A pristine 1956 Porsche 356A today could be worth in excess of £200,000.
But instead of preserving the classic German sportscar, one racer has converted hers 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.
Not your typical classic Porsche: This 1956 356A sports car has been modified into a snowmobile for a race across a glacier in Antarctica
The classic racing machine has been modified with snowtracks at the rear, skis and the front and a whole new suspension system to incorporate its new running gear
Brinkerhoff is the daughter of a diplomat and Colorado-based mother of four turned amateur racer in 2013 at the tender age of 57.
Her classic car – which was built in the same year she was born – has been altered various times to take on different environments in order to compete in endurance rallies around the globe over the course of five years.
The final stage has seen the team – Valkyrie Racing – convert the ageing vehicle into a ‘Polar Porsche’ to take on its most difficult environment yet.
‘While we are extremely proud of completing each endurance rally we’ve entered, our true mission has been for our racing efforts to become a worldwide visual that supports our vocal pursuit to end child trafficking,’ says Brinkerhoff.
‘We’ve had a goal to break barriers and set new records and we’re hopeful our Antarctic expedition will do just that.’
The Porsche is already in transit to Chile via ship from its workshop in the UK and, upon arrival, will be air-shipped to the extreme conditions that await at the Union Glacier in Antarctica.
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 amateur racing pursuits are in order to raise money and awareness to end child trafficking
Her beloved 1956 Porsche has been altered various times to take on different environments over the course of an endurance rally events that’s taken five years – mostly due to delays caused by Covid
Brinkerhoff and the Valkyrie Racing team will rendezvous in Chile at the end of November, and if the weather cooperates the subzero sprint will begin in Antarctica on 5 December and should be completed before the end of the year.
The long-awaited Antarctica race was pushed from late 2020, and the more than 18 months of planning has also allowed the naturally-aspirated flat six 356 to undergo a complete re-engineering 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 was already uprated from the standard 1.6-litre 59 horsepower engine it had from new, which would have been inadequate for a racing machine. The powerplant has been upgraded to a flat-six 2.0-litre boxer engine, based on the Type 4 motor from the Porsche 914
It also boasts dual Weber carburetors for a higher maximum power output of 152hp – almost three times what it originally had
Brinkerhoff (right) is the daughter to a diplomat and a Colorado-based mother of four but also an amateur racer since 2013 at the tender age of 57. Here daughter, Juliette (left), has been her navigator for previous rally events
The car’s engine had already been uprated from the standard 1.6-litre 59 horsepower unit, which would have been inadequate for a racing machine.
The powerplant has been upgraded to a flat-six 2.0-litre boxer engine, based on the Type 4 motor from the Porsche 914.
It also boasts dual Weber carburetors for a higher maximum power output of 152hp – almost three times what it originally had.
It has also been mated to a faster-shifting five-speed manual transmission, while other upgrades include four-wheel disc brakes and a limited-slip differential.
But for its latest excursion, more dramatic modifications have been required.
The classic Porsche 356A has undergone a dramatic revamp. In place of the rear wheels is a set of snow tracks
A pristine example of the classic Porsche would today be worth anything upwards of £200,000, according to valuations experts
The pair of skis were attached to the front will compact and prepare the snow for the rear track unit to follow over, with an underside blade guiding the direction
Bradley replaced the rear tyres of the vehicle with snow tracks, and a pair of skis were attached to the front along with a specialised brace and suspension system.
For stabilisation, the 356 will use a single-arm suspension with coilover shocks for both the tracks in the rear.
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’ve created must do 40 to 50 per cent of the work, by compacting and prepping the snow for the track unit to follow over, with the underside blade guiding the direction.
‘This ensures the tracks will not submarine under the light snow,’ explains Bradley.
No matter which angle you look at the Porsche from, it looks completely bonkers and like nothing we’ve ever seen done to a classic sports car of this era
For stabilisation, the 356 will use a single-arm suspension with coilover shocks for both the tracks in the rear
The 356 is already in transit to Chile via ship from its workshop in the UK and, upon arrival, will be air-shipped to the extreme conditions that await at the Union Glacier in Antarctica
An extra thought that Bradley had to consider was that the skis and tracks must be easily removable so that spiked ice tyres can be re-fitted with no wheel alignment changes necessary.
‘A pneumatic inflatable jack will be used to make the 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 struck a guardrail when she took evasive action to avoid hitting a crowd of bystanders, badly damaging her Porsche 356 in the process.
The car will soon have been raced on all seven continents. Here it is pictured taking part in the six-day 2018 Targa Tasmania Rally, which was a 2,000km event that became the second stage of the the Project 356 World Rally Tour
Brinkerhoff and her Porsche photographed battling through the mud in Kenya during the opening day of the 2019 East African Safari Classic Rally
Brinkerhoff’s 1956 Porsche 356A was built the year she was born. By racing the car, she hopes to raise awareness for children at risk
Guiding Brinkerhoff for her latest polar trek will be British explorer Jason de Carteret, who will act as navigator for the final stage of the globe-trotting race.
De Carteret has led more than 50 expeditions, including to both the North and South Pole, and together with Bradley he has claimed two world records for the fastest overland journey to the South Pole travelling in the Thomson Reuters Polar Vehicle, which they designed.
‘As often has been the case when taking on a new terrain in my 356, I have had no opportunity to test the car,’ says Brinkerhoff.
‘The test will come when we are at Union Glacier and we are very hopeful the new design will prove itself in spades.
‘As I have been told by Jason and Kieron, there is no terrain on earth like Antarctica and therefore no place where a true test can be taken.’
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 is both an expedition and a humanitarian effort, and the December 2021 challenge completes the ultimate endeavor by one woman, one car and one global mission to help end child trafficking.
Through Valkyries Gives, the philanthropic arm of her racing team, Brinkerhoff has raised close to half a million dollars, with 100 per cent of the proceeds benefitting victims of trafficking around the world.
By its conclusion, Brinkerhoff will have driven close to 32,000 kilometres (almost 20,000 miles) over all seven continents, partaking in endurance rallies such as Peking-to-Paris, the East African Safari Classic Rally and La Carrera Panamericana.
UK-based Tuthill Porsche has played a technical preparation role in nearly all of Brinkerhoff’s endurance rallies, and Valkyrie Racing has also prepared sustainability measures, such as solar panels on the crevasse bar, to ensure the entire Project 356 World Rally Tour is carbon positive.
Brinkerhoff and her navigator, Roberto Mendoza, pictured celebrating their class win during the 2017 La Carrera Panamericana endurance race, which was the first of seven events as part of her continent-crossing racing tour
Brinkerhoff pictured in 2019 just outside Mombasa, Kenya. The racer is seen here meeting local children of the Kilifi County area during road testing for the East African Safari Classic Rally that year
The 2019 East African Safari Classic Rally took part during the rainiest season that part of the world had experienced for 40 years
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