The race car that started it all.
The Porsche name can mean so many different things to those in the automotive space. Some might see an automaker committed to injecting its racing DNA into the EVs of tomorrow, while others will see the winningest manufacturer at LeMans. For this article, we’ll stick to the racing theme, as the brand’s latest YouTube video features a deep dive on the 550 Spyder.
You’ve likely never heard of the 550, but it’s actually one of the most important cars that Porsche has ever made. Often referred to as the giant killer it was the first racing car ever built by the German automaker.
The number in its call sign comes from the fact that it tips the scales at 550 kilograms (1,212.5 pounds). Paired together with a peppy 110 horsepower (82 kilowatts) 1.5-liter 4-cylinder boxer engine, its power-to-weight ratio propelled it to victories against bigger, more powerful race cars. As such, its first big triumph came in 1954 with a class win at the 1954 Carrera Panamericana, a very demanding border-to-border endurance race through open roads in Mexico – akin to the Italian Mille Miglia and Targa Florio events.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of clever engineering went into making the 550 Spyder such a lightweight package. In getting the weight down, one of the focal points involved utilizing the dashboard as the load-bearing element of the body. As only 90 units of the original exist, it isn’t rare to see original examples swap hands for several millions of the currency of your choice.
We’d be remiss not to mention that James Dean was the first American to buy a 550. Keen readers will know that he was unfortunately involved in a horrific crash behind the wheel, and didn’t survive. However, it’s great to know that his legacy will live on with such a special car.