman convinced Porsche it needed a lightweight convertible to compete with the best from Jaguar and Austin-Healey. It only had an emergency folding roof and could keep up with larger sports cars of the era. But the production methods used to create the America Roadster’s aluminum body proved to be too expensive, and in 1952 Porsche built only 21 units before its discontinuation in 1953. All but one of which were sold in the United States.
In early 1952, Max Hoffman requested a 356-based car for weekend racers that was simpler, lighter and no frills in nature. The 356 Type 540 America Roadster was the result.
Although the America Roadster turned out to be a commercial failure, Max Hoffman was convinced there was still a market for a simplified and lightened 356. He continued to lobby Porsche for such a car and, in September 1954 the 356 Speedster was launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The Speedster went on to become an enormous success. It not only won hundreds of races but went down in history as one of Porsche’s most iconic models.