Porsche’s original 356 design was quite fetching, especially considering the comparative frumpyness of its contemporaries. It was a compact, sleek, and rounded design in a world of excessive body lines and tail fins. Imagine pulling up next to a 1956 Cadillac in your 1956 Porsche and you’ll understand why the 356 is still a well-loved shape. Back in 1957, though, SoCal Kustom culture was in full swing and Dean Jeffries decided to build this ugly duckling as proof that he was capable of more than just pretty paint.
In the late 1950s, Dean Jeffries had already built a name for himself as a paint specialist, having done a lot of custom work for George Barris. In 1957 he was perhaps best known for being the hand-lettering master who painted James Dean’s ‘Lil Bastard. He was later well known for building the Monkeemobile and the “Black Beauty” from TV’s The Green Hornet. This 356 was Jeffries’ opportunity to prove that he was capable of Kustom work more than just paint. And it worked.
Jeffries had already owned a Porsche 356A and loved the unique Porsche shape. He traded that lightly modified car for this Carrera model with a more powerful and more captivating four-cam engine. He immediately set about extending the front fenders and frenching in the headlights and taillights. He designed a set of Mercedes 300SL-style rear cabin vents, which were implemented by Bill Hines, and the interior work was carried out by Eddie Martinez. It’s still quite clear that this is a German Porsche, but nearly every panel was given a touch of SoCal.
In 1962 Jeffries sold the car off to a man named Albert Nussbaum, who took the car to Florida. As it would come to pass, Nussbaum was a notorious bank robber, at the time ranked in the top ten most wanted by the FBI. After he was caught, the car passed undocumented through the hands of other similarly unsavory characters. At some point in this era of the car’s life, the fiddly original four-cam engine was removed and replaced with a standard 356 engine.
In 1971, a 19-year-old Jack Walter purchased the car primarily as a fan of Dean Jeffries’ work. From 1971 through today, Walter has owned and maintained the car. In 2008 he set about a comprehensive restoration of the kustom Porsche, including finding a replacement four-cam engine for the car, which is in the engine bay today. In 2009 the Porsche was shown at the Amelia Island Concours D’elegance where Dean Jeffries was being honored. According to those in attendance, Jeffries laid eyes on his work for the first time since 1962, and proclaimed it “Bitchin” through tears.
This is actually the second attempt to sell this car, as it was available at the Gooding & Co. sale in 2016 where it went unsold as no bids reached the reserve. Later in August, the Jeffries customized Porsche will again cross the auction block in Bonhams’ Pebble Beach sale, with a pre-auction estimate of between $450,000 and $600,000. This is said to be the original 356 Outlaw, having inspired the likes of modern-day Porsche custom builder Rod Emory. If you want a piece history at the apex of SoCal Hot Rod culture and SoCal Porsche culture, this is the one and only.