1954 Porsche 550/1500RS Spyder “Le Mans Prototype”

Porsche built four 550 Spyders for the 1954 Le Mans 24 Hours, numbered 10 through 13. This car, S/N 550-10, was assigned to Richard von Frankenberg and Helm Glockler. In practice, it was the fastest of the 1,500-cc 550s, but it was also the first to retire. Only 20 minutes into the race, a holed piston forced its withdrawal.

Porsche tackled the problem, improving both cooling and tuning. With these changes, 550-10 was entered in the Reims 12-hour race on July 4, where it was driven to ninth overall and second in class by Gonzague Olivier and Auguste Veuillet, finishing behind the eighth-place and class-winning Frankenberg/Polensky 550 Spyder.

A front anti-roll bar was added before the Nürburgring race on August 1, where Hans Herrmann drove 550-10 to victory. Herrmann again drove the 550/1500RS Spyder at Avus in Berlin on September 19, this time with reshaped front fenders, a tiny cockpit opening, head fairing, and skirts enclosing the rear wheel wells. The aerodynamic bodywork allowed 550-10 to record a top speed of 145 mph on the long straights, but caused cooling issues. The car finished second overall to Frankenberg’s conventional 550 Spyder.

At the end of the 1954 season, 550-10 was sold to a Swiss dealer. It never raced again, sitting in storage for some 25 years before being sold overseas. The car then changed hands several times before a comprehensive ten-year restoration was undertaken in the late 1980s, returning the car to its 1954 Le Mans configuration, complete with the green rear fender stripes that distinguished it from the other Porsche factory entries.

A true survivor from the important era of motor sport, the ultimate expression of Porsche’s first factory-built, mid-engine sports racer, this is one of the few known surviving 550 prototypes. Remarkably, it still has its original third-series Type 547 engine. Preserved as it was last prepared by the Porsche factory 50 years ago, it has been meticulously restored and is eligible for any number of events, from the Mille Miglia to the most prestigious Porsche events and concours.

Miles Collier

Miles Collier - SCM Contributor

Miles is a retired business executive, practicing artist, investor, philanthropist and noted authority on vintage automobiles. He nurtured his interest in art at Yale University, where he received a B.A. in Painting. When family business intervened, he received an MBA from Columbia University. He retired as Managing Partner of Collier Enterprises in 1995 and returned to painting, which he does professionally. Collier maintains a significant automobile collection in Naples, FL. He recently hosted one of his prestigious symposiums on automobile connoisseurship.

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