RM Sotheby’s Paris: 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder by Wendler to be auctioned on Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Schermata 2016-01-25 alle 16.26.35Lot: 143

Car: 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder by Wendler Chassis no. 550-0068

Estimate: €2.200.000 – €2.600.000

The date: to be auctioned on Wednesday, February 3, 2016

110 bhp, 1,488 cc DOHC air-cooled horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine with dual Weber downdraft carburettors, four-speed manual transmission, independent front and rear suspension, and four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 2,100 mm

  • The 1955 Frankfurt Motor Show car
  • One of just 75 factory-built ‘customer’ 550 Spyders
  • Period US racing history with Mike Marshall, including 1956 Sebring 12 Hours
  • Freshly serviced by renowned Porsche specialist Prill Porsche Classics
  • Highly eligible for vintage tours and rallies, including the Mille Miglia, Tour Auto, Le Mans Classic, Goodwood Revival, Monterey Historics, and Monaco Historic Grand Prix!

“Design is not simply art, it is elegance of function” – Ferdinand Porsche


The 550 Spyder put Porsche firmly on the map as a serious competitor on the world’s racing tracks; indeed, the diminutive mid-engined roadster generated the nickname ‘Giant Killer’ for its ability to defeat much more powerful rivals. Introduced at the 1953 Paris Auto Show, the 550 and its second iteration, the 550A, remained in production through February of 1959, and a total of 130 chassis were constructed before the 718 RSK Spyders appeared. A large proportion of 550 production was destined for the United States.

Built on a frame of seamless mild steel tubing, the 550 utilised a front suspension of double trailing arms and transverse-leaf torsion bars. After the first few examples, the rear suspension was redesigned from leading control arms to trailing arms with swing axles and tubular transverse torsion bars. Porsche’s engineers had planned an all-new engine to power the Spyder at the gruelling Carrera Panamericana, but early testing determined that Dr Ernst Fuhrmann’s Type 547 advanced 1.5-litre air-cooled four-cylinder Boxer engine was not quite ready. Thus, the first few chassis were fitted with conventional pushrod Porsche engines. Soon, however, reliability was ensured and the new ‘Four-Cam’ would be installed in all the 550s, 550As, RSKs, 356 Carreras, and 904s that were to follow.

This marvellous but complex engine, called the ‘Drawer motor’ because its engineering drawings were quickly hidden in Fuhrmann’s desk whenever Dr Porsche walked into his office, was an all-alloy unit displacing 1,498 cubic centimetres. Its camshafts were driven off the Hirth-patent built-up roller-bearing crankshaft by a series of shafts and crown wheels. Cam timing took dozens of man-hours to properly establish, but once all the clearances were correctly set, the high-revving motor was very reliable. It featured dry-sump lubrication and two spark plugs per cylinder. With compression of 9.5:1 and breathing through a pair of Weber downdraft carburettors, this engine produced a strong 110 brake horsepower. In a chassis that weighed barely 590 kilograms, 550s were capable of top speeds approaching 210 km/h (140 mph), dependent on gearing. Because these little roadsters were ostensibly required to be street driven, they were fitted with a token canvas tonneau that met the letter of the rulebook but were otherwise better left folded away in the garage.


This beautiful 550 Spyder left the factory at Zuffenhausen on 19 September 1955, to be eventually delivered to an American customer, but first, there would be an intermediate stop: Porsche’s stand at the 1955 Frankfurt Motor Show. There, it shared the company’s display with a 356 Speedster, a coupé, and a cabriolet. Chassis number 550-0068 was shown in semi-racing form; that is, there was a small racing windscreen to protect the driver and an alloy half tonneau covering the passenger side of the cockpit. Suggesting, perhaps, that this was a dual-purpose sports car, it was also fitted with moon hubcaps, which were standard fitment to cars delivered in street trim. Adding to the sporting impression that Porsche wanted to convey, the rear fenders were topped with painted ‘darts’, or flashes. Today 0068 has been restored to its original silver paint with light blue darts, a very attractive combination.

