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Porsche 550A/1500 RS Spyder : Classic Cars

Porsche’s early competition successes were recorded by 356s. By 1952, however, it was becoming apparent that the Porsche 356 based cars could not remain competitive in the face of racing designs from OSCA, Borgward, and BMW.

The factory’s initial experience with purebred racing cars came through Walter Glockler, the Volkswagen dealer in Frankfurt, who built five aluminum racing specials in his own shops. After an initial VW based special, Glockler switched to Porsche mechanicals and, in return for factory support, put the Porsche script on the front of his cars. The publicity that ensued from the racing successes of these specials was well noted at the factory. By mid 1952, it was time for the factory to build its own racing cars.

The Type 550 that followed was modeled after the later Glocklers. Initially powered by modified production-based pushrod engines, these cars soon had a new Porsche racing motor, the Ernst Fuhrmann designed Type 547 four cam. By 1954, Porsche had earned some class victories and substantially developed the little cars. For LeMans that year, the factory entered four cars, two of which survived to win the 1,500 and 1,100 cc classes.

With the Type 550, Porsche stepped up its efforts at producing competitive racecars. The factory produced several series 550 prototype cars, building on the successes and failures of each and managed to sell each one to private clients, most times managing to turn a profit on the sale.

The company did, however, spend money on further developing and testing the Type 547 four-cam engine, which was then built in limited quantities and fitted inside the Type 550/1500RS – better known as the Porsche Spyder. This car has been called one of the most outstanding vehicles of its era.

The 550/1500RS prototype was first introduced at the Paris Salon in October of 1953. Although it was announced that this car would soon be available in its current form, by special order, it was not until a full year later that the design was actually finalized. During that year of experimentation, several examples of the Type 550 were built, and in true Porsche style many of these were sold to private individuals. After completing eight developmental test vehicles, Porsche started on the cars that are now better known as the ‘Le Mans Prototypes’ (chassis 550-10 through 550-13).

The cars acquitted themselves well. The first car, driven by team drivers von Frankenburg and Glockler, was out within the first hour with a holed piston. After that failure, which also struck two other factory team cars, it was decided that excessively advanced timing had caused the problem.

The next outing for the new 550s was the July 4th running of the 12 Hours of Rheims. In this race, Porsche factory team drivers von Frankenberg and Polensky won their class, finishing eighth overall. The other 550, driven by Olivier and Veuillet, scored a second in class and ninth overall. Further racing successes followed, notably in the Nürburgring sports car race on August 1st, a 550 driven by 18-year-old Porsche factory team driver, Hans Herrmann. Herrmann scored an incredible first overall, with the remaining top four spots also filled by factory team 550s.

For the 1956 season, the much improved 550A/1500RS was introduced. Although visually similar, the chassis underneath was completely new, a tube frame structure designed to dramatically reduce the torsional flexibility of the earlier cars. At the same time, the rear suspension was completely revamped, although still a swing arm design, the geometry was all new, and an outer CV joint greatly improved the grip of the rear end under cornering. Finally, the twin cam engines were enhanced with crankshaft mounted distributors, higher compression, and new Weber carburetors.

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Sources : Porsche 550A/1500 RS Spyder Photo | Porsche 550A/1500 RS Spyder Article

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