This Porsche 911 HLS Design Study was one of the more memorable encounters on our recent visit to Techno Classica Essen. These days, it seems any Fred-in-a-shed can stick big wheels, tartan seats and throttle bodies on a scruffy old Porsche and market it as reimagined, but, if one really wants to get reimaginative with an old 911, then this quirky machine laid down the entry requirements, half a century ago.
Occupying pride of place on the Early 911S stand, amongst the meticulously curated 911 collectables brought to Essen every year by the Dutch specialists, the HLS Designstudie stood out for being almost unhinged in its unattractiveness compared to the car its designer destroyed to create it. That said, judging a fifty year-old bespoke GT with hindsight and a modern aesthetic is never going to go well. Car culture has an ingrained affection for better known prototypes of a similar vintage, many of which are nowadays accepted as the most beautiful cars ever made.
Even forgetting that Gandini’s 1965 Miura and early LP400 Countach or the 250 GT Lusso ever existed, this car’s looks are a challenge. While the styling curves of the great GTs flow serenely from one to the next, the awkward shapes of the HLS trip over one another like a lumpy old shopping bag. It is vaguely reminiscent of one of those Matchbox fantasy cars which as kids we never wanted to get as a present and, in some ways, that’s just what it is.
Taking styling models created by the University of Aachen’s automotive design programme, coachbuilder Hans-Leo Senden (hence HLS) built full-size versions. The work explored the organic and commutable nature of sports cars and created something unique from what, at the time, was regarded as a rather plain-jane production machine. It is not sweet and sexy like a Lambo GT or a Jaguar E-Type, but we can probably all get with the motives behind its creation.
As a Porsche prices geek, I can’t look at anything without thinking of value, so what is the value of this? Well, it’s rare, built on 1965 Porsche 911 underpinnings and is a proper period piece. Only a handful of these things were ever created and there are better-looking ones on Google images. What really matters for valuation purposes is whether it was commissioned by Stuttgart or not – and I do not know the answer. Either way it has value, but if the wheels were set in motion by Stuttgart then the desirability is greatly increased.
Assuming it was not a Porsche-commissioned creation (and perhaps it was not, as surely it would have gone back to Stuttgart by now), then I guess if you were serious, already had a good 911 collection and were looking to add a few oddballs for interest, one might pay more for this HLS Studie than the price of a nice ’65 911, assuming there was some competition to own it, but that depends on lots of factors including what the rest of it looks like underneath and how much history it has. Or maybe I am greatly underestimating its desirability.
Perhaps what matters is that this spyder-style study on an early 911 still exists, to offer a window into how design students and coachbuilders approached their work fifty years ago. It would make an interesting talking point in an already substantial Porsche 911 collection, but, as a strictly small-scale collector, I’d rather own a standard 911 of the era. Or an LP400, of course.