Inspired by the Porsche 356 which was created by Ferry Porsche and some spyder prototypes built and raced by Walter Glöckler starting in 1951, the factory decided to build a car designed for endurance motorsport. Such events included the Le Mans 24 hours and this model was called the 550 Spyder. It introduced at the 1953 Paris Auto Show. The 550 was, even for its period, characteristically small and this was illustrated by the German Formula One racer Hans Herrmann who drove his 550 under closed railroad crossing gates during the 1954 Mille Miglia!
The first three hand built prototypes came in a coupe with a removable hardtop. The first (550-03) raced as a roadster at the Nurburgring Eifel Race in May 1953 winning its first race. Over the next couple of years, The Werks Porsche team evolved and raced the 550 with outstanding success and was recognized wherever it appeared. The Werks cars were provided with differently painted tail fins to aid recognition from the pits. Hans Herrmann's particularly famous 'red-tail' car No 41 went from victory to victory. Porsche was the first car manufacturer to get race sponsorship which was through Fletcher Aviation, who Porsche was working with to design a light aircraft engine and then later adding Telefunken and Castrol.
The Porsche 550 spyder became an active participant around the European and US championship circuits between 1953 and as late as 1965 starting in over 370 races. With approximately 95 overall wins along with an additional 75 class wins, the spyder dominated against more powerful cars not even in its class. With a mix of international drivers from Jack McAfee, Ken Miles and Wolfgang Seidel to legends such as Huschke von Hanstein, Helmut Glöckler, Hans Herrmann and Richard von Frankenberg, the spyder was well represented at famous circuits around the world. From the tracks of Avus, Nürburgring, Le Mans and the Targa Florio in Europe to the more active competitive circuits found in the US at Sebring, Palm Springs and Lime Rock, the spyder which became the race car of choice for privateers, and soon earned the reputation as the 'Giant Killer'. Despite the 550s astonishing race record the model is arguably most famous for the events of September 30th 1955, which saw the death of the actor and racing driver James Dean behind the wheel of his 550 Spyder (VIN 550-0055), which he had nicknamed "Little Bastard". Tragically he fatally crashed into Donald Turnupseed's 1950 Ford Custom at the CA Rt. 46/41 Cholame Junction.
This particular example is the chassis 020 and as such the car was delivered with the later 547/1 dry sump and quad overhead cam engine. The car was originally supplied to Max Hoffman of New York on the 2nd of February 1955. Later in its life the car lay dormant for many years in Belgium before in the 1990s it was restored to live again. When the car was discovered it was apart at this time and given the condition of many of the parts it is believed that someone had taken apart the car and reconditioned the body parts and chassis but had not managed to commence reassembly, perhaps time or funds had run out.
The condition in which the car was discovered is well documented; the chassis was complete and in generally good condition and the body was a genuine and mainly complete 550 spyder body, a great number of original parts also accompanied the car. Over the following years the car was totally restored under the supervision of 550 expert Barry Curtis in the UK, using another 550 Spider for reference. The chassis was sent for restoration and specialist testing for distortion and alignment. A correct 547/1 type motor with correct Solex Carburettors was installed and the car was completed to a high standard.
Since 2007 the car has resided in a major Porsche collection in the UK and has been maintained by DK Engineering during that time. The car has not covered more than 1,000kms since restoration and the engine and gearbox have been stripped and rebuilt less than 50kms ago. It is rare that a 550 Spider comes to market and we are privileged to offer an example of one the most iconic racing cars in existence.
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