The Brief History and Restoration of the Dean Jeffries-Customized 1956 Porsche 356 Carrera

This 1956 Porsche 356 Carrera was the subject of a restoration that began in 2007 by its current custodian, Jack Walter. The rare Type-547 4 cam sports car has had a pretty colorful history beginning in 1957 when Dean Jeffries rather unscrupulously obtained it and gave it a wild customization while working for the notorious George Barris. As a painter and pin striper at Barris Kustoms in Lynwood, California, he was involved in the build of many famous TV and movie star cars of the day, including the Monkeemobile and the Green Hornet, and he even did the paintwork on James Dean’s “Little Bastard” 550 Spyder. Another notable couple of projects included the respraying of Shelby’s very first Cobra (CSX 2000) on several different occasions to make it appear like he had more than just that one example when making the auto show rotations. Carroll’s payment was in the form of a 289 Cobra V8 engine! Wanting to branch off on his own, Jeffries built this Carrera with the intention of it being a showcase of what he was capable of beyond just paint. He began the project by stripping the car down to its bare metal shell, a brave move considering it was still practically brand new at the time. His work rightfully earned him a place in many car magazines of the period and once again more recently when it was restored back to how it appeared when on the cover of the October 1959 issue of Rod & Custom…


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Below, Jeffries is seen with his Carrera in its originally customized configuration.
1Jack Walter has had the car since 1971. He first ran across it after his best friends sister purchased it from the mechanic of her ailing Fiat 124, a guy who was down and out on his luck and looking for a quick $1,100 to settle a gambling debt. Before he was finished with it, though, he did a nice number to it by rear ending a Ford pickup truck.28
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None of them knew of the cars notoriety in some circles, not only for the Jeffries/Barris Kustoms or show circuit connection but also because it had been purchased from Dean in 1962 by a bank robber who had (unsurprisingly) paid cash on the spot at full asking price. The next two pictures below show how Jeffries had repainted it in 50 coats of gold paint before selling it.
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The FBI later tracked him down in Florida but he was able to somehow sneak away, although without his Porsche that he had to leave behind. While on the lamb it sat in his driveway for years as he was searched for, caught and then later awaited trial. Since then, the Jeffries custom Carrera ended up in a local Orlando newspaper in 1968 when it was purchased by a father/son team (2 photos below) for $1,000, although it is not clear at this point whether its history was known or not. What is known, though, is that before he sold it to his son a year later that he swapped the 115 hp 1500 cc 4 cam engine with a standard 1600 cc motor, we’re thinking most likely because it had been upgraded by Jeffries with RS spec and possibly he thought it might be a bit much for a 16 year old.
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In any case, the duo didn’t have it in their possession very long before trading it in on another car at a Porsche Audi dealership, where the previously mentioned mechanic bought it and took it to Atlanta, giving it the unfortunate face lift that Jack acquired it with.
203The poor former winner of 30 first place custom car shows nationwide had been through the ringer and back, but it still had its original trademark customization that included functional roof vents inspired by the Von Dutch flame painted Mercedes 300SL Gullwing (see sidebar photos), Lucas Flamethrower lights installed in the 8″ extended front end and custom narrow taillights.
12It had also been customized back in the day with the removal of its bumpers and all its exterior chrome (apart from the custom rear deck grill), Maltese Crosses added over the torsion bar covers and chrome engine compartment components, as well as thick sound and heat insulation installed. The interior had received the same amount of attention by Jeffries, beginning with black and silver pleated goat skin upholstery, a custom headliner and custom dashboard fixtures.13Jack’s first restoration began in the early 70’s, not long after discovering its fascinating history and reuniting it with a Carrera 4 cam engine with “Sebring” exhaust.
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Below, many layers of paint can be seen being scraped off it in 1973 using aircraft stripper. His father provided the Lockheed Jetstar (C-5A) white epoxy enamel paint.
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36 37Sometime in the late 70’s he thought it would be a good idea to put a pointy Cobra style stripe on it, a last minute decision that he later regretted. Mr. Jeffries lovingly and appropriately referred to it as the “goofy spear stripe”, something that we can all agree on here.
38 43 45Then again in 2007 it was restored back to its original glory. Jack rebuilt the engine, transmission, suspension and brakes while Eurocraft Classics handled the body and paint donated by Glasurit. Dean Jeffries was even consulted on the proper color matching.
48 3 48 2 48 1 48 12 48 20 48 22 49 56 71 74 77Jack installed its new brakes, tie rods, Koni steering damper, dual master cylinder and trunk insulation, along with shocks, headlights, horns and rewired lighting.
86 87 88 90 92 96 105 115 116 118A fresh coat of Candy Apple Red paint over the taillight lenses, just as it had been originally customized and a set of new Michelins are the final touches for its appearance at the 2011 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, where it was reunited with the custom Aztec that the bank robber’s partner in crime bought at the same time as this Carrera. 121 120 127 1The modifications that Dean Jeffries performed, whether or not they may be considered sacrilegious to some, are unarguably unique and a sizable chunk of Southern Californian custom car culture and history. A big thumbs up to the individualization involved during its original build and more current restoration.
127 128 129 130 139 137 143 146Be sure to see the full history of the car in detail HERE, and its current owner’s website HERE.
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