By Dean Larson

Photos courtesy of Bueno Designs

The 356 Speedster is a staple of the replica car market, and rightfully so. But take one look around the 356 replica market and you’ll find a common denominator; the VW Beetle donor. The little Beetle isn’t a bad donor. It’s fun, cheap, plentiful and has a few things in common with its Porsche cousin. However, it’s 2018, and the average VW donor pan is at least 50 years old. That got John Bueno of Bueno Designs thinking. Could a Speedster replica be built with a more modern donor? This question lead to Bueno’s latest creation, a Mazda Miata based 356 Speedster replica.

The Miata has a lot of the same qualities as the Beetle for a 356 donor. It’s dirt cheap, and plentiful. Look in any local Craigslist section and you’ll find dozens of used cars. Bueno’s car is based on ’94 1.8-liter model purchased for $4,000, but usable examples can be found even cheaper, like this ’96 we found on Craigslist for just $2,400

Speedster 8

With the Miata, you’ll give up the Beetle’s antiquated mechanicalness, but you’ll get far better handling, modern components and improved reliability in return. The Miata’s 1.6- and 1.8-liter engines are robust, yet fairly simple, and are known to take tens of thousands of miles worth of track abuse in stride. Mazda also placed special emphasis on the car’s manual transmission, leading to short, precise throws. In terms of comfort and convenience, the Miata offers four-wheel disc brakes, ABS and cruise control standard.

The elephant in the room however, is the Miata’s front-engine, rear-drive layout. 70 years of Porsche history is defined by the stubborn insistence on the rear-engine, rear-drive layout, so how can the Miata pay proper tribute? The answer is surprisingly well.

Bueno’s completed 356 takes shape with a widened outlaw body executed in hand-laid fiberglass. To punctuate the Miata concept, almost all the Mazda stock components have been retained. The interior has been reworked and a few stock Miata pieces have been incorporated nicely. The contents of the engine bay have no doubt been squeezed into a tighter space, but the major components still all appear easily serviceable. The wide hood scoop is the only piece of evidence that suggests this 356 isn’t business as usual.

This car is Bueno’s first execution of the Miata concept, with more likely to follow. The 356 will cross the block at Carlisle’s Winter Autofest auction on February 23-24 in Lakeland, Florida.

Bueno Designs