Today, Porsche has an enviable motorsport history, but that wasn’t always the case – and this is where it all began.
This car is a 550A Spyder, Porsche’s first purpose-built competition model. And that small red-and-white shield you can see on the front wing is a clue to its other claim to fame: it’s the Danish flag because this example, the 15th of 40 built, was the only one sold new to Denmark.
And now it’s getting ready for its next adventure, as it’s been consigned to RM Sotheby’s biennial Villa Erba sale on 25 May.
The Porsche 550A Spyder’s successful competition record began when Umberto Maglioli won the 1956 Targa Florio, but this car, chassis number 0121, first tasted success the following year.
It was completed late in March 1957 and sold to Preben Andersen, principal of the Scuderia Palan, and, with the Danish flag adorning its bodywork, it was soon pressed into action.
In fact, it took mere weeks for it to be used in anger, when Danish ace Julius Voigt-Nielsen campaigned it at Roskilde Ring – and he won on its debut.
A strong start, then, and Voigt-Nielsen secured two further victories in the Porsche in June and August, rounding out the season with a pair of third-place finishes.
That the 550A Spyder weighed just 530kg (1168lb), excluding fuel, doubtless aided its performance.
This was down to its new lightweight spaceframe chassis, which tripled torsional stiffness and improved overall stiffness five-fold compared to the previously used ladder frame.
In addition, fully independent suspension, with a low-pivot swing-axle at the rear and a front anti-roll bar helped its handling.
Meanwhile, its 135bhp all-aluminium, four-cylinder engine benefited from Weber 40 DCM twin-choke downdraught carburettors.
After its early success in Denmark, in late 1958 this Porsche was sold to a British racer in Kenya, John Manussis, before passing to Lucille Cardwell, who often navigated for Manussis in rallies.
She and her husband, William J Cardwell, competed in the car in Tanzania, later selling it to a dealer in Nairobi, Gordon Crow, who repainted it blue and drove it on local events.
The 550A then returned to Europe when it was bought by collector Giuseppe Freschi in Brescia, Italy; Freschi was this car’s lucky custodian for 31 years, and entered the Mille Miglia in it several times.
After that protracted spell with one owner, this Porsche changed hands twice in 2011, first being sold to Pierre Asso in France, then to its current keeper.
In 2012, a four-year restoration began, carried out by a specialist who endeavoured to use the correct factory tools and methods, so by 2016 the car had been returned to its original factory appearance.
At this point, Porsche engineer and successful factory driver Jürgen Barth saw the car and said of it that: “550A-0121 is perfect in its original form, and all technical aspects are like it was in 1957.”
Since all that loving care – not to mention money – was lavished on it, this Porsche 550A Spyder has covered just 100km.
And whether its next owner wants to race it in the many international contests for which it is eligible or enter it into concours events, it is ready and perfectly suited for both.
It’s expected that that owner will need €3.4m-3.8m (£2.9-3.2m) to make this car their own when it’s sold at RM Sotheby’s Villa Erba sale on the shores of Lake Como next month. Find out more about the auction here.