There was a time when the rusted hulk of an old car dragged out of the woods was worth nothing more than what the recycling yard would pay for scrap. No more. As values for desirable classic cars continue to climb, and demand strengthens, what once were considered hopeless wrecks have become solid candidates for restoration.
Just ask the people at Stoddard NLA, well-known by owners of vintage Porsches as a supplier of repair and restoration parts. Evidence that more battered 356s and 911s were being brought back from the dead was deduced by Stoddard from the uptick in sheet-metal body parts and trim being sold.
So Stoddard decided to host a contest to celebrate the trend of rescuing the decrepit remains of Porsche 356s, the German automaker’s original rear-engine cars. The optimistic title of the contest: “We Can Save Them All.”
The idea of the contest is to choose the nastiest 356 project that has been picked up by an ambitious restorer unfazed by rust and decay, or even by serious accident damage. The winning restorer gets a mountain of free parts and supplies from Stoddard to help finish the project.
“Inspired by the recent barn, field and, yes, even lake finds, Stoddard wants to help restore the most challenging 356 project,” the Ohio company says in the contest description.
Per Schroeder, Stoddard’s marketing pro and contest manager, said the competition came about because of the trend toward approaching any 356 as a potential diamond in the rough, no matter how awful its condition.
“What we’re noticing is that more and more people are dragging out the crappiest and crustiest cars,” Schroeder said. “It’s surprising what people are finding restorable now verses five years ago, and it’s awesome. We’re just so thrilled to see that.
“Essentially, we’re a business but it’s also a passion. We love the old Porsches, we love the 356s, and we love seeing these cars being dragged out of barns and ponds and wherever and being restored to concours perfection.
“It’s something we wanted to support and celebrate with the contest.”
The contest is now down to the finalists, with the so-called “Dirty Dozen” remaining for voting by members of the 356 Registry, the national club for owners of the early-model Porsches. The voting is being conducted on the Registry’s website.
The contestants are vying for an initial prize of $5,000 in sheet-metal parts – fenders, hoods, doors, floors and such – to replace rust damage. Once the winning car has been painted, Stoddard will present another $2,500 worth of additional restoration parts to complete the project.
The only thing that the company asks in return in that they get regular updates regarding the progress of the renovation that can be shared with the 356 Registry and Stoddard members.
The voting will be completed Friday, leaving three remaining final contestants vying for the prize.
“We had 34 entries by the deadline (in April), and we’ve narrowed them down to 12,” Schroder said. “We were supposed to narrow them down to three but, frankly, I couldn’t decide which ones were the worst. So we said, OK, let’s go with 12.
“We picked them based upon their back story and obviously how bad the cars were. And if we thought the car would actually get restored. We basically used our judgment in that case.”
The dozen cars range from working projects in restoration shops that are being repaired to terrible-looking basket cases hunkered in yards and woods. Rust is rampant, the bane of the simple unibody 356s. One 356 has a tree growing out of its empty engine compartment, although that entry was recently pulled from the contest voluntarily by its owner, who has sold the project to another potential restorer.
All this is fertile ground for Stoddard.
“We at Stoddard have been involved with the 356 market from the beginning,” Schroeder said. “The company was started in1957 by Chuck Stoddard, and his whole deal was to make available what became unavailable from Porsche.”
The parts company has around 20,000 different bits and pieces available for a variety of Porsches, he added, with an inventory of about 600,000 parts in a 20,000-square-foot warehouse in Ohio.
“We have a lot of parts for these old cars,” Schroeder said. “People know that they can restore just about anything under the sun.”
Schroeder said the response to the contest from 356 Registry members has been strong and the company is considering doing another contest next year, possibly on early 911 projects. There is also consideration of opening voting to the general public.
The ultimate payoff, he added, will be when the winning 356 is fully restored to its former glory.
“Obviously, we would like to see the car completed,” Schroeder said. “We’d like to see the value of what we are putting into the contest by actually putting a car on the show field.”
To check out The Dirty Dozen and read their back stories, see the Stoddard contest website.