If you attended Luftgekühlt 4, you may recognize this very early, very patina’d Porsche 356. If you’re not sure what makes this 356 so exceedingly special, that’s okay, because in all honesty I initially didn’t realize what made it so rare either. But when I first came across it earlier this year in San Diego, I could still recognize its presence as being somehow more than a typical 356. There was something about the tired tin-like finish looking more like raw metal than paint, the whitewall tires, and those lovely ventilated steel wheels—it made the other examples in attendance look… new. Thankfully, I got the inside scoop from its longtime owner, Wayne Baker, a name many Southern California Porsche enthusiasts are familiar with.
Mr. Baker is 75 years young, and the veteran racer has been running Personalized Autohaus Incorporated since 1974. The San Diego-based Porsche garage isn’t some white floor restoration laboratory; it’s an honest workingman’s garage that also serves as a goldmine of classic Porsches and parts. Wayne and his crew have built quite a reputation over their 40-plus-years of service, ranging from routine maintenance to pristine full show car restorations.
But this dull silver bathtub? This thankfully isn’t one of those restoration candidates, and it’d be a shame if anyone did such a thing to this car. Just look at it: I’ve met people with less personality than one scuff mark on this car. To restore anything here would be to erase precious history, and thankfully Wayne feels the same way. He was kind enough to let me swing by his shop before the wrenches started spinning for the day, and even better, he was kind enough to chat about and give me a ride in this pre-A split-window. Here’s what makes Wayne, and his 1951 Porsche 356, stand out.
Andrew Golseth: Wayne, tell me how this all started. Obviously you have a passion for cars, but what made you follow this as a career?
Wayne Baker: When I was in junior high school, we lived in Eugene, Oregon, where my dad was making $1.75 an hour as a machinist. When I was 14 years old, we moved to California because my dad went to work for Lockheed in 1957, where he jumped up to $18 an hour! My grandfather worked for Lockheed as well, so that’s why my dad moved us down the west coast. Anyway, our new neighbor in California had a Porsche, a pre-A car actually; it was an ivory-colored 1954 with tan interior. I was just a kid from farmland Oregon remember, so all I knew were trucks and tractors! This neighbor gave me a couple of rides in the Porsche though, and I quickly learned its charms—the car would go 100 miles per hour with just this little tiny motor in it.
It just impressed the shit out of me, and I’ve loved Porsches ever since. Eventually, by 1963, I bought one brand new. I joined the Air Force in 1960 and they trained me as an electrician. I spent a year in Denver and then thought I would get the chance to go to Europe, but lo and behold, they sent me to Hollywood. I said, “Hollywood? It can’t be Hollywood. That’s like 20 miles from my house.” Well, you know where it says Hollywood on the hill? 100 feet behind that hill was the USAF 1352d Photographic Group. There were 20 military personnel and 300 civilians making movies right there! So, they sent me back to California to repair cameras, of all things.
I was making enough money though to buy a brand new Porsche, a situation I was pretty pleased with. The one I eventually landed on was white with a black interior. It took me four months to get it after placing the order, but once it was in my possession I put over 40,000 miles on it in just two years; I simply drove it everywhere. That was my first Porsche. Then, I had children, you know the story… I sold it and got a Chevy to haul around the kids, but in ’69 I bought a 911 and I’ve had cars like it ever since.
How did fixing cameras for the Air Force turn into Personalized Autohaus? What happened in between?
After I picked up my first Porsche, I started working part-time at an independent shop in North Hollywood. This was sometime around 1964. That’s how I got into it initially. From there, I went to visit the Porsche factory and shortly afterwards I began mechanic’s school in Los Angeles in October of 1965. This was the very beginning of the 911s, and they taught us how to do the engines and transmissions on them.
Fast forward to 1974, and I didn’t want to work for a dealer anymore. I think one person told me, “You should be in your own business,” and so, in 1974 I opened up Personalized Autohaus just off of Morena Boulevard here in San Diego.
We had our business there for ten years before moving shop to Miramar in 1985, which is where we’ve been ever since. We’re not really a show shop; it’s a working shop. And obviously, as you can see, it’s packed with stuff in here. We have two mechanics and a helper, so it’s just a small business that my wife and I run.
It certainly looks like you guys stay busy. So, what’s the history with this car—the ’51 split window? It looks like it’s got a few tales to tell itself.
Well, this car was originally purchased by Petermax Müller, who was a Porsche racing driver. He ran in the 1952 24 Hours of Le Mans with something similar to this car, but it wasn’t this specific example. That said, this was his personal car from new until around 1953. After he put the first 9,500 kilometers on it, Müller sold it to an American who was stationed in Germany. The military man drove it in Germany until he shipped the car back to California at the end of his tour. I’m not sure exactly when, but I believe it was before Porsche dealers started popping up in the states—it was sometime in the early ’50s.
How’d you end up with it? There can’t be many pre-A split-window cars left.
I believe there were 1,080 coupes made from 1950-1952. From what I’ve gathered, there’s roughly 200 or so left of those, and some guys in Europe I’ve talked with think there’s probably only a 100 or so that still run. So, not many.
This car eventually came down to San Diego and Joel Naive bought it, who I knew through the Porsche club. He had three of them at the time: one was a cab and two were coupes. They were parts cars to him. He bought this one because he wanted the engine, which he ended up swapping into his 1950 Cabriolet.
Then back around 1976, 1977, Joel restored this car. In 1978 I went to an annual PCA event, a big show in Colorado. Joel thought