1958 Porsche 550A Spyder
The 550A Spyder that arrived in 1956 was not just a mere evolution of the preceding model, but more a revolution. Early Spyders employed a ladder frame for its proven design and rugged simplicity, but with Porsche opening its new dedicated competition shop, limited resources were no longer a concern. Leopold Schmidt brought the 550 to new levels of performance with his design of a space frame serving as the new core of the racer. Chassis weight was down 95 pounds while another 65 pounds were taken from the aluminum body, resulting in a feather-like 1170 pounds of weight in total.
At first glance the body on the 550A appears identical to the older models, but a keen eye will pick up on several distinct clues identifying it as the upgraded type. The most easily spotted of which is the rear engine cover, which lost its rear hinges and instead was simply lifted off the frame all in an attempt to save weight. The two grills were repositioned further rearward and small louvred hatches were also added in front of the rear haunches to maintain easy access to the engine for quick inspection. Smaller lighting treatments front and rear, again, make the 'a' model identifiable, while the subtlest change of all occurred up front with a reprofiled nose for better aerodynamics.
If the first generation of 550 Spyders were giant killers, the newly updated 'A' designation was nipping at the heels of leviathans. Although, success did not immediately come upon the model's first bout in competition. The 1956 debut at the Mille Miglia, driven by Hans Herman and Wermer Enz, unfortunately ended in a retirement. Victory would first be achieved at the most difficult of tracks, the Nurburgring 1000km. The legendary Wolfgang Von Trips and Umberto Maglioli attained a class win, crossing the line 4th overall. The Targa Florio in 1956 would see the first outright victory for the 550A. A lone entry was painted white and sent down to Sicily, accompanied by two mechanics, to be driven by Huschke von Hanstein. This would be Porsche's first of 11 victories at the famed road race. One of the most impressive showings by the little Porsches occurred later that year at the Reims 12-hour event in France. A one-two finish, impressive in its own right, is bolstered by the fact that the Von Frakenberg/Storez pairing managed an average speed of 164.6mph, just 14mph slower than the Jaguar D-Type that would win the unlimited engine class for sports cars at the race the following day..
Bonhams will be offering this special Porsche, at their upcoming Scottsdale Auction in Arizona on the 18th January. Its estimated value is between £3,400,000 - £4,100,000. For more information on this and other vehicles at the sale, click on the link below. Photos courtesy of Bonhams.