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Kim Copperthite watches the Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo during its record run at the Porsche Rennsport Reunion VI, Laguna Seca, 2018
Kim Copperthite watches the Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo during its record run at the Porsche Rennsport Reunion VI, Laguna Seca, 2018 (© Mike Copperthite)

It is interesting how, sometimes when you trace an old classic car or historic racer back to its roots, you end up not far from the car’s early place of residence. In this instance, the 1953 Porsche 356 Pre-A chassis #50064 acquired by Mike and Kimberly Copperthite in 2009, has returned to its motorsport ways, as she has come full circle and is once again competing on the circuits of America.

Mike and Kim Copperthite pause for a photo during the set up in the Chopard Heritage Display tent at the Porsche Rennsport Reunion VI, Laguna Seca, 2018
Mike and Kim Copperthite pause for a photo during the set up in the Chopard Heritage Display tent at the Porsche Rennsport Reunion VI, Laguna Seca, 2018 (© Mike Copperthite)

But the story is an interesting one. Backing up just a little, Michael Copperthite is the great-great-grandson of the pioneering family that started up the Connecticut-Copperthite Pie Company in Georgetown, District of Columbia on the eve of Thanksgiving 1885. Over the next thirty-odd years the family built the ‘largest pie baking concern on the planet’, as Mike put it. The business is no longer family-owned, but the history of this entrepreneurial family has touched many in the immediate area, and much wider too, as everyone has to eat, right!

A bit of history

Mike did go into the pie baking business later in life creating a foundation and using his family’s 200-plus year old recipes, with 100% of all proceeds going into the support of the community. A way of giving back and honouring the family that built the largest pie baking concern on the planet… when pie really mattered. Mike’s interest in motor cars goes back a long way, but in the late-noughties, he was looking to purchase a Pre-A Porsche 356 when he spotted a likely car on eBay. Just 9100 examples of the Pre-A Porsche 356, across all models including Coupe, Cabriolet and Speedster were produced between 1950 and 1955, making these very collectible models today. To find one advertised on eBay was just plain out of the ordinary, so Mike jumped at the opportunity and purchased the car.

The day the 1953 Pre-A Porsche 356 was delivered to Mike Copperthite, 2009
The day the 1953 Pre-A Porsche 356 was delivered to Mike Copperthite, 2009 (© Mike Copperthite)

As happens sometimes when you buy something sight-unseen, what you get is quite different from what was advertised or what you expected to receive. The car came without any history, but for $21,500 Mike was just pleased to eventually secure his Pre-A 356 (chassis #50064). But as he dug further and further into the car’s background, a rather surprising story began to emerge. It transpired that the car’s second owner became divorced from his wife, and chassis #50064 was locked away in a storage unit with a blown engine. After some time had passed, the owner’s ex-wife became tired of paying the storage bill, and placed an ad on the bulletin board at a local PCA club meeting in Wisconsin, which read, “If you pay the $115 storage fee, the car is yours.”
Unloved and seemingly unwanted by many, the car was nevertheless snapped up by its third owner in 1969, who no doubt settled the storage bill as required. Owner number three thought that the car might have been an old race car, and so he put the car into storage until he could properly restore it. Life being what it is, forty years passed, the car was never restored and he needed funds to send one of his children off to college. Roughly four decades later, and still seemingly unloved, Mike Copperthite became the lucky owner of chassis #50064. When he acquired #50064 Mike did not know any of the car’s history, but he soon discovered that he was indeed only the fourth owner.

The old style horn button of the 1953 Pre-A Porsche 356
The old style horn button of the 1953 Pre-A Porsche 356. These were originally rejected by Erwin Komenda in 1953, and were followed by a design where the background to the names ‘Porsche’ and ‘Stuttgart’ changed from a dark colour to gold, and the stallion and the stag’s antlers were thinner and more refined (© Mike Copperthite)

Mike picks up the story, “When the car arrived, it was in much worse condition than we expected. Initially, this all appeared to be a big mistake as we were told that the car was not worth restoring. But we weren’t going to give up without doing some further research.” Mike sent off for the Porsche COA (Certificate of Authenticity) and tracked down a copy of the Kardex from the factory, which revealed that the first owner was Paul van Antwerpen, who had purchased the car from Max Hoffman in Chicago.

Paul van Antwerpen driving #50064 during the Ice Races at Elkhart Lake, December 1953
Paul van Antwerpen driving #50064 during the Ice Races at Elkhart Lake, December 1953 (© Susan van Antwerpen)

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