Proof of life
His passion for patina led Ron Szasszer to a battle worn 356 Speedster. And researching its history brought him close to the man who raced it.
Until 1974, racing royalty such as Mario Andretti, Roger Penske and Paul Newman drove here. And Jackie Stewart won the 12-hour race in a Lotus Cortina in 1964. “This race track closed down shortly after I retired from motorsport,” chuckles Edward Parlett, an 80-year-old privateer racer and veteran of this circuit.
Parlett obtained his competition license at Marlboro, took part in his first race here and would go on to twice win its six-hour endurance events. Old pictures reveal them gathered around the 356 A 1600 Super Speedster that was Parlett’s long-standing and last racing car – and the car Ron Szasszer now owns.
Repairing instead of studying Later, while at university, Szasszer ran a workshop with his friend Jens Wilke in an old station building in the east of Hamburg, rebuilding Volkswagens for people in the East who desperately wanted to own something other than a Trabant after German reunification. The pair shut the workshop in 1996, by which time Szasszer was driving a Land Rover Series III. “I have always had a weak spot for patina, for racing history, for starting numbers on doors,” he recalls of that moment of sofa surfing, “and somehow I must have been looking for that.” Eventually he came across a dealer in Austria selling this 356 A 1600 Super Speedster, built in 1957, in its original racing trim and orange paintwork. “There was hardly any description for it, and there was also no price,” says Szasszer. There was just a comment that it had competed in many major races on the East Coast of the US and that it once belonged to a driver called Ed Parlett. For me, it was love at first sight. He immediately made a down-payment. The modernisation of the 356 A 1600 Super Speedster Once the not inconsiderable sum had been transferred, the dealer fetched the car from America and Szasszer then collected it from Austria. It was impossible to avoid a certain amount of modernisation: the original racing bucket seat was replaced, space was created for a passenger, the large roll bar was also removed and the old fuel bladder made way for a metal tank. The wind deflector was also replaced by the original windscreen and Szasszer tracked down the old magnesium wheels, still with 50-year-old Goodyear rubber on them, which had been used by Parlett in the 1960s.
I was totally fascinated,” says Szasszer. “Parlett started racing at the beginning of the 60s,” Szasszer explains. Following his mother’s advice, he had already bought a used 356 for everyday driving in 1959 as a student. Later, while working in the medical equipment industry, he got to know Nagle Bridwell, one of the Philly gang, who lured him into racing. Bridwell stopped racing in 1965 and let Parlett have his 356 Speedster.
Although not necessarily a natural talent behind the wheel, Parlett tinkered with things down to the very last detail. Badges in the car reveal that Parlett and his Porsche were the winners of the Barrel of Fun Rally in the PCA Chesapeake Region on 21 September 1963, as well as participants in the National Races on the Steel City International Raceway near Detroit at the end of September 1967 and the Appalachian National Rally in the Philadelphia Region in 1969. Szasszer met up with Ed Parlett Parlett retired from racing in 1975 and sold the car to TWA driver Jack Klinges in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who stored it in his barn until 2008 when Franz Wittner from Carcollection brought it to Austria. Szasszer finally returned it to the road in 2011 and frequently met up with Parlett during this time to better understand its history. In 2012, the race veteran gave Szasszer his helmet, as well as all the car’s old invoices and his detailed race records. Sadly, Parlett died the following year but Szasszer has done much since to ensure his memory lives on. Parlett retired from racing in 1975 and sold the car to TWA driver Jack Klinges in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who stored it in his barn until 2008 when Franz Wittner from Carcollection brought it to Austria. Szasszer finally returned it to the road in 2011 and frequently met up with Parlett during this time to better understand its history. In 2012, the race veteran gave Szasszer his helmet, as well as all the car’s old invoices and his detailed race records.
Technical specifications of the 356 A 1600 Super Speedster
Engine: Four-cylinder boxer Displacement: 1.582 cm3 Maximum power: 55 kW/75 hp at 5,000 rpm Maximum torque: 117 Nm at 3,700 rpm Maximum speed: 175 km/h O-100 km/h: 14.5 s
Feb 19, 2021 at 03:50