A pristine 1956 Porsche 356A today could be worth in excess of £200,000.
Instead of keeping the classic German sportscar, one racer converted it into a snowmobile.
Renée Brinkerhoff, an American philanthropist racing driver, is preparing for the final stage of her Project 356 World Rally Tour in Antarctica, which involves sprinting in her vintage Porsche across the most extreme terrain yet.
Fitted with snowtracks at the rear and a pair of skis at the front, the 65-year-old car and driver will complete their ‘ultimate test’ in December when they take on the last leg of the tour – a 356-mile (by coincidence) race in icy conditions, including the Union Glacier.
This is not your standard Porsche: This 1956 Porsche 356A sports car was modified into a snowmobile in order to race across Antarctica’s glaciers.
The classic racing machine is modified with snowtracks at its rear, skis at the front and a whole new suspension system that incorporates its new running gear.
Brinkerhoff is the daughter a diplomat and Colorado-based mother to four. She became an amateur racer in 2013 at the tender 57 years old.
Her classic car, built in the year she was born, was modified numerous times to adapt to different environments. She has competed in endurance rallies all over the world over the past five years.
Valkyrie Racing, the team that converted the vehicle to a ‘Polar Porsche’ has completed the final stage. This allows the vehicle to be used in the most challenging environments.
“While we are proud to have completed every endurance rally we’ve entered,” says Brinkerhoff.
“We have a goal to break records and break barriers, and we are hopeful that our Antarctic expedition will achieve that goal.”
The Porsche is already on its way to Chile via ship from the UK. Upon arrival, it will be air-shipped into the harsh Antarctic conditions.
Renée Brinkerhoff, is preparing for the final stage of her Project 356 World Rally Tour taking place in Antarctica, which involves racing the vintage Porsche across the Union Glacier
Brinkerhoff’s hobby racing is to raise awareness and money to end child trafficking
Her beloved 1956 Porsche has been modified several times to adapt to different environments during an endurance rally event that lasted five years. This was mostly due to delays caused largely by Covid
Brinkerhoff will be joined by the Valkyrie Racing team in Chile at the beginning of November. If the weather cooperates, the subzero sprint in Antarctica will begin on 5 December. It should be completed by the end the year.
The long-awaited Antarctica Race was launched in late 2020. Over 18 months of planning allowed the naturally-aspirated flat-6 356 to undergo a complete overhaul for the treacherous terrain.
‘Success for Renée and her car will come from the thoughtful balance of appropriate technology we’ve added, and the mass reduction implemented,’ says Kieron Bradley, senior chassis design engineer for the project and a practiced extreme explorer in his own right.
The car already had the 1.6-litre 59 horsepower engine upgraded from its original. This would have been too weak for a racing machine. The powerplant was upgraded to a flat-six 2.0 litre boxer engine, based upon the Type 4 motor from Porsche 914.
It also boasts dual Weber carburetors, which provide a higher maximum power output at 152hp – nearly three times as much as it had originally.
Brinkerhoff (right), the daughter of a diplomat, a Colorado-based mom of four, and an amateur racer who started racing at the tender 57 years old. Here daughter, Juliette (left), has been her navigator for previous rally events
The car’s engine was already upgraded from the standard 1.6-litre, 59 horsepower unit. This would have been insufficient for a racing machine.
The powerplant has been upgraded from a Type 4 Porsche 914 Type 4 motor to a flat-six 2.0-litre Boxer engine.
It also features dual Weber carburetors that produce a maximum power output of 152hp, almost three times the original.
It was also mated with a faster-shifting, five-speed manual transmission. Other upgrades include four wheel disc brakes and an limited-slip differential.
However, for the most recent excursion, some dramatic modifications were required.
The Porsche 356A has been given a major overhaul. A set of snow tracks replaces the rear wheels.
A pristine example of the classic Porsche would today be worth anything upwards of £200,000, according to valuations experts
Attached to the front, the skis will compact the snow and prepare it for the rear track unit to follow. An underside blade guides the direction.
Bradley replaced the rear tires of the vehicle with snow tracks. A pair of skis was attached to the front, along with a brace and suspension system.
The suspension of the 356 is a single-arm suspension, with coilover shocks at the rear for stability.
