History lesson 0088

September 23rd, 2012

550 events

It all started with an email asking for assistance from the current owner of 550-0088. He is not a collector of exotic cars or holds a ‘VP’ position in a Fortune 500 company – he bought the car back in the early 70s against his Father’s advice, and has treasured it ever since.

The Spyder, even today, is not a trailer queen or a car that has gone though an extensive restoration to make it more original than when it first came off the Wendler assembly line back in 1956. It is the 3rd last RS550 built and it comes with every imperfection you would expect from a 56 year old car. 0088 was one of the highlights of the Porsche Race Car Classic display at Quail last year, one of the 13 original 550s to make it to the event. I met the owner and his wife there and chatted at length about their car. The day before, he drove it to the RRIV at the Laguna Seca track, but was asked to park with the replica 550s in the corral due to the condition it was in, as it didn’t look like one of the show ponies worthy of the big tent. In fact, he had actually driven his 550 up the coast from LA to the weekend events and back – reminiscent of the true purpose built car the 550 was, where it was common to drive it to the track, race all day and drive it home.

The current owner has never really discovered a history of his Spyder. With only the knowledge of one or two previous owners, there was nothing that indicated if the car actually raced or just was kept as a classic Porsche. Certain features on 550-0088 were unique to the build, consisting of a bulky headrest concealing a hoop roll bar and also three gills on each side of the rear engine bay cover which look like they have been fabricated at some point to cool the engine by one of its many owners.

A recent article published in the US 356 Registry magazine had a photo of a 550 Spyder driven by Eldon Beagle in hot pursuit of an Osca which sparked the email. The Spyder looked familiar with the unique features of the gills and headrest plus it was in the original white color.

The thrill of the chase had commenced which started with finding other photos of this unique car. Soon another photo, this one of Erv Lehr also in the 550 at Laguna Seca behind George Keck in his modified RSKeck. Beagle had owned a number of 550s over the years and it is known that Lehr had bought a car from him, but it was recorded as 550-0033. Leads were starting to dry up until I remembered talking to Beagle’s son David a while back, who had boxes full of his Father’s racing career. I contacted David again and he was very helpful in seeing if 550-0088 was one of Eldon’s cars. A few days later he had proof in a letter to Porsche expressing Eldon’s disappointment in the handling ability of the Spyders 0053 and 0088, along with a newspaper clipping and program cover showing the car in full glory.

There is still more to find, but we are well on our way to building a great provenance of 550-0088.

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