356 Registry - The Early Years
Jim Perrin - 356 Registry Club Historian and past PCA President
The 356 Registry was the second major 356 club that was founded in the U.S. What was the first you ask? The Porsche Club of America. In the '50s and up to the mid-'60s, attendees at the annual Parades saw only 356s of course, the only Porsche produced up to that time. However, that changed when Porsche started producing the new 911 model and subsequent models. By the early 1970s, when we went to a PCA Parade, we saw not only 356s, but also many 911s, 912s, and 914s. In addition, the 356 content in Panorama magazine had become substantially less because of the new models.
Another change that occurred with the introduction of the new models was the 356 parts situation. When a Porsche owner went to buy a new part for his car in1958 or 1962, the dealer parts department was completely focused on 356s. However, by the early 1970s, most of the dealer business was with the new models. Even worse, 356 parts in the factory-dealer pipeline were drying up. In 1971, I had two 356Cs and recognized that parts were getting harder to purchase from the dealers. I made up a long list of 356C parts and took it to my local dealer parts department. The parts manager groaned when he saw my list and told me that this order was going to be hard to complete. He was right! The parts dribbled in over many weeks. Some were the wrong parts, and some never showed up. On top of the preceding issues, there was relatively little written on 356s compared to the many references that are available today. This meant that a new 356 owner then did not have the resources (including 25 years of technical articles in 356 Registry magazine) which an owner today has.
All these preceding issues meant that the scene was ideal for the formation of a club focused on just the 356. Jerry Keyser was the individual who recognized this need. Jerry had a friend in college who owned a 356 and who gave him his first rides in a Porsche. Jerry told me he was very impressed, and after he got out of college he eventually bought his first Porsche, a white 356B coupe. He lived just outside Columbus, Ohio and went to a meeting of the local PCA region and found the members at that meeting all seemed to be interested in the newer models. Soon after, Jerry started advertising the formation of the new club and the rest is history. He was assisted in his early efforts by Vic Skirmants, who was compiling a list of the earliest 356 cars and their owners. The initial idea was to put out a club magazine. The magazine started small but both the membership numbers and the content of the magazines quickly grew.
But beyond just reading about the cars, people wanted to connect in a more immediate way. This need for an event that the members could come to was solved when Bob and Ginny Gummow volunteered to put on the first Holiday, held near the Gummow's home in Rockford, Illinois. The number of 356s that attended was relatively small; my recollection is that it was 15 or so. At the first Holiday, we were all outside with our cars socializing, and I suggested we line them up for photographs. We did so and these have been previously published in the Registry magazine. Everyone at the event had a great time, including Bob Gummow who found many new friends to listen to his many stories! By the time the weekend was half over, we were already talking about where to hold the next event. In the first few years we had several early Holidays in the East and Midwest. Meanwhile, Bob Raucher had been single-handedly building the West Coast membership. Bob suggested the club have a West Coast Holiday, which was held in 1977 in San Diego. This event was a great success, and it started our long tradition of having an East Coast and a West Coast Holiday each year. The Registry, along with the magazine and the Holidays, has continued to prosper and to be a focal point for 356 enthusiasts. In 2014 the club reached a milestone: its 40th anniversary. We look forward to many more decades of 356 enthusiasm.
Sometime in early January 1971, an ad appeared in Competition Press for a "Porsche 1948 LeMans Coupe" in Boulder Colorado, $2800; the price of a really good Speedster. The pictures that arrived on January 14th showed a very sad-looking, smashed up derelict of a car. Of course, I had to have it! Since I didn't have a trailer, I pulled off the SC's rear bumper and installed a borrowed, homemade tow hitch; 1" angle iron with a hole drilled for a tow ball. Luckily the '48 had a tow bar. On January 20th, I packed the wife Joyce and two-year-old Erik into the SC and headed west. We started out in medium snow, but that eventually stopped. The speed limit was 70 m.p.h., so 80 was an easy cruising speed. We reached 30 miles east of Omaha by nightfall. Arriving in Boulder late on the afternoon of the 21st, the car looked even worse than the pictures. All the parts were stripped off and dumped inside. The paint was gone, and the rear end was shoved in as well. I hooked it up and headed home.
So where is all this leading? Well, I started researching the alloy cars, as well as the early steel-bodied ones. I decided I really liked the funky split windshield body-bumper models, which led to trying to track these cars down and meet with other owners. I eventually had a letter published in Porsche Panorama and then in Autoweek; from there it just grew by word of mouth. I then sent a letter to Road & Track on December 17, 1973. They were kind enough to print it in the "Letters to the Editor" column in the April, 1974 issue, I had asked for responses from owners of all 356s through 1953 since about half the old cars are registered as one year newer, I figured that there were many 1952 cars titled 1953, so I'd have a better chance of catching them. At the time of the Road & Track letter I had over 90 cars listed. Shortly after the April issue of Road & Track came out (March, 1974), I received a letter from Jerry Keyser. Jerry had seen the R&T letter and wrote to tell me he had been thinking about a "national (international) register of all 356 types, primarily to preserve and perpetuate a "beautiful' experience". He envisioned a monthly newsletter, and eventually national or regional special events. I responded that his was an excellent idea, and I would be happy to help. I also sent him a copy of my "Vintage Register". Jerry went on to place an ad in the August issue of Road & Track and the rest is history. THANK YOU, JERRY! We are all the benefactors of your vision, and hard work.