|1954 Porsche "Pupulidy Special" History|
|An impressive survivor from the early years of sports car racing in the United States, the Porsche Pupulidy Special, aka the "PUP", is a one-of-a-kind vintage racer. Originally designed and built in 1954 by Emil Pupulidy of Long Island, this fendered monoposto looks sleek and fast even when parked on the grid, and it is competitive on the track.|
Although Pupulidy's name may not ring familiar among latter day sports car racing fans, in the upper right-hand corner of the United States old-timers will recall a creative multi-talented man who not only claimed a pair of SCCA national championships in 1956 and 1958 in production-class Porsches, but one who designed, built and raced his own unique car. Pupulidy always loved mechanical things. By the time he graduated from high school on Long Island, he was racing his 45 cubic inch Harley Davidson motorcycle on area dirt tracks. After high school, Pupulidy enrolled in an aviation trade school where he learned how to fly and to build and maintain aircraft, and he soon found employment as an airframe technician building P47 fighter planes at Republic Aviation. In 1944, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and became a staff sergeant with the Engineer Combat Battalion, where he helped construct the pontoon bridge over the Rhine River that enabled the allies to pursue the retreating Nazi army towards Berlin and its inevitable surrender. Upon returning to Long Island and his job with Republic Aviation, he discovered an incredible upswing in cars and racing in full force on the east coast. While traveling in Europe on a regular basis, he visited the Maserati, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche factories and bought a brand-new 356 Porsche coupe, which he shipped home and raced in local events.
When he decided to build a sports car of his own in late 1953, Pupulidy fashioned it after the streamlined racers he had watched in Europe, and possibly the tiny Glockler-Porsche Spyder he saw driven by Max Hoffman at Bridgehampton in 1952. With inspiration from aerodynamic beauties like the Mercedes and Auto Union Grand Prix and Land Speed record cars, Pupulidy built a wooden buck and hand laid a fiberglass body into a sleek racer. Using a square tube chassis, the racer was designed for a Porsche 356 motor mated to a Volkswagen transaxle and 356 drum brakes. The gas tank was mounted up front, with the filler in the wheel well. One unique feature was the layout and design of the Porsche torsion bars extending rearward, stabilizing the swing axles. The ID "PUP 1" was stamped on the rear frame tube. Frick Motors, a hot rod and European race shop on Long Island, completed the engine and results from the May 1956 races at Cumberland credit the "Pup" with a GP class win. Results also indicate the car finished third, behind two Alfa Giuliettas, in a June 1956 race at Road America.
For some unknown reason, perhaps financial, the "Pup" was eventually abandoned behind the Frick Motors shop until rescued by Butch Strunk, who repaired the car and raced it in the northeast United States for several years. Howard Gilmore then purchased the car and raced it for nearly thirty years, including at the Delaware, Duryea and Mt. Equinox hill climbs, and at Thompson and Lime Rock. Gilmore then passed the "Pup" on to Matt Williman, in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, who continued to hill climb and road race the car with the VSCCA.
Vintage racer John Muller, of Kansas City, bought the "Pup" in 2003 from an ad in Hemmings Motor News. The car was in sad shape, so Muller took it to Brian Haupt of Carriage and Motor Works of Kansas City for a complete restoration. Haupt, who has restored cars for the Pebble Beach Concours, disassembled the entire car for the first time in 50 years. The chassis was meticulously restored, replacing several of the lower frame rails and re-welding nearly every joint. After removal of the many layers of paint, the ID "PUP 1" was discovered stamped in its original place on the rear frame rail. The giant jungle gym of a roll bar installed in the '70s was changed to a more fitting design and the original drum brakes were refurbished. Dual master cylinders replaced the original single and the original VW gas tank with the filler in the right wheel well was replaced with a fuel cell. Haupt also fabricated a lighter weight fiberglass body after creating a new buck. Meanwhile, James Cox, of Cox Motorsports in Kansas City, worked his magic on the engine. Starting with a 1600cc 356 engine, Cox enlarged displacement to 1720cc, added Carrillo rods, a Scat crank and installed original twin dual barrel 40 HP Solexes. The gearbox was rebuilt by Vic Skirmants of 356 Enterprises with close ratio gears and the shift linkage was reworked by Greg Welch. Muller drove the car at various vintage races, including the Monterey Historics in 2004, 2005 and 2006, and earned a first place trophy at the Tucson Porsche Club Concours, before selling the "Pup" at the R & M Auction in January of 2009.
Now owned by Bob Howard of Wichita, KS, the "Pup" continues to do what it was created for at racetracks around America. Howard, who is licensed by the Vintage Motorsports Council and the Porsche Club of America, has raced motorcycles and cars at various tracks throughout the United States for over 40 years. After purchasing the "Pup", he took the car totally apart, magnafluxed all the suspension components, replaced what was cracked or items showing their age and basically freshened the car. He finished in time to participate in two vintage events at the end of 2009, racing the "Pup" at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit and at Texas World Speedway. Out of six starts, the "Pup" claimed one overall win and five wins in its class. (The photos included herein under Pup history are of Bob participating in 2009 Corinthian Vintage Auto Racing events at Texas World Speedway and Hallett Motor Racing Circuit.)
On track, the "Pup" exhibits speed, balance and neutrality as a result of the innovative suspension design from fifty-five years ago. The 2010 season is going well and Howard looks forward to many years of great vintage racing with the "Pup".