By now you’ve likely seen the recent Jay Leno’s Garage episode in which Jay goes over a strange 356-meets-987 creation built by West Coast Customs. While watching that video, I found myself with more questions than answers and needed to figure out exactly how this car came to be — and whether or not the story presented in the video held up.
To get to the bottom of it all, we’ll have to rewind to a little over a year ago when I first caught wind of this project. I was then a longtime employee of Stoddard NLA LLC, one of the main suppliers of restoration components for Porsche 356 and early 911 projects. We’d been roped into crazy projects before, supplying components to an ill-advised 356 project on Chip Foose’s Overhaulin’. When the owner of the company told me that we’d be working with West Coast Customs on an upcoming project for a celebrity, my initial thoughts ran the gamut from “Oh no, this could be horrible” to “Cool, some extra commission income.” Then he began to show me some photographs and the horror set in.
Not only was this a massive project, it involved my most feared form of project car: the Hat Car. In this case, it was a relatively modern Porsche Boxster wearing a 356 body like a hat. WCC had plans to throw the Boxster and 356 shell in a blender and come out on the other side with a workable project. I was immediately a skeptic, but it wasn’t my job to be skeptical.
Clarification: What year is the chassis actually from?
As you may have noticed, this, *ahem,* abomination is available for bidding at the Las Vegas Barrett-Jackson auction, where it is listed as a “1965 Porsche 356 Custom Convertible.” The listing goes on to state that it’s a 2008 Porsche Cayman chassis with a 2.7L and a five-speed automatic. The problem is, there was no 2008 2.7L automatic Cayman, and I distinctly recall WCC labeling the donor car a Boxster. The Boxster/Cayman distinction is mostly inconsequential because they’re effectively the same chassis, but this just shows they have no idea what they’re talking about. In fact, in this Instagram post, they change the year again to say it’s a 2010 Boxter (sic), and in this one, they say again that the car has a Boxster Chassis.
For those not initiated in Porsche, 2008 was the year that Porsche introduced the brand new MA1-architecture engine with direct fuel injection and no pesky intermediate shafts to go wrong. Furthermore, 2008 was the first year of Porsche’s glorious dual-clutch transmission, the PDK. It’s a drastic step forward from the M97 engine that was a development of the engine they put into service in 1997 and the traditional torque converter-style “Tiptronic” transmission.
The shifter in the center console of this car is clearly a Tiptronic unit, and the shot of the engine shows an M97 intake runner design rather than the slightly different MA1 style. Combined with this shot of the car in progress, we can definitively say that this car was a Boxster (you can still see the windshield frame in this photo), and combined with the drivetrain information, it’s likely a 2007.
The basis of West Coast Customs’ restomod, apparently a 1964 or 1965 356C — a desirable model in very rough shape.
Clarification: What kind of 356 was used for this project?
I’d seen these photos before through internal work emails, but none were ever made public until the Jay Leno video was released. Based on the more squared-off front trunk opening and the disc brake wheels, this is either a 1964 or 1965 Porsche 356C, of which about 13,500 were built. It is a desirable model, thanks to its disc brakes and more tractable engine, but this one was essentially a basket case and they aren’t particularly rare. While a chassis lost forever is still lost, this project, at least, didn’t use up a nice one.
For some reason, one that most likely involves a lot of ignorance, the project manager chose this version of the 356 for this project, even though the car they were trying to emulate was a much earlier 356A Speedster. Because of this, Stoddard was tasked with supplying WCC with an A-style set of exterior body panels, including a hood, fenders, quarter panels, and front nose, as well as earlier style bumpers, which they filled in and chromed for some reason.
With all of those panels in hand, they then had to set about cutting, stretching, and reassembling the panels to fit the Boxster’s much wider shoulders. This car, as completed, is a full 8 inches wider than a standard 356C. Admittedly, this work was very well executed, using all steel construction and likely a serious amount of prep to not look awful once it was painted.
Another look at the basis of WCC’s restomod project. Again, the 356 was in pretty rough shape.
Clarification: Who was it built for?
From the very beginning of my involvement, however limited it may have been, I was told that this wildly convoluted project was built for and bankrolled by popular Canadian music artist Justin Bieber. The story we were told was that Bieber had initially fallen in love with the Porsche 356 Speedster look when he had one featured in one of his music videos. Since that day, he’d allegedly wanted a 356 Speedster but didn’t know how to drive a stick shift and didn’t want to deal with the many issues a classic car presents, like oil leaks and carburetor tuning. Henceforth we internally referred to the car as the “Biebster” for obvious reasons. I had no reason to believe I was being lied to then, and I still believe this car was built for Bieber.
You can see a gorgeous white Speedster in Bieber’s 2011 holiday-themed video “Mistletoe” that helps back up the story.
We’re not exactly sure why West Coast would feel the need to hide Bieber’s involvement in the project or why they would go to the trouble of making up a “married with kids” owner to further the fabrication. In any case, it seems he didn’t particularly care for the work done and never took delivery of the car. Maybe because he’s used to supercars, this decade-old Porsche with 241 hp and a seven-second 0-60 time wasn’t shouty enough for him?
When Jay asks Ryan, the owner of West Coast Customs, whether this car was a single-grille or a double-grille car, he answers that it was a single grille. It’s simple to tell from this photograph that isn’t the case. There is just so much about this build that is obscured by smoke and mirrors.
Build photos show that, despite claims that this restomod was built out of a ‘single grille’ 356, the project started with a double-grille car — one of the many mysteries and inconsistencies of the build.
Clarification: Why was the pedal box extended?
Another lie, or perhaps a half-truth, from Ryan about this car is the fact that the pedal box had to be extended into the front trunk to fit a taller man. This seems to be another count against Bieber being the owner, but it just doesn’t make sense. I am personally 6-foot-2 and fit in a Boxster just fine. In fact, I own a 1997 model and drive it regularly without problem.
So, with Bieber being a scant 5-foot-9, why would he need a pedal-box extension to fit into the car? Well, thanks to a passage from the Mecum auction description, we know the car required “a 9-inch section removal from the chassis to accommodate the shorter-wheelbase 356 Coupe body”. If you cut 9 inches out of the passenger compartment, not even the shortest of people would fit in the driver’s seat.
Clarification: What do we think of it?
Just in case you were thinking about having a 356 body put on a Boxster chassis, maybe just don’t do that instead. Allegedly over 3,000 labor hours went into the construction of this car, and that’s 3,000 hours of time humanity will never recover. That’s not to say that this is a particularly poorly crafted car; it actually looks like some decent work went into making this car nice inside.
It was listed at the Mecum auction in Monterey earlier this year, but it obviously did not sell. With a pre-auction estimate of $275,000 to $350,000, we’re guessing that WCC has a ridiculously high reserve on this car. Considering that neither a real 356 nor a normal Boxster would go for anything close to this exorbitant price, we’re not surprised they’re not getting the bids they want. A 2.7-liter Boxster with a Tiptronic is worth between $10,000 and $20,000, and surely we’d rather have one of those than this thing.