Every now and then, something really special emerges from the aether and goes up for auction, and I think this is one of those times. In August at Monterey, Mecum Auctions is going to be putting on the block a very rare (one of three) 1955 Porsche Tempo Mikafa Sport Camper. In case you, like 99.99 percent of the human population of Earth, are unfamiliar with this vehicle, imagine an embiggened Volkswagen Type 2 bus with Art Deco-like detailing and a Porsche 356 engine driving the, shockingly, front wheels. It’s weird and glorious, and, very likely, stunningly slow.
Let’s break down that long name a bit— It’s a Porsche because it was (originally) Porsche-powered, with a 1500cc flat-four from the 356, making about 60 horsepower or so.
The “Tempo” part comes from the Tempo company, who, right after the war, was building trucks and vans using Volkswagen engines behind the front seat, driving the front wheels. That’s the chassis this thing is built on, and why the engine is in a little cabinet just behind the front seats:
The original Porsche 356 engine has been replaced with what appears to be a Volkswagen 1600cc flat-four with twin carbs—I have the same basic setup in my ‘73 Beetle, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never once thought, man, I sure wish I was hauling a refrigerator and bathroom and stove with this engine! Still, the twin carb setup should give it roughly equivalent power to the original Porsche engine, somewhere around 60 HP.
The Mikafa part of the name refers to the former aircraft manufacturer that transitioned to making camping trailers after the war, and offered motorhomes, usually with Austin engines. When Mikafa decided to source some Porsche engines for their motorhomes, they added the “Sport” part to the name, both because the 356 powerplant had more oomph than the Austin one, and as an act of beautiful optimism.
This camper is absolutely charming. The front end hints at its Porsche innards with big round Hella headlights from the 356, along with Porsche badging. There’s plenty of Deco-style linear trim bits to give the thing a certain Flash Gordon land-rocket quality, and the interior, full of warm honey-colored wood paneling and stripy fabrics, is very well appointed, with a fully functional bathroom, refrigerator, stove, and kitchen sink.
The cab up front has a dash with a mix of Porsche 356 and VW instruments and switchgear, and there appears to be an Eberspächer gas heater in the passenger footwell.
It’s not in perfect shape by any stretch, but it appears well-maintained and usable, with just enough patina and wear to make me hope that whoever buys this amazing thing will actually use it.
I’m kind of a sucker for campers like this, but it’s likely this will go for more money than I could possible generate even if I parted myself out and sold off all the useful bits. The Austin-powered one from 2017 went for over $130,000, and with the added cachet of air-cooled Porschitude, I suspect this one will go for as much or more.
If anyone reading this ends up as the new owner, I’m just going to ask right now if we can feature it in an upcoming episode of Jason Drives, because, well, you know why.