A rare and iconic ex-Le Mans Porsche 550A Spyder will come under the hammer at Bonhams’ Scottsdale sale on 19 January 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. Chassis #550A-0145 is the second-to-last 550A built and is a veteran of four world championship races while being campaigned as a works entry by Porsche in 1958, and is believed to be the only 550A to compete in a Grand Prix.
The Porsche 550 had, by 1958, built up a formidable reputation for beating cars powered by much bigger engines, and funded by much larger budgets. For this reason, the 550 earned the nickname of ‘giant killer’ which suited Porsche just fine as it proved that Ferry Porsche’s philosophy of building light and nimble race cars was the right one.
The 550A differed significantly from its predecessor, the 550, in both specification and performance, and was Porsche’s first space frame race car, replacing the old ladder frame as used in the 550. The body shape of the ‘A’ also differed from the earlier model in that it had lost the extended rear wings of the 550, and now boasted a more rounded finish at the rear of the car. Also, the spare tyre was moved to the front of the car resulting in improved weight distribution. The rear suspension, which now used trailing arms instead of the 550’s swing axles, greatly enhanced the car’s drivability and gave the 550A greater stability, allowing it to punch far above its weight. The 550A was powered by a 1498cc 4-cylinder boxer engine featuring the famous Type 547 4-cam engine, dubbed the Carrera engine. The name ‘Carrera’ became a model name used by Porsche for its highest performing models, a full history of which can be found here.
There were only forty of the Porsche 550A Spyders manufactured, and given the new model’s improved performance, they frequently mixed it with the much larger Aston Martins, Ferraris and Maseratis on the leader boards at international races.
The records show that chassis #550-0145 was sold new to the Dutch nobleman, Count Carel Godin de Beaufort, in April 1958. The car was a Porsche works entered in 1958 with de Beaufort as owner/driver, to be accompanied by some of the world’s best drivers of the day. You can see a video of the car here, with some great old footage too.
On 1 June 1958, Carel Godin de Beaufort with Richard von Frankenberg and Edgar Barth, finished sixth overall and first in class in the Nürburgring 1000km in their Porsche 550A Spyder. Ahead of the 1.5-litre Porsche was the winning Aston Martin of Stirling Moss/Jack Brabham, followed by four Scuderia Ferrari Testa Rossas! Two weeks later, de Beaufort and Herbert Linge finished second in the Sports 1500 class and fifth overall, in the 1958 Le Mans 24 Hours.
The following month, on 6 July, de Beaufort finished second overall and first in class in the 12 Hours of Reims, France. Zandvoort, Holland, was the scene of another successful outing, when on 26 July, de Beaufort finished first in class. Peter Ryan scored a class win at Harewood Acres in Canada with this car on 12 August 1959. This car is also believed to be the only 550A to have competed in a Grand Prix. The list of races and top finishes by this car over the years, both in period and subsequently, is quite astonishing.
De Beaufort sold 550A-0145 to Eglinton Caledonia Motors in Toronto, Canada where it was driven by Peter Ryan and Jim Muzzin in various races in 1959 and 1960, before Muzzin took over ownership of the car in 1961. Muzzin continued to compete in 550A-0145 through 1962, but he eventually sold it to a Californian owner in 1967. Chassis #550A-0145 would remain in California until it was exported to Europe in 1991. In 2002, Italian collector and enthusiast Bruno Ferracin bought 550A-0145, and drove the car in ten consecutive Mille Miglia retrospectives, a testament to the car’s touring capabilities and endurance.
Today, Porsche 550A-0145 is fitted with a period correct 4-cam engine and is mated to a period 4-speed gearbox. A 5-speed gearbox, numbered 690035, believed to be the car’s original unit, accompanies the sale of the 550A, along with a period Spyder racing jack and a folder of documentation including a FIVA identity card.
The Porsche, chassis #0145, is to be presented at Bonhams’ Scottsdale sale resplendent in its #32 livery from the 1958 24 Hours of Le Mans, unquestionably the car’s most significant moment. This sale must be one of the more important opportunities in recent times, at which to acquire one of Porsche’s most notable early racers. Those who are lucky enough to consider acquiring this piece of history, should ensure that they make a note of the date, and be there. Such an opportunity does not present itself very often.
For further information, contact:
Vice President – Head of US Motoring
Collectors Motorcar Specialist
220 San Bruno Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94103
+1 415 480 9028 cell
+1 415 503 3284 office
Edited by: Glen Smale
Images by: Bonhams/P. Litwinski