Though not as rare as seeing Halley’s Comet, catching a glimpse of Janis Joplin’s 356 out in the wild is pretty high on the list of rare occurrences. That fact made the cars appearance at this year’s Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix quite special and a moment not to be missed.
The cars arrival to Pittsburgh was a long one starting about 5 years ago when its acquisition was initiated as part of Porsche being the Marque for the 2011 event. While on display at another venue, the Joplin 356 was damaged and required repair that prevented it from making the trip to Pittsburgh. The damage to the car also made it that much more difficult to obtain as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum was even more reluctant to let it outside its facility for view. It took quite a bit of work, but the dedicated effort of a few key members of the Allegheny Region of the Porsche Club of America pulled through and secured the car for display.
Seeing it for the first time was a special moment. It’s an iconic car with mass appeal to car enthusiasts, music lovers and history buffs alike. Seeing it arrive quietly in an understated transporter was a delight as it offered time to study the car at a moment that would be short lived. The car would soon be covered again after unloading as it awaited thousands of viewers over the race and show weekend.
The unloading was handled quickly and carefully by members of the Allegheny Region of the Porsche Club as they were the caretakers of the car while on display in Pittsburgh. As the cover was pulled back from the car, the bright paintwork was reviled to the sun light making for quite a marvelous sight. It was then gently removed from the transporter and pushed into its resting spot for the show. Though restored, the car does is not run so as to save the engine and other mechanical parts. As a result, it must be pushed into position whenever moved. So gloves were the order of the day to protect the paint which is never polished or buffed – neither are the tires. The soft ground added an extra challenge to moving the car around, but all went smoothly.
For the next two days, spectators would be treated to the rare gem and were offered a very close view of the fascinating and mesmerizing paint work. Its imagery offers great insight to a significant period of modern US history and can keep you transfixed as you study it endlessly. All manner of imagery is spread across the body of the car capturing portraits of the singer, her band and Dave Richards who helped Janis paint the car originally as well as political statements and choice psychedelic imagery.
Having this car on display was a huge win for both the Allegheny Region of the Porsche Club of America and the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. It added one more element to an event that continues to grow in local and global significance and has helped raise awareness for the charities that benefit from the event represented by the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and Allegheny Valley School.