Christophe Schmidt, co-founder of A & S, and Anders Warming, Automotive designer, discuss the 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder, chassis 550-0050.
The 550 Spyder put Porsche firmly on the map as a serious competitor on the world’s racing tracks; indeed, the diminutive mid-engined roadster generated the nickname ‘Giant Killer’ for its ability to defeat much more powerful rivals. Introduced at the 1953 Paris Auto Show, the 550 and its second iteration, the 550A, remained in production through February of 1959, and a total of 130 chassis were constructed before the 718 RSK Spyders appeared. A large proportion of 550 production was destined for the United States.
Built on a frame of seamless mild steel tubing, the 550 utilised a front suspension of double trailing arms and transverse-leaf torsion bars. After the first few examples, the rear suspension was redesigned from leading control arms to trailing arms with swing axles and tubular transverse torsion bars. Porsche’s engineers had planned an all-new engine to power the Spyder at the gruelling Carrera Panamericana, but early testing determined that Dr Ernst Fuhrmann’s Type 547 advanced 1.5-litre air-cooled four- cylinder Boxer engine was not quite ready. Thus, the first few chassis were fitted with conventional pushrod Porsche engines. Soon, however, reliability was ensured and the new ‘Four-Cam’ would be installed in all the 550s, 550As, RSKs, 356 Carreras, and 904s that were to follow.