Porsche 550A Spyder with a quirky racing pastby Graham Keilloh on 29th May 2019
A rare opportunity to buy a Porsche 550A Spyder – and it's raced in Denmark, East Africa and in the Mille Miglia
Collectors are likely to go into a frenzy for any Porsche 550A Spyder that becomes available. Next month we indeed have the rare event of a 550A going under the hammer, at RM Sotheby's Villa Erba auction on May 25. And this 1957 model has charms even over and above the usual.
It has a fascinating – and unusual – competition history in Denmark and East Africa as well as has been entered several times in the Mille Miglia. Reflecting all of this, this 550A won't come cheap as it's estimated to bring in €3.4 to €3.8 million.
The Porsche sold for €3,380,000 (£2,976,305 at time of writing) including the buyer's fee – just below its estimate.
The 550A Spyder was Porsche's original purpose-built competition model, and it has a fine racing pedigree. It even acquired the moniker 'giant killer' for its habit of beating far more powerful machines.
It represented a forward step on its predecessors mainly in its steel-tube spaceframe which was both stiffer and lighter, with a weight saving of 16kg.
This meant the torsional stiffness of the frame was tripled, the overall stiffness was five times that of the previous type ladder frame, and the 550A overall weighed in at a svelte 530kg, excluding fuel but including the compulsory spare wheel. In addition, its largely unmodified engine's power output was increased to 135bhp.
This model going under the hammer is the 15th of just 40 550A Spyders built, as well as has been recently restored. It is chassis number 0121, and its interesting period racing past has been documented in detail.
After finishing assembly in late March 1957 this car was sold to Danish racing patron Preben Andersen (principal of the Scuderia Palan), as the only example sold new to Denmark.
It had Denmark's flag painted across its hood and it was driven in competition by local racing legend Julius Voigt-Nielsen. He triumphed in his first outing in it at the Roskilde Ring in late April, then earned two more victories in June and August as well as ended the season with a brace of third places.
In late 1958, the 550A was sold to John Manussis, a British racing driver residing in Kenya who won the East African Safari Rally several times. Following an unrelated accident that left Manussis unable to drive, his long-time navigator Lucille Cardwell took the wheel alone and she claimed two victories with the car at the Nakuru Park Motor Circuit in late 1961.
By early 1962 the 550A was passed into the possession of Cardwell and her husband, William J. Cardwell, and they continued to campaign the car from their home in Tanzania.
Later in the decade, the Spyder was sold to Gordon Crow, a dealer in Nairobi, and he repainted the car blue and entered numerous local events. During this time, the 550A was seen in 1969 by Porsche engineer and soon to be factory driver, Jürgen Barth.
In 1978 the Porsche was acquired by an Italian collector from Brescia called Giuseppe Freschi, who kept hold of the Spyder for 31 years and entered it in the Mille Miglia several times, driving in the event as recently as 2010.
In 2011 the car passed briefly through another owner before it was sold to its current custodian, who in 2012 commissioned a specialist to conduct a comprehensive four-year restoration.
The refurbishment was finished by 2016 and painstakingly returned the car to its original factory appearance. It even got a seal of approval from Barth, who after inspecting the car post-restoration said, "550A-0121 is perfect in its original form, and all technical aspects are like it was in 1957."
It has driven just 100km since restoration, and is ideal for taking part in the likes of the Mille Miglia and the Le Mans Classic, as well as for concours events.
It benefits from a well-documented ownership chain that is recounted in two private reports by highly regarded Porsche experts Barth and Andrew Hosking.