Less is more. Porsche took this axiom to heart when conceiving its first niche car, the 356 Speedster. In 1954, the company unveiled a simple, race-worthy roadster available for less than $3,000. With more than 4,822 examples sold, it became the sports car manufacturer's first commercial success. And with it, the Speedster legend was born.
In 1989 Porsche introduced a new interpretation of the Speedster, this time based on the 911 Turbo widebody chassis. The new 911 Speedster featured a low, raked windshield and an elemental roof that hid neatly under twin Speedster humps. Its good looks enabled Porsche to sell 2,065 examples. But from a driver's perspective, it was noticeably heavier and less agile than a base 911 Cabriolet.
In 1993 Zuffenhausen revived not only the Speedster name and look from the 1989 incarnation but also the intent by faithfully returning to the "less is more" philosophy. Built in the wake of the hardcore 1992 964 RS, this final interpretation was to be the most aggressively focused Speedster of all. Zuffenhausen's newest was an austere, lightweight, open-top driver's car. In North America it was priced at $66,000, comfortably $10,000 less than a base 964 Carrera 2 Cabriolet.
Unadorned by extravagant wheel arch flares and with no visible spoilers, the 964 Speedster seethed with pent-up aggression-classic 911 but with a more menacing edge. That air of aggression was accentuated on dark-colored cars as with this Slate Gray example.
With its top closed it looked slightly hunched and kind of awkward. But the top embodied the Speedster's creed. Its operation was manual and it was an unlined, lightweight contraption.
I've driven and worked on many 911s over the years, including the '89 Speedster, but never a 964. Just 936 of these were built, including 14 right-hand-drive and 20 widebody examples. So while there isn't such a thing as an "ordinary" 964 Speedster, this one has more historic provenance than any other: It is the very last one built. It was ordered by Hong Kong businessman Kevin Yeung, and its build commission was approved by Porsche AG on November 2, 1993.
It's critical to remember that at the time Zuffenhausen's main production line was undergoing a dramatic revamp under the leadership of Wendelin Wiedeking, who had just returned in 1991 as head of production before being promoted to CEO in 1993 with the company at the brink of bankruptcy.
North America was Porsche's most important market and Frederick Schwab, PCNA boss, was keen to bring the 993 over as soon as possible to drum up much-needed sales. But first he had to ensure that all remaining 964s (including Speedsters and Turbo 3.6s) were either delivered or allocated before the first 993s arrived.
Zuffenhausen had planned to sell 3,000 964 Speedsters but only received orders for 900 when the order books closed in April 1993. Receiving orders for 13 right-hand-drivers meant the company was unable to break even, let alone earn a profit, and officially all production of RHD Speedsters ceased by June 1993. By that time, Porsche AG agreed to accept this exigent 964 Speedster commission; the main factory line was already working at full capacity to produce as many 993 coupes as possible. As a result, Porsche Exclusive/Sonderwunsch (Special Wish) was commissioned to produce the car. Built by hand at Werk 1 alongside a 964 America GS 3.8 Hardtop Roadster (commissioned by a New Yorker and scheduled to become the last 964 produced), this commission was earmarked as the last 964 Speedster. Legendary Sonderwunsch chief Rolf Sprenger encouraged his client to seize the opportunity to create a truly unique car-an ultra-leicht Sonderwunsch Speedster.