Porsche 911 Speedster driven

* 356 models to be made * Cost from £144,000 * Cloth hood requires 15 operations...

Porsche 911 Speedster driven

Three, five, six. To any Porsche enthusiast, those numbers have legendary status. The 356 of 1948 is generally regarded as the first Porsche, so it would have been a landmark car even without the Speedster that followed in 1954.

A young actor called James Dean, the king of cool of his day, raced a 356 Speedster, cementing its position in the sports-car hall of fame. A year later he was to die in a Porsche, although not a 356. The company's next offering was something called the 911.

Now 356, Speedster and 911 have been reunited. Porsche has produced a limited-editon Speedster version of the current 911, of which just 356 will be made. It has the wide body and 408bhp 3.8-litre flat-six engine of the other new 911, the Carrera GTS, plus rear-wheel drive and a seven-speed twin-clutch semi-auto (PDK in Porsche parlance) gearbox.

It also has a unique two-seater body with a double-bubble turtle-back rear deck, a more steeply inclined and shallower windscreen, a one-off lower front end and side skirts, carbon ceramic brakes, a limited-slip diff to boost traction and its own chassis tuning, with 19-inch wheels based on a classic Porsche design. There are exclusive touches in the interior, too. To save weight, the doors are made of aluminium, so it's no heavier than the Carrera S convertible it started out as.

If you're into collecting rare cars this is a must-have, then, assuming you can persuade someone who is on the order list to part company, but would you buy one on merit? We're not sure about that.

There's no doubt the powertrain is magnificent and the car's solidity - on the road as well as in the way it is built - won't give you a moment's disquiet, but it wouldn't be an easy car to live with in other ways.

The ride is way too stiff and the manually operated cloth hood requires 15 different operations to furl or unfurl - just two examples of the compromises it asks you to make.

We're left with the nagging feeling we'd be buying it principally for the name.

What Car? says?