Meet the Brand-New 1959 Porsche 356 Zagato

Photograph Courtesy The Wall Street Journal

When's the last time you needed to get the okay from a major car manufacturer to make a new car? If you are couchbuilder Zagato, and you came across 60-year-old plans for a hand-built 356 body, that's exactly what you do.

And then you build nine of them.

Built on an actual 356 chassis, the nine examples retain all engine and transmission components, with the body formed in hand-hammered aluminum body.

This example—number nine of nine—is Benjamin Clymer's, and he was contacted by the Wall Street Journal on how the Porsche 356 Zagatos came to be. You can read the whole story below:

Benjamin Clymer of New York City, 37, founder and CEO of Hodinkee, a lifestyle and luxury watch website and e-commerce platform, on his Porsche 356 Zagato [pronounced Zah-GAT-oh] Coupe, as told to A.J. Baime.

When I was young, I was obsessed with the Volkswagen Beetle, and as I matured, a desire for speed and style crept into my psyche. My passion for the Beetle turned into a love for the Porsche 356, essentially a more interesting and faster version. (Both cars sprung from the imagination of Ferdinand Porsche and his son Ferry, decades ago.)

At the same time, around 2015, I bought my first coachbuilt car, a Lancia with a custom body made by the Italian firm Zagato. A coachbuilder is a company that builds bodies for cars in traditional ways. My Lancia, for example, has a right door that is half-an-inch shorter than the left. It was handmade. I love things that are made by artisans. Hand-wound watches, handmade glasses, shoes, suits…that is what my business is all about.

Four years ago, I was at a watch show in Basel, Switzerland, and the coachbuilding firm Zagato was there exhibiting car designs. I met with them and they had this project they wanted to share with me. That is when I learned about the 356 Zagato Coupe.

The story goes that in 1958, Zagato built a lightweight, open-bodied 356 for a gentleman racer named Claude Storez. Storez crashed it and was killed, and the car then disappeared. Around 2013, Zagato found out that they had designed a coupe version of this open car, and they still had the drawings in their archives. The car had never been built. With Porsche’s blessing, Zagato set about building nine versions of this coupe, exactly as they would have done were it still the late 1950s. For a guy who cares as much about how something is built as the object itself, this was a dream come true.

My car is No. 9 of the nine built. Essentially, Zagato took a 1959 Porsche 356, removed the body, and kept the engine, the transmission, and the chassis. They hand-hammered this new lightweight, aluminum body. The car is lower and lighter than a normal Porsche 356. I went to Milan to choose the color and the leather. I flew out a second time to make sure I fit in the car, like the second fitting of a handmade suit.

It took almost three years to build this car and it cost roughly what a new Porsche 911 GT2 RS would cost. In the summer of 2019, I began putting it through its paces. I keep it in Bedford, N.Y., and when I need to escape reality, I go up there and drive. Last fall I sent the car to Los Angeles, met some friends, and drove some 1,200 miles.

This car is the culmination of all that I love. It was made the old-fashioned way, but it was made today and it was made for me.

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View comments on the CMS forums
Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
2/5/20 11:15 a.m.

A quick search tells me the price of new 911 GT2 RS is approximately $293,200.

jr02518 HalfDork
2/5/20 5:52 p.m.

We found our selves in Carmel this last August on a weekend get a way, not as it turns out for what everyone else was there for.  Stopping in town for a walk we spotted a car on the corner.  The car in person is very striking.  The detail of the rear quarter window to the body shape, it flows.


The clues of it origin are there to see, but the execution of the details is spectacular. 

The seats offer an answer to another project I will be working on, they are just "right".


I am a sucker for a set of hips, yes I am.

The exhaust system would look great on a Karmann Ghia, or heck, any Bug!


Hasbro SuperDork
2/5/20 6:05 p.m.

In a very good way it looks like a progeny of a 365 and a 550. And a 911 aunt. And an Italian uncle.

californiamilleghia Dork
2/6/20 11:13 a.m.

Zagato  first built a batch of Roadsters  with this design idea ,

the Roadster was a "copy" of the one Zagato  built for a French racer on a Speedster chassis back in the 1950s . That car was crashed and probably scrapped , 

If you are into Zagatos you can see a lot of ideas from Fiat double bubbles , 356 Abarth Carrera etc  in the hardtop version......

I can see how they sold out quick !


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