AirMighty Magazine Feature
Words and Photography: Niels Timmerman
AirMighty Photo Shoot (Maple Ridge, BC)
At the age of 15, Canadian teenager Paul Cormie fell in love with the beautifully curvaceous shape of the Porsche 356 Speedster. He knew that it would take a while before he'd have one parked in his driveway, but eventually, he knew he'd be cruising in one.
The years passed and by the time he was finally ready to buy one, 17 years had elapsed before his garage and his bank balance was big enough and he had enough spare time to focus his attention on such a project. When you live in British Columbia, there aren't too many 356 Speedster replica projects available. Sure, he could buy a beautiful fully-assembled turn-key car from Intermeccanica in Vancouver, but Paul wanted to build his car himself.
After chasing up some leads of available kits in the USA, he decided to look closer to home. "I ended up placing a wanted ad on Craigslist,' he says, "because importing one from the US seemed trickier than I had imagined, especially the paperwork. Getting the car registered in Canada would be the problem."
It didn't take long before Paul found one: "The day after I placed my wanted ad, I got an email from a woman who lived just 12Km from my house. She told me that her husband had an unfinished replica 356 Speedster kit taking up space in their garage and that she'd love to get rid of it!" Needless to say, Paul jumped in his car and bought it immediately, before they could change their minds.
He was so excited, he didn't even get around to talking them down on the price. "I simply couldn't hide my excitment, finding the needle in the haystack killed all my negotiating skills, and right on my doorstep too. When they pulled open the garage door I took one look and shouted, 'I'LL TAKE IT!'"
Having previously owned several Beetles and a Karmann Ghia, a Volkswagen held no secrets from Paul, so the Beetle-based kit car was going to be a piece of cake to finish. "I knew the Speedster was going to be Mango Green, so I documented the build on the Speedsterowners.com forum and quickly it got nicknamed 'Mango Smoothie'. Having wifi and a computer in his garage helped him figure out problems whenever he got stuck.
The project was based on a 1971 IRS Beetle floor pan that had been appropriately shortened in a jig to align with the Speedster body, which is much shorter than a Beetle's. The bodywork was easy to sort; he simply dropped it off at Brian Shkuratoff at Custom Car Colors body shop and he took care of everything.
As construction progressed, more and more tricks were added. Paul loves the fabrication process and decided to build in his own Airride system. He narrowed the IRS by 33mm to be able to fit wider tyres, he re-welded the rear trailing arms three times till he was happy with the alignment. The spring plates were notched 8mm and he fitted two Contitech 2500 air bags. Up front, an adjustable 3.5" narrowed beam was fitted, along with a pair of Monroe Air Shocks and the beam's centre lock was modified so that if the air system ever failed, the car wouldn't collapse onto the ground.
Being fond of beefy engines with masses of torque, Paul opted for a Type 4 motor. He fitted a GE case (Ex-Late Bay Window 2.0L ) with a set of 96mm Keith Black pistons and European Motor Works' cast iron cylinders, which gave him a 2,056cc flat4 breathing through 1.8 Porsche 914 cylinder heads and dual 44IDF twin-choke Webers. For cooling purposes, an upright fiberglass cowl shrouded the fan. An avid fabricator and perfectionist, he wasn't about to cut corners. Let's take the roof, for example. Paul bought one down in Mexico, and when it finally showed up six weeks later, it was so dodgy he decided to make his own!
The seats have heating elements incorporated into them, and the LED warning lights and switches are neatly tucked away under the dash, as well as so many more small things that you don't find on the average pastiche 356. He's even built-in a centralised fire extinguisher system similar to a race car, but let's hope he'll never need that. Then there's the luggage rack: he constructed that himself too! Paul's Speedster is a 36-month labour of love, and it shows. Just take a look at all those fine details he's incorporated into this project; it's the fruition of a lifelong ambition.