The factory build sheet specifies that 0068 was to be shipped to ‘1 kunde/customer USA’ following the Frankfurt show. That customer was a gentleman named Mike Marshall, a Porsche/Volkswagen dealer and amateur racer of Miami, Florida. Mr Marshall wasted no time in putting his new 550 to the task for which it was intended. Just two months after the car starred on Porsche’s display at Frankfurt, Marshall gave the new Spyder a victory in its first outing, an SCCA race at Waterboro, South Carolina. Next up was December Speed Week at Nassau in the Bahamas, where Marshall finished 6th in the preliminaries, dropped out of both the Governor’s Cup and All-Porsche contests, but came back to score a respectable 4th place in the Under-Two-Litre Production race. In February 1956, Marshall won a pair of SCCA Regional races at Punta Gorda, Florida; a 1st and 2nd at Waterboro; and then, sharing the wheel with Porsche’s racing chief and occasional driver Huschke von Hanstein, managed a creditable 14th overall and 3rd in class at the Sebring 12 Hours. Von Hanstein was quite familiar with 0068; he had posed with it at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

Through the remainder of 1956 and early 1957, Marshall ran numerous other amateur races including Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin; Montgomery, Alabama; Chester, Carolina; Gainesville, Florida; the 1956 Nassau Speed Week; and then a race weekend at the very difficult 2.4-mile circuit at New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Unfortunately, in a preliminary event, Marshall had an off, side-lining the Spyder for the weekend. Fifteen months later, 0068 was sold to Joe Sheppard, a very talented amateur who’d picked up the nickname ‘The Tampa Hotshoe’ and who drove the car at Chester and Gainesville. The car’s racing history then lists Sheppard’s friend Duncan Forlong, who borrowed the car for two races at Dunnellon Park, Florida.

It is believed that 0068 then remained in Florida. When recently quizzed about the car, Joe Sheppard could not recall exactly when it was sold; it was a deal put together by his father. The new owner is believed to have been Bob Ross, who made a regular appearance at the Sebring track with racing friends in his new Spyder. In the mid- to late-1980s, the Porsche was bought by Lynn Larson, who almost immediately sold it on to his friend Phil Bagley, who then sold the car to its new owner who shipped it to Italy.

The car was inspected on 12 November 1989, by a Mr Parigi, prior to issuance of FIVA license number 0120620 by the Automotoclub Storico Italiano. That registration process was not completed until 21 April 1997. Italian registration number BG-B67015 was assigned 28 August 1997 in the name of Pierluigi Bartoli of Riva di Solto, who had acquired the car in July of 1993, per the Estratto Chronologico, copies of which are included in the car’s history file. In 1999, the current owner, an Italian businessman and enthusiast, purchased this historic racer.

Today, 550-0068 is offered having been maintained regardless of cost and ready to be used in any of the many events for which it is eligible, including the Mille Miglia, Tour Auto, Le Mans Classic, Goodwood Revival, Monterey Classics, and Monaco Historic Grand Prix, amongst others.

Simply put, no comprehensive collection of vintage Porsches is complete without a 550 Spyder, and this example would surely be one of the most enjoyable.

Info on Sotheby’s

Porsche 964 Speedster: a caccia del mito

Quando negli anni ’50 l’importatore americano della Porsche Max Hoffmann, assoluta autorità cui i vertici Porsche tenevano particolarmente, chiese per il mercato USA una versione della 356 Cabriolet più leggera e anche più economica che potesse passare dalle strade cittadine ai circuiti improvvisati dove spesso in quegli anni ci si vedeva per delle corse nel week end, nessuno si aspettava la nascita di un mito: la Porsche Speedster.

Il mito fu incensato dalle dichiarazioni amorose di personaggi del calibro di James Dean che poi, passato alla 550 Spider, ci lasciò per sempre in uno schianto fatale. La 356 speedster aveva un parabrezza molto basso e una capote Molto più sottile per ridurre il peso ma anche così fragile da Da temere di romperla nell’utilizzarla. Sembra che i concessionari Porsche augurassero ai nuovi utilizzatori della Speedster grandi giornate di sole…


A quasi trent’anni di distanza nel 1983, partendo dalla Carrera cabriolet, la Porsche realizzò una nuova versione della mitica Speedster. Caratterizzata dal solito parabrezza basso, dai vetri laterali amovibili e dalle portiere molto leggere essendo state private dei meccanismi di movimento dei cristalli. Naturalmente, come la progenitrice, erano assenti i sedili posteriori e la voluminosa capote. Anche questa ovviamente concepita quasi esclusivamente per il mercato americano. La cosa curiosa però è che questo progetto rimase chiuso in un cassetto per quattro anni. Tenuto al riparo dalle indiscrezioni fino a quando la situazione monetaria internazionale si ristabilì, un prototipo della Speedster riemerse in tempo per essere presentata al salone di Francoforte nel 1987. Dal 1988 entrò in produzione e nel 1993 partirà una seconda serie. La produzione prevedeva due versioni, la normale e la “turbo look”, il motore è un 3,2 lt da 231 cavalli che poteva spingere l’auto fino a 245 km/h.

