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Cars, Culture, Weekly Feature

November 10th, 2017

The Porsche 550A Spyder was the 2nd generation of the 550 series of cars that can be credited for pretty much singlehandedly establishing Porsche’s racing legacy.

Porsche 550A Spyder

The 550 series of cars first debuted at the 1953 Paris Motor Show. Spurred on by the competition success of the 356, the company decided to make a more pointed effort at building a ground up racing car. The 550A was built from 1956 onwards, and while sharing the same nomenclature and exterior styling as the 550, featured enough changes to be deemed a new generation model.

The Porsche 550A Spyder featured a new space frame chassis, replacing the older car’s rigid frame set up. This was stronger and lighter. The rear swing axles were also replaced by a more sophisticated trailing arm. The new, lighter aluminium body and other overall changes saw the 550 A’s weight drop by 155 lbs.

The engine was carried over from the 550: it was the same Dr. Ernest Fuhrmann-designed, mid-mounted, air-cooled flat four. It displaced 1.5-litres, had double overhead cams, roller bearing crankshaft, twin ignition and dry sump lubrication. It was extremely high-tech for the time, produced an impressive 135 bhp and got the car up to 220 kmph. Power was transmitted to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual. The suspicious mid-corner characteristics of the 550 were almost completely dialled out by these changes. All of this added up to make a car which as at home on the racetrack as it was on the road.

1958 Porsche 550A Spyder Interior

Listing down all the motorsport achievements of the 550/550A will probably make for tedious reading. So, to sum up, these cars garnered podium finishes in pretty much all major sports car events they entered. The 550A’s biggest wins came in the last Mille Miglia in 1957 where Umberto Maglioli’s 88.31 mph average, 5th overall and 1st in class was Porsche’s best ever in that race. Overshadowing this however was the 550A’s win at the 1956 Targa Florio in Sicily. A single Works car won the event outright, defeating three 3.5 litre Ferraris, a trio of 300SL Mercedes’ and a few Maseratis. This made sure that the 550A also lived up to the 550’s nickname, ‘The Giant Killer’.

The Porsche 550A Spyder as seen here was a Works car active 1958 onwards. One of only 40 ever made, this car wins include a second in class and fifth overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, class winner at the Nürburgring 1000 km, class winner at the 12 Hours of Reims, class winner at the Zandvoort NAV Race and class winner at the Dutch Grand Prix, among others. This made it the only 550A to have a Grand Prix win to its name.

Porsche 550A Spyder 2

The car (chassis number 0145) will be up for acution at Bonhams’ Scottsdale Auction in Arizona, USA. The 550A is easily one of the all time great sports cars. It laid the foundation for the 19 Le Mans wins that have catapulted Porsche into becoming the benchmark in sports car tech for all other manufacturers to aspire to – both on and off the racetrack.

1958 Porsche 550A Spyder-18 1958 Porsche 550A Spyder in Action 1958 Porsche 550A Spyder Racing 1958 Porsche 550A Spyder Racing 2

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