The trilogy of 550s
July 22nd, 2015
I have spent a number of years researching the relationship between three Porsche 550 Spyders, consisting of two prototypes 550-05 and 550-07 plus one Wendler built car 550-0043. The provenance of these cars have been under a lot of scrutiny and debate due to some conflicting information regarding the location of 550-05. It is not a simple task to find certified facts, as there are a lot of ‘personal accounts’ documented 50 years after the events where much of the information is skewed based on very disjointed memories. To me, photos don’t lie and each of the 550s have distinguishing features which are as individual as a fingerprint on these hand built Porsches.
The information outlined below show a researched timeline of progression and development of each car and the owners they had.
It is understood that 550-05 was the show car at 1953 Paris Auto Salon. 550-05 was a prototype and had a different body to previous 550s, but still had the fixed rear with an engine lid and a single grill. It was the first 550 to be fitted with a quad cam engine – 547-02.
550-05 was shipped down to Brazil with a Porsche push rod 1500 engine fitted to be raced by Hans Stuck on behalf of Porsche in the January 1954 Rio de Janeiro GP and Sao Paulo GP races. He was instructed to sell the car while he was there.
550-05 has been reported to have stayed in Brazil, but I have found a number of sources that indicate that both 550-05 and Stuck returned to Europe as there was a dispute over the payment of the car, headed by Kern at Porsche.
Porsche dealer Sonauto, owned by Auguste Veuillet, bought 550-05 on its return to Europe and on the 25th April 1954, 550-05 was entered into the Montlhery Coupe du Printemps race in France piloted by Gonzague Olivier. The licence plate was from the French dealership.
An article published in the 1954 June issue of Motorsport magazine described Olivier’s great driving skills in the Paris Salon 550.
On the 8th May, Veuillet entered 550-05 in the Sable-Solesmes Rallye. It is evident from the rear that it has the same fixed rear body as the show car. Movie footage of the 550 at the race can be viewed here.
Annie Bousquet who was a good friend of Veuillet, also drove it while in his possession at the Tour de France and the Montlhéry race in September 1954.
This photo by Kurt Worner taken early in 1955, shows 550-05 next to 550-0018 (which was built in Jan 1955) in the Porsche Workshop, Germany – probably in for repairs. (notice the Rudge knock off wheels which are consistent in all races).
Annie Bousquet entered 550-05 into the February 1955 Agadir race where she crashed the car and ended up in hospital with a broken leg. Her mother returned the car to the Porsche factory for repairs with possible front end damage causing the injury.
Porsche replaced the front section of the car with a new front of a Wendler customer 550 (or 550A) Spyder with slanted headlights and air intakes. 550-05 was sold to the owner of a Brazilian lottery network – Richard Fasanello who used Bino Heins to pilot it for him. The car was shipped back to Brazil (date unknown) and raced in a number of local races including the January 1957 Buenos Aires 1000km race. It is clear to see that it is still 550-05 as it does not have the hinged rear.
550-05 was later sold to Fritz D’Orey (friend of Bino Heins) who painted the car red and raced it on the 23 June 1957 at the Interlagos Centaur Motor Club race (2 hours of Speed race) (the sign writing on the nose of the car ‘DKW Auto General’ which was a dealership belonging to D’Orey’s father).
The car was then sold to Chico Landi at the end of the ’57 season who also raced it. It is unknown of the whereabouts of this car today.
550-07 was a buckelwagen car, but often confused with 550-06 which was the buckelwagen that appeared at the January 1954 Brussels Auto Show.
After 550-05, Porsche redesigned the 550 body creating a hinged rear clam shell, allowing easy access to the engine bay. This was first fitted to 550-06 and used on subsequent builds. 550-07 always had a hinged rear, both with and without the buckel. Porsche did not configure it to have a fixed rear and there is no evidence that they did.
The car was used only as a test mule to help in the finalisation of the customer car designs utilising a quad cam engine – 547-04, and was test driven by Herbert Linge. During this time it is believed to have been destroyed. The photo below is experimental testing at the Autobahn Munich-Nuremberg on the 25th March 1954. According to the authors of the Carrera book, this car was reconfigured back into a fixed rear design identical to 550-05 within the 4 weeks prior to the Montlhery Coupe du Printemps race on the 25th April. This would be an engineering feat in itself, and one is to question why Porsche would revert to an old fixed rear design when all future 550s would be designed with the hinged rear which this car already had.
