1954 Porsche 550A / 1500RS Spyder Ex-Le MansSOLD
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Estimate: Refer Department

Sold: €708,338

It was in 1948 that the first ever Porsche Spyder won its class in an Innsbruck road race driven by Herbert Kaes. The car, however, was a one-off machine with spaceframe chassis and never destined for production. Two years later Frankfurt Volkswagen dealer Walter Glockler built his own VW-badged Spyder using a ladder frame chassis with Porsche 356-style, VW trailing arm/torsion bar suspension and powered by a 48bhp, 1,086cc Porsche flat-four cylinder engine. With it he won the West German 1,100cc Sports Car Championship and in so doing the beginning of a strong relationship with Porsche was established.

Glockler duly built a second Spyder, this time carrying a Porsche badge and powered by an 85bhp, 1,488cc Porsche works engine with roller bearings, as used in the successful 356 competition coupes, and with leading arm rear suspension. The following year a third car was built using a conventional 356 floorpan, a rear-mounted engine and trailing arm rear suspension designed to produce less quirky handling; two further examples were built for customers.

In the meanwhile Porsche was designing a quad-camshaft, type 547, 1,498cc flat four cylinder engine and by 1953 had found sufficient funding to build its own Spyder model. Power came from a 98bhp, 1,498cc, overhead valve flat four cylinder, as fitted to the 1500 Super. Glockler used the combination to good effect by winning the car's first race at Nurburgring and the Porsche, complete with hardtop, then won its class in both the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Carrera Panamericana. A revised Spyder was subsequently completed with a 117bhp, type 547 engine, while longer arms were employed in the rear suspension, allowing trailing links to be used for improved stability.

This was followed by the launch of the prototype 550/1500 RS production racer at the 1953 Paris Motor Show, a revised version of which appeared at the following year's Brussels Motor Show, complete with 'big fin' rear bodywork to counter drag for the road specification windscreen. With this Hans Hermann and Herbert Linge - after shooting under a level crossing and narrowly missing a train - took not only sixth place overall and first in the Sports 1500 class in the Mille Miglia, but also third place overall and first in class in the Carrera Panamericana.

The same year, 1954, production of the aluminium bodied 550/1500RS commenced, the car now simply renamed the Spyder and priced at a cost equivalent to around £100,000 today. Victories in both the Sports 1,100 and 1,500cc classes at Le Mans came the following year, the works-entered car featuring a semi-spaceframe chassis and a five speed gearbox. When production of the 550 Spyder ceased in 1956, just 78 examples, excluding the works machines, had been built.

This particular Spyder, chassis 550-0016, manufactured on January 20 1955, was successfully run in the Le Mans 24 Hours race the same year. Driven by Gustave Olivier and owner Josef Jeser, and powered by a 1,089cc, four camshaft engine and benefiting from considerable Porsche factory assistance, it finished in 18th place overall and in second place in the Sports 1,100cc class, having completed 234 laps at an average speed of 131.47kph/81.69mph; very soon after Le Mans the Porsche, which was painted white and carried race number 65, was sold minus its four camshaft engine to a German buyer who is believed to have kept the car until 1963. Purchased by the vendor for a modest £150 in 1973 from a Lisbon domiciled German collector who had owned the 550 for 10 years, during which time the latter competed in local Portuguese races, the car, which had been fitted with a standard Porsche 356, 1,498cc engine, remained unused and in storage prior to a recent and complete restoration.

Finished in silver with blue trim, this extremely rare and highly desirable 550 Spyder - pictured in action in Porsches at Le Mans by Dominique Pascal - is described as being in good condition. Eminently eligible for numerous prestigious historic race meetings, this Porsche has the potential to be extremely competitive in the right hands while also being a highly exhilarating road car. One for the serious Porsche collector.

Reference Number 23297

as of 4/25/2008

Car 1954 Porsche 550A / 1500RS Spyder Ex-Le Mans
VIN 550-0016