La più richiesta e di conseguenza quella con i più esemplari prodotti, fu la Turbo Look realizzata in 1910 esemplari contro i 190 della normale. Oggi sul mercato collezionistico è la versione normale ad aver acquisito un valore maggiore, ovviamente a causa della sua maggiore rarità. Guardando oggi una turbo look della prima generazione, si rimane affascinati dai cerchi classici e cinque razze e dai paraurti con le protezioni in gomma adottati sulle Carrera sin dal lontano 1973. Anche l’esperienza di guida è più coinvolgente rispetto alla Carrera, in quanto la scocca più rigida e la minore protezione aerodinamica regalano sensazioni indimenticabili. Anche questa edizione come quella degli anni ’50 vuole essere utilizzata nelle giornate di sole; la difficile impresa cui si è costretti per sfoderare la capote non ripaga il conducente dalle infiltrazioni d’acqua sempre possibili in un auto come questa.

Nel 1993 venne inaugurata la seconda serie (964 Speedster), quasi tutta in versione stretta (normale). Inutile sottolineare che sono tutti andati esauriti immediatamente. La differenza con la prima serie è rappresentata principalmente dal servosterzo e dagli alzacristalli elettrici che aggiungono un po’ di confort al guidatore. Il motore però è un favoloso 6 cilindri 3.6 litri per 250 cavalli e 260 km/h di velocità massima. Il cambio è manuale ma era disponibile anche il Tiptronic. Più che mai in questa seconda versione, la Speedster resta un purosangue ma più facile da domare. Solo 936 esemplari di questa supercar sono stati venduti al mondo di cui 427 negli Stati Uniti, inutile dire che il suo prezzo sia destinato sicuramente a salire…

Meridianae ringrazia per la gentile collaborazione il Dott. Massimo Razzano M. D.

Porsche 964 Speedster: Chasing the myth

When in the 50s, the American Porsche importer Max Hoffmann, (Porsche absolute authority to which the company care particularly) asked for the American market a version of the 356 Cabriolet lighter and also cheaper that could move from city streets to the circuits where people often improvised races over the weekend, no one was expecting the birth of a myth: the Porsche Speedster.

The myth was incensed by the amorous declarations of people like of James Dean who, on a 550 Spider, left us forever in a fatal crash. The 356 speedster had a very low windshield and hood much thinner to reduce weight but also so fragile as to be feared to break in using it. It seems that dealers wanted for new owners great days of sun …

Almost thirty years later, in 1983, starting with the Carrera Cabriolet, Porsche created a new version of the legendary Speedster. Usually characterized by low windshield, side windows removable from the doors very light having been deprived of the movement mechanisms of the crystals. Of course, as the progenitor, were absent from the rear seats and the voluminous hood. Although this is obviously designed almost exclusively for the American market. The curiously, however, is that this project was closed in a drawer for four years. Taking away the rumors until the international monetary situation was restored, a prototype of the Speedster re-emerged in time to be presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1987. Since 1988 started the production and in 1993 will start a second series. The production included two versions, the regular and the “turbo look”, the engine is a 3.2 liter 231 horsepower that could push the car up to 245 km / h.

The most popular and therefore the one with the most pieces produced, it was the Turbo Look realized in 1910 compared with 190 of the regular (narrow). Today on the collectors’ market is the regular version to have acquired a greater value, obviously because of its greater rarity. Looking today a turbo look of the first generation, you will be fascinated by the classic five-spoke wheels and bumpers with rubber protectors on the Carrera adopted as far back as 1973. Even the driving experience is more engaging than the Carrera, thanks to the stiffer body and less wind protection offer unforgettable sensations. This edition like the 50’s meant to be used on sunny days; the difficult task which you are forced to pull off the hood does not pay the driver from water seepage always possible in a car like this.

In 1993 was inaugurated the second series (964 Speedster), almost all in the narrow version (normal). Needless to say, they are all sold out immediately. The difference with the first series is represented mainly by the power steering and electric windows that add a bit ‘of comfort to the driver. The engine, however, is a fabulous 6-cylinder 3.6-liter 250-horsepower and 260 km / h top speed. The transmission is manual but it was also available Tiptronic. More than ever in this second version, the Speedster is a thoroughbred but easier to tame. Only 936 units of this supercar were sold to the world and only 427 in the United States, needless to say that it’s price is surely destined to rise…

Acknoledgments: Massimo Razzano, M. D.