While the addition of skis and tracks has increased the overall mass of the 356 – an issue because a low weight is key to driving over the ice rather than sinking in – the mass per square inch, or footprint, has been reduced to less than four per cent of the standard wheel displacement.
“The ski we have created must do 40- 50% of the work. This includes compacting and preparing the snow for the track unit, with the underside blade guiding the way.
Bradley explained that this prevents the tracks from sinking under light snow.
No matter what angle you look at it from, it is absolutely insane and looks like nothing we have ever seen on a classic sports car of this age.
For stability, the 356 will use single-arm suspension with coilovers shocks for both tracks in the rear.
The 356 is already on its way to Chile via ship from the UK. Once it arrives, it will be air-shipped into the harsh Antarctic conditions at Union Glacier.
Bradley also had to think about the fact that the tracks and skis must be removable so that spiked or icy tyres can easily be re-fitted without changing their wheel alignments.
“A pneumatic inflatable Jack will be used to make this change.”
The same car was extensively rebuilt six years ago after Brinkerhoff suffered a major shunt competing in her beloved Porsche.
During the 2015 La Carrera Panamericana (a 2,000-mile rally in Mexico), the amateur racer hit a guardrail when it came to avoiding hitting a crowd of people. This caused her Porsche 356 to suffer severe damage.
The car will soon be raced across all seven continents. It is seen here taking part in the Targa Tasmania Rally 2018, which was a six-day event covering 2,000km. This event became the second stage on the Project 356 World Rally Tour.
Photographed by Brinkerhoff with her Porsche, fighting through the mud in Kenya on the opening day for the 2019 East African Safari Classic Rally
Brinkerhoff’s 1956 Porsche 356A A was built in the year she was born. She hopes to raise awareness about children at risk by racing the car.
British explorer Jason de Carteret will be Brinkerhoff’s guide on her latest polar expedition. He will also serve as her navigator for the final stage in the globe-trotting race.
De Carteret led more than 50 expeditions to the North and South Poles. He has also claimed two world records, one for the fastest overland journey from the South Pole to the South Pole using the Thomson Reuters Polar Vehicle. Bradley and De Carteret designed it.
Brinkerhoff says, “As often as has been the case when I took on new terrain in my 356, it has not been an opportunity to test the car.”
“The test will come when Union Glacier is visited, and we are very hopeful that the new design will stand up to all of our expectations.
“As Jason, Kieron and I have both told me, there’s no terrain on Earth like Antarctica. Therefore, there’s no place where you can take a true test.”
During the 2015 La Carrera Panamericana, Renée Brinkerhoff struck a guardrail after executing an emergency maneuver to avoid hitting a crowd of bystanders, badly damaging her Porsche 356
After Renée Brinkerhoff’s crash during the 2015 La Carrera Panamericana rally, a local observer offered assistance to help get her back on the road
In 2019, Brinkerhoff and her daughter – turned navigator – Juliette became the second female-driven team to complete the historic East African Safari Classic Rally since its inception in 1953
The Project 356 World Rally Tour can be described as an expedition as well as a humanitarian effort. The December 2021 challenge completes this ultimate endeavor by one woman, one vehicle, and one global mission to end child trafficking.
Brinkerhoff’s racing team has established Valkyries Gives, a philanthropic arm. 100 percent of the proceeds go to victims of trafficking.
Brinkerhoff, who will have driven nearly 32,000 kilometres (almost 20 000 miles) across seven continents, taking part in endurance rallies such Peking to Paris, East African Safari Classic Rally or La Carrera Panamericana by the time it ends.
UK-based Tuthill Porsche has been a technical preparer in almost all of Brinkerhoff’s endurance rally events. Valkyrie Racing has also prepared sustainability strategies such as solar panels for the crevasse bar to ensure that Project 356 World Rally Tour is completely carbon negative.
Roberto Mendoza, her navigator, and Brinkerhoff celebrate their class win at the 2017 La Carrera Panamericana endurance run. This was the first of seven events in her continent-crossing racing tour.
Brinkerhoff, pictured in 2019, just outside Mombasa Kenya. The racer can be seen here with local children from Kilifi County during road testing for East African Safari Classic Rally in 2019.
The 2019 East African Safari Classic Rally commenced during the rainiest season in 40 years.