by Wallace Wyss –
Being half-Swiss, I am proud that a Swiss coachbuilder (Gebruder Beutler) was judged reliable enough to build some coachwork for the Porsche 356 cars – the Gebruder Beutler Porsches.
Though from the one car I researched the most, a 356 cabriolet that appears in one of my Incredible Barn Finds books, it appears Porsche was mightily concerned that the brothers Beutler would alter the car so much they would have to deny the use of the name Porsche on the finished car.
They had stretched the chassis to make it a four seater for a tall German count. But in the end, Porsche approved the car, but only after testing the prototype.
They were one of the first firms to build an open Porsche 356, as early as 1949, on one of the floorpans made in Gmund, in the old sawmill the Porsche family was using in Austria. That car was put in the Geneva Auto Salon.
They built six Gebruder Beutler Porsche cabriolets in those early days, but only one is reported to have survived. I was amazed to see it appearing at a Swiss rally in recent times, this being car no. 003 of Porsches built, amazed really to see that the factory hasn’t bought it for promotional appearances. And amazed to see it’s still being toodled about on the open road.
The Beutler Brothers (from Thun) were well known coachbuilders, doing custom coachwork for four decades on Lancia, Bristol and, mostly Volkswagen chassis. Their designs were elegant, though you have to say on Porsche 356 chassis they didn’t really advance car styling that much beyond what Porsche was doing, maybe added more airy greenhouses.
Automobil Revue, a Swiss newspaper, wrote about Gebruder Beutler on 20 March 1957:
Beutler has reached a new climax in the clothing of the VW chassis, equipped this year with the engine and the brakes of the Porsche 1600. This year’s execution is the impression of length by the simplest means, namely, the enlargement of the anterior and posterior overhangs, and the flattest possible arrangement of the two parts. Even on these bodies, which have gained in purity by virtue of numerous individual improvements, very narrow-dimensioned glass posts and a significant window area are found.
After turning down the offer from Porsche to body all their cars, the Beutler firm faded out from Porsche involvement in the Fifties only to come back a few years later, this time hat in hand, asking to buy more chassis. This time they had to get in line as lots of other coachbuilders were building for Porsche.
A few of their cars survive and one odd characteristic is that some of them have either grille cavities or grille surrounds as if the Swiss thought all cars should have a grille in front even if the engine is in the back.
I haven’t checked their auction results lately, but suspect only one a year comes up for auction. The Porsche world is rather quirky—I would say an alloy-bodied race car with a LeMans or Mille Miglia class victory trumps the value of all mere road cars but then these Beutlers are very rare and rarity counts in the Porsche world.
I’m hoping to feature some shots of Beutlers in the reprint of my book. If anyone out there has pictures they shot of one at a concours, I’d like to hear from you. I can be reached at Photojournalistpro@gmail.com.
Let us know what you think in the Comments.
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is a fine artist. He is still working on the painting below, but those interested can write him to ask about availability of prints. He can be reached at Photojournalistpro@gmail.com.