Introduced at the Paris Motor Show in 1953, the diminutive Porsche 550 Spider was quickly established as a racing car which could more-than hold its own at any kind of racing venue, be it winding along the Targa Florio or blasting around the flat-out speed-fest that was the terrifying AVUSring.
For some it will forever be remembered as the car in which James Dean met a tragic end on route 466 in California, but even without that unfortunate association with the movie icon it would still have entered the ranks of legend on its own merits. It’s reckoned that over its racing career the 550 Spider has a wins-to-races ratio greater than one in four, often dominating proceedings despite being put up against much more powerful cars from different classes. In the case of factory driver Grand Prix driver Hans Hermann that ratio was much higher.
Despite being inspired by the Porsche 356, which had its motor sitting out-back behind the gearbox, the 550 ran a mid-mounted configuration with the air-cooled flat-four situated in between the front and rear wheels. As such it is easy to see how far ahead of the competition it was in 1953 in terms of nimbleness and balance. But this didn’t make it a one-trick pony. Due also to its dry weight of under 600kg, dinky frontal area and in the case of this later example a dry-sumped, four-cam example of the screaming air-cooled motor it was capable of around 140mph.
Nowadays a number of decent glass-fibre replicas are available, but the one you see here is the real deal. It was sold new to a New York customer in 1955 and eventually made its way to the UK via Belgium where it was on the receiving end of an expert restoration. It now resides with road and racing experts DK Engineering and the price is (understandably) by application only, but as a guideline a similar 1955 model sold at auction for not far under £2.3 million two years ago, smashing it’s estimate in the process.
Value-wise then it’s comparable to something like a C-Type Jaguar although the two cars could hardly be different, and fans of one are unlikely to fancy the other. Which way would you sway?