|Kind of an interesting side
story regarding Leon Robertson:
"20+ years ago I was living
in South Sacramento and restoring a '59 Porsche 356A for my fiancee.
I had a neighbor around the corner that was DEEP into Model T's -- in the
course of a conversation with him one day he said his son knew a guy who
had a couple of old Porsches stuck in a warehouse, and wondered if I'd
like to meet him. Never one to turn down an
opportunity, I said sure;
a couple of weeks later, the fellow called (turned out to be Leon Robertson)
and we made arrangements to get together to look at his cars.
Leon had me meet him at the
gate of the old Sacramento city dump (!)-- he had apparantly run a sand
and gravel business on the Sacramento River for years, dredging aggregate
from the sandbars just downstream from what later became the California
State Fairgrounds location (Cal Expo) until he was shut down by the EPA
and California Water Management folks sometime in the early 70's; the land
he retained along the river wound up being surrounded
by the city landfill.
We drove across the landfill
site and down into a "hollow" along the river where there were several
small warehouse and shop buildings, a number of trucks and a couple of
old US Air Force ambulance busses (these were kind of unique in their own
way - they looked like school buses, but had squared off rears with two
big vertical doors - during the Vietnam war, the Air Force met medivac
planes with them, transferred stretchers from the planes to racks in the
busses and transported the wounded soldiers to hospitals).
Leon said he' d bought the busses at surplus intending to conver convert
them to car haulers just before his aggre- gate business got shut down
-- when the business went away, so did his racing budget.
Inside one of the buildings
were some very interesting items -- several shelves of random parts including
some 356 Porsche Carrera 4 cam stuff, a very intact Speedster body with
no running gear that Leon said he'd converted to Carrera running gear at
one point, then started converting back to normal pushrod stuff but never
finished, and a battered roadster that I didn't recognize at first.
The roadster turned out to be the REAL find.
Leon said he'd followed up
on an newspaper classified ad several years earlier for an early Porsche
5 speed transmission -- the seller said it was still in the car,
so he went to look at it. The car was far too old to have a 5 speed,
so Leon said he offered the guy a "few hundred dollars" for the whole car,
bought it and trailered it back to Sacramento. Long story short,
the car was one of less than a dozen and a half aluminum bodied 356 America
Roadsters that Porsche built in 1952 and 53 prior to starting Speedster
As fortune would have it,
there had been an article published a few months earlier in the Porsche
Club of America's club magazine (Panorama) that traced the history
of the America Roadsters, and identified all the known serial numbers (the
cars were not built in sequence, so the chassis numbers were scattered
through two years of cabriolet production). There was apparantly
some question as to exactly how many "production" cars were made, with
15 known serial numbers, reports of 16 cars built, and a few photos of
a couple of cars with some design discrepancies that might or might not
have been considered part of the run.
When I got back home from
Leon's shop, I dug out the magazine and looked up the chart -- Leon's America
Roadster was NOT on the list, and had a chassis number ONE digit above
the highest number listed - this was the "missing" 16th car!
The Roadster was in fairly
rough, lumpy condition (it had been raced for several years at some point),
was missing it's original engine and had had the windshield posts cut down,
but was otherwise essentially intact and virtually rust free. Even
as it sat, this was a hugely valuable car (even in 1980), and I knew that
there was no way I'd be able to afford to buy and restore it, so I called
Leon and brought him up to speed on what he had -- I later heard that the
car was sold, restored, and at some point in the last 10 years changed
hands for a price somewhere well into 6 figures.
I still have the photos I
took that day - I can scan 'em and send them along if you're interested......
(Please do!!! TM)
Barry J. Allen
Fair Oaks CA
PS - As you may know, George
Grinzewitsch ultimately became an EXTREMELY successful
Mercedes Benz dealer in
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