Driving around the world... in a Porsche 356
One loyal Japanese customer drove his original 356 from Tokyo to Stuttgart in time for the car’s 70th anniversary
Getting your hands on a Porsche 356 – the German manufacture's first production car – would make you a very lucky fellow. Getting your hands on a soon-to-be-70-year-old 356 and then driving it across two continents incorporating some of the harshest landscapes on the planet would simply make you mad.
Yet this is exactly what one 60-year-old Japanese man decided to do earlier this year, and he completed his journey in time for the 70th anniversary celebrations of the car at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, Germany.
More about the Porsche 356…
Suzuki-san’s starting position was his home in Kamogawa in Chiba, a leafy Japanese prefecture south-east of Tokyo, and approximately 10,000km away from Stuttgart. Had he decided to fly by aeroplane, Suzuki-san’s journey would have taken more than 13 hours – so maybe going by the car was the better idea after all.
Why Suzuki-san did it
Suzuki-san has owned his 356 for almost 15 years, and first brought a Porsche when he was 22 years old. He is unsurprisingly a member of the official Porsche 356 Club Japan. He made the journey for one very simple reason: “I thought it would be fun,” he declares. Probably not the excuse he gave to his wife…
“I just love Porsche. Porsche is my best friend,” he goes on – which would explain why he was willing to drive all the way to the German brand’s museum in a Porsche of his own.
The start: Japan
Going by road means the journey will be far more complicated than by plane, adding several thousand kilometres to bring the total tally up to 15,463km. It’s fairly easy to find 356s for sale with lower mileage than that, but equally there’s a trend among 356 owners to push the mileage as high as possible.
American Guy Newmark owns a 356 that has covered over 1 million miles, having driven it daily for well over half a century.
Japan to Russia, via South Korea
The first leg of the journey requires Suzuki-san to move north across the Bōsō peninsula, which his home sits in the south of, and across to the west coast of Japan in time to catch a ferry from Sakaiminato. This will take him to the Russian border city of Vladivostok via Donghae in South Korea. For fans of travel television, this is proper Michael Palin territory.
Japan to Russia, via South Korea
In true Palin style Suzuki-san is fluent only in Japanese, with some limited English. He carries all the important phrases in other languages written on a piece of paper. Thankfully the roads have been kind to him so far, but the tarmac metropolises of home will be nowhere to be seen once he starts his journey across Russia.
The Trans-Siberian Highway
The Trans-Siberian Highway is considered to be one of the most dangerous roads on the planet, and Suzuki-san has to travel it alone and with a car designed with anything but cross-continental touring in mind.
This is a road that takes weeks to traverse, and for many nights Suzuki-san sleeps with just the desolate grasslands of Eastern Siberia for company.
One night he stays in the remote city of Novobureyskiy, where he is lucky to bask in temperatures that are warmer than usual. The Siberian location is normally still frozen over at this time of year.
As anyone who’s tried to start a car in the winter knows, engines do not like the cold. Remarkably the 356 keeps on going, soaking up the miles.
A long way from home – but a very long way to go
By the time Suzuki-san reaches Smolenka, he is almost 3000 miles into his Russian leg. But he has still not reached Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake, and still has over 6000km and a mountain range to cross before he leaves Russia.
And the fuel pump is playing up...
Approaching the West
Eventually Suzuki-san reaches the European part of Russia. Remarkably, he is still seated in relative comfort thanks to a more modern bucket seat, and is in the right location, thanks to a dash-mounted sat-nav that’s guided him on his way.
En route he’s been meeting other Porsche owners, and has gathered a collection of stickers to celebrate each encounter.
Possibly the scariest part of the journey is crossing borders, and Suzuki-san chooses Latvia as his next destination after Russia. Security doesn’t seem to be an issue, though; it’s a faulty first gear that moves to the forefront of Suzuki-san’s mind.
He’s already made a number of roadside fixes, assisted by the jack he keeps on the roof, while he’s had access to surprisingly high-quality fuel across Russia. Perhaps that isn’t surprising considering the number of oil wells he’s passed.
356 meets 356
After Lativa comes Lithuania, then a route heading south through Europe to the hills of Austria. Here Suzuki-san receives a big welcome at the Porsche Automuseum in Gmund, where the first 356 chassis was built.
There is good timing on Suzuki-san’s part, too, as his car’s total mileage hits 58,356 km as he meets its predecessor.
To read more about the history of car No.1, click here
Greetings from Stuttgart
A full 53 days after setting off, Suzuki-san arrives at his end destination at Porsche’s home in Stuttgart. He’s gone through 1600 litres of petrol, passed 11 police controls, and at one point drove 1050km in a single day.
His big adventure has also earned his own car a spot in Porsche’s museum – at least until Suzuki-san wants it back so he can do the journey all over again, maybe for the 80th anniversary of the 356.
Suzuki-san's Porsche 356 in The Porsche Museum
The 356 will be in the museum for only a few months, so get to Stuttgart soon if you want to see one of the most well travelled Porsches ever.
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