While the Porsche factory was busy building the 356, they needed something to win races. Dr. Porsche had experience in building race-winners, most notably the Auto Union Grand Prix cars of the late 30’s. Instead of modifying the 356 for endurance racing, they used its design as an inspiration for a mid-engine race car.
A new engine was needed, one that was capable of sustained high-rpm. One of the first employees at the Gmund factory was Ernst Fuhrmann, and he would eventually become Porsche’s Chairman from 1972 to 1980. His revolutionary design was a flat-four cylinder with dual overhead cams. Each pair of cams were driven by a bevel drive from the crankshaft. To extract every ounce of power, the forged crank spun on roller bearings.
Porsche built 90 examples of the 550, but only 39 were assembled for the factory racing team. Chassis 0141 is one of those 39 examples, and it won 1st place at Zeltweg, Innsbruck, and Opatija, Yugoslavia in 1958. It was delivered to a member of the Piech family (Porsche’s cousins and owners of VW Group) at Salzburg, and it was driven in competition by Ernst Vogel. The piano virtuoso was also one of the best racers in the world and made this car a piece of Porsche history.
It took 3 decades to return this car to new condition. The bodywork was entrusted to the Kimmins brothers of Lake Havasu, and the engine/electrical system was done by renowned Porsche expert Bill Doyle of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The 1,750 cc displacement includes new Mahle cylinders and pistons, and all cams were degreed to 0. It has full-flow oil filtration, Carillo rods, and a Hirth crankshaft.
The aluminum brake calipers now have hardened steel sleeves and the fuel tank has a bladder for added safety. All 5 original wheels are included along with a letter from Porsche Race Director Herbert Kaes. This car has been featured in Excellence, Classic Porsche, and Porsche Panorama magazines, and it is legal to race in FIA vintage events. Only 600 miles since the restoration, it will be a primetime feature at Mecum’s Monterey Auction on August 25th. Be sure to tune in to their live YouTube stream and stay with us for all your Mecum coverage.
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