CAMERON Healey is a seriously wealthy chap and one with great taste.
He made his fortune in the late 1970s as the founder of the Kettle brand of potato chips, then discovered the thrill of motorsport.
In subsequent years, he acquired and raced, a variety of Porsches and is said to be the German car company’s favourite chipmaker.
As one of many fans of the classic Porsche 356 across the globe, the genial Cameron stumbled upon a rather lovely example in 2009.
The car, converted to a Spyder and painted red, had had only a single owner since 1957.
Although the professionals knew it was a very early model, nothing prepared Healey for what he’d soon discover.
It turned out to be Porsche’s first 24 Hours of Le Mans winner.
This particular 356 traces its roots back to 1949, when production was in Gmünd, Austria.
The first coupes were made of aluminium, but later series production in Stuttgart switched to steel for a simpler manufacturing process.
In 1950, the original batch of 52 aluminium-bodied cars were finished, however.
One off them was the Porsche 356/2063, which would be one of a few to tackle the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Porsche was, in fact, the first and only German manufacturer to compete in the French classic race.
Charles Faroux, one of the ‘inventors’ and current race director of the Grand Prix d’Endurance les 24 Heures du Mans, teamed up with the French Porsche importer and racer Auguste Veuillet to convince Professor Ferdinand Porsche to enter one of his sports cars in the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans.
So Porsche fielded the 356 SL (Sport Light) “Gmünd-Coupe” with its streamlined aluminum body and covered wheels, nicknamed the “aluminium can” by the mechanics.
With its 1086 cc four-cylinder boxer engine delivering 34kW, the coupe achieved an impressive 160 km/h top speed.
The premiere was a resounding success: Veuillet and his friend Edmond Mouche won the class 751 to 1100 cc and received the flag as 20th overall.
Their Porsche covered a distance of 2840.65km without any problem, averaging 118.36 km/h.
Class victory secured a grid spot for the following year.
It set the scene for ongoing success.
The No. 063 Porsche 356 was next used to set some international records and competed in more events.
Months later, the car was among a handful exported to the US.
Along the way, Porsche and its owners lost track of the car’s historical significance.
The car traded hands a few times before a man named Chuck Forge bought it in 1957.
He raced it just as previous owners did after another owner had the top removed to save weight.
In 1981, the car received a full restoration.
Although Porsche said the work was very well done, it was a new shade of red and obviously missed the closed roof it was assembled with.
When Forge died in 2009, Healey bought the car, and soon noticed strange inconsistencies, such as taillight swaps over the years.
With help from Porsche, he dug through the archives and discovered everything matched up. This was indeed No. 036, the car that had won the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans!
With that knowledge, Healey restored the car to its original look, and even had a new hardtop laser-cut and fitted.
With the newly authentic restoration complete, Healey does with the car what it was intended to do: drive.
And eat potato chips.
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