Benjamin Clymer of New York City, 37, founder and CEO of Hodinkee, a lifestyle and luxury watch website and e-commerce platform, on his Porsche 356 Zagato [pronounced Zah-GAT-oh] Coupe, as told to A.J. Baime.
When I was young, I was obsessed with the Volkswagen Beetle, and as I matured, a desire for speed and style crept into my psyche. My passion for the Beetle turned into a love for the Porsche 356, essentially a more interesting and faster version. (Both cars sprung from the imagination of Ferdinand Porsche and his son Ferry, decades ago.)
At the same time, around 2015, I bought my first coachbuilt car, a Lancia with a custom body made by the Italian firm Zagato. A coachbuilder is a company that builds bodies for cars in traditional ways. My Lancia, for example, has a right door that is half-an-inch shorter than the left. It was handmade. I love things that are made by artisans. Hand-wound watches, handmade glasses, shoes, suits…that is what my business is all about.
Four years ago, I was at a watch show in Basel, Switzerland, and the coachbuilding firm Zagato was there exhibiting car designs. I met with them and they had this project they wanted to share with me. That is when I learned about the 356 Zagato Coupe.
The story goes that in 1958, Zagato built a lightweight, open-bodied 356 for a gentleman racer named Claude Storez. Storez crashed it and was killed, and the car then disappeared. Around 2013, Zagato found out that they had designed a coupe version of this open car, and they still had the drawings in their archives. The car had never been built. With Porsche’s blessing, Zagato set about building nine versions of this coupe, exactly as they would have done were it still the late 1950s. For a guy who cares as much about how something is built as the object itself, this was a dream come true.
It took almost three years to build this car and it cost roughly what a new Porsche 911 GT2 RS would cost. In the summer of 2019, I began putting it through its paces. I keep it in Bedford, N.Y., and when I need to escape reality, I go up there and drive. Last fall I sent the car to Los Angeles, met some friends, and drove some 1,200 miles.
This car is the culmination of all that I love. It was made the old-fashioned way, but it was made today and it was made for me.