By: Philip Carney, Jacques Mertens .
The title of this book, The Last Eleven, refers to the last eleven aluminum 356s. The chassis for these cars were built in Gmund and they were stamped with the number series 356/2-053 through 356/2-063. The bodies were built by Tatra, Vienna and the unfinished cars were shipped to Salzburg where they were placed in storage because the steel 356 had made them obsolete.
In the fall of 1950 Porsche received an invitation to participate in the 1951 Le Mans race. With little deliberation it was realized that the aluminum 356 was their best race car candidate. It was lighter, stiffer and there were leftover cars. The Salzburg aluminum 356 stock was sent to Zuffenhausen and, in a rented two-car garage, Porsche engineers used these skeletons to create the Type 514 — also known as the Type 356 SL. It was the first race car to wear the Porsche brand name on its nose.
This book recounts the trials that Porsche went through to bring their first race cars to Le Mans and the succeeding accomplishments in the Liege-Rome-Liege, the Mille Miglia and at Monza. And it was not just the factory that was throwing the cars around the tracks of Europe. Max Hoffinan imported three 356 SL cars to the United States in late 1951 and it was only a matter of months before they were class winners from coast to coast.
In case you are unsure how to spot a Type 356 SL, the book provides a complete look at the features Porsche engineers put into the cars between 1951 and 1954. Some characteristics are very obvious such as the wheel shrouds and louvered rear-window quarter panels. But other items are much more subtle. Porsche tried to eke out every bit of performance so they lightened some cars by drilling holes in the sheet metal, added belly pans and even lowered the roof on other cars.
Somewhat surprising is the fact that seven of these last eleven cars have survived numerous race battles and the decay of time and still exist today. Some of the survivors appear to be never-ending restoration projects, but others are excellent examples of Porsche's first race veterans.
This book is quite likely the most comprehensive and accurate story of The Last Eleven aluminum 356s - the first race cars to display the name PORSCHE.