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Surprise Rendezvous with Leno

Porsche 356 Replica on Jay Leno's Garage

As told by Tom Murtaugh


I was recently invited along on a tour of private car collections in Los Angeles, arranged by the patrons of the Saratoga Auto Museum ("The Silver Arrow Society.") Being local, I opted to drive my replica Speedster from location to location, instead of riding with the rest of the group on the tour bus. One of the highlights of the trip was to be a private tour of Jay Leno's garage. We were all astounded when we arrived to find Jay Leno greeting us and leading us on the tour. My car caught his eye, and after a brief conversation, he invited me to bring the car back to film a YouTube episode of Jay Leno's Garage.

Tom’s Speedster is a nicely presented Subaru Speedster from JPS Motorsports in California. The company builds turnkey Speedsters from reconditioned VW platforms with either VW or Subaru power. Choosing the latter option for his build, Tom’s Speedster is powered by a 2.5-liter EJ25 flat four engine from a late 90s Subaru Legacy. The EJ25D made 165 hp from the factory, but has now been rebuilt and chipped to make around 200 hp at the crank, some 140 hp more than the standard VW 1300S and 90 hp more than the hot Carrera four-cam engine.

Having departed from the Speedster recipe under the hood, there was nothing holding Tom back from making his 356 a real canyon carver. The existing upgraded brakes were tossed out in favor of drilled and slotted rotors and four-piston Wilwood calipers. Tom originally had the car built with 16-inch wheels, but was able to save 20 pounds per corner by swapping them for 15-inch steel wheels wrapped in Toyo R888 competition rubber.

With over 12,000 miles on the clock since new, it’s clear the Speedster isn’t reserved for occasional Sunday drives. Luckily, Tom’s 356 is equipped with a few modern conveniences like A/C and heated seats should the weather get cloudy. And if the weather turns from cloudy to stormy, Tom’s Speedster is equipped for that too, but you’ll have to watch the video to see how.

This video makes it very clear why the Subaru engine is becoming such a popular swap. It provides increased power, modern conveniences and a fantastic soundtrack, all from an easily sourced engine. While it’s hard to imagine the VW air-cooled engine becoming a rare commodity, the Subaru flat four could very well be the new standard for Porsche replicas some day. 

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