Listings in the Carrera Book of 550-07 are incorrect with Veuillet and Bousquet believed now to be racing 550-05. The listing of 550-07 at the 1955 12 h Hyeres race clearly shows the car is a Wendler built customer Spyder #56, possibly 550-0043 as the color is blue and it also has the Rudge wheels which were only used on factory cars. It was common for customer cars to be raced prior to delivery.
There is also an earlier listing of 550-07 at the Touraine Rallye only two weeks after the Agadir race accident. If this is 550-0043 also, it would be highly possible that 550-0043 was a complete car being custom built for Annie Bousquet a lot earlier than currently thought, not just the panels of 550-07 being rebodied onto the spare frame of 550-0043 after the accident as documented. The listing of 550-07 at the 1955 Monsanto race with start number 6 cannot be found in any other race record and the supposed driver Antonio Borges Barreto is listed as driving his Ferrari in another race.
As 550-07 was supposedly registered in France, many documents for 550-05 could have used this chassis number to avoid customs/border-crossing issues, and as the car had been destroyed, the real car did not exist to create suspicion.
550-0043 is documented by Porsche as a ‘Frame Only’ and not as a complete car build. The 550-0043 chassis was the first of the Wendler built chassis. These were used for the rest of the Wendler built customer cars up to 550-0090. Steve Heinrichs (author of Carrera Book) has strongly expressed his opinion that the remains of the 550 that Bousquet crashed at Agadir in 1955 was rebodied onto the 550-0043 frame. In all photographic evidence, there is no resemblance of a prototype 550 body, but only a complete Wendler built customer body (including Wendler teardrop build badges on the car’s side in front of the doors).
After recovering from her injuries incurred at the Agadir race, Annie Bousquet awaited the delivery of her new Wendler built customer Spyder – 550-0043 in French Blue. As Annie was good friends with Porsche Racing Manager Hüschke von Hanstein, she had requested a number of special aerodynamic body features and engineering modifications to her car so she could attempt a world speed record at the Montlhéry track. The Spyder order documentation list includes the options of: removable rear wheel covers / driver head faring / racing alcohol fuel conversion / front bonnet with filler cap cover / cockpit wrap-around windscreen / increased engine compression ratio / non-factory tires. These modifications were completed after the 12 h Hyeres race and Jürgen Barth validated the accuracy of this order while he worked at Porsche in 1998.
The new Spyder was very purpose built and Bousquet’s first outing was the closed course women’s speed record attempt for a 1600cc car for one hour, which was previously held by Gwenda Hawkes in 1934 with a speed of 215km/h. It is believed that the car was transported to France on Porsche Factory license plates, as it had not been registered in Annie’s name at that point. Held at the banked track of Montlhéry, Annie was able to achieve a record of 230.5km/h but blew the rear right tire, skidded and crashed into the guardrail of the track doing significant damage to her Spyder and breaking her leg again in the process.
The Spyder returned to the factory for further repairs as Annie recuperated from her injuries. Annie had entered into the 1956 Reims 12 hours race, but the repairs to her Spyder had taken longer than expected. As the car was still not fully registered in her name, Bousquet would have had difficulty crossing the border into France with a German car, so Porsche used the chassis plate from 550-07, and gas welded it over the existing frame plate of 550-0043. She collected the car on Friday 29th June from the Factory, which had been fully repaired to her custom finish and painted in a metallic blue colour similar to what 550-05 was, and drove through the night to the track.
Annie had missed all the practice sessions and lined up for the ‘LeMans’ style start of the 12 hour race at 10am on the Saturday.
Travelling at approximately 100 km/h during the race, her Spyder’s driver side wheels ran off the track causing it to fishtail and barrel-roll, ending in one of the wheat fields that surrounded the track. Bousquet was ejected during the rolls, and laid some fifteen metres from the car, bleeding profusely from a skull fracture. She was taken to Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in Reims, where she died on the way from her injuries.
Analysing the photos of the crash car, it is evident that there was extensive panel damage especially to the front, but with a little structural distortion to the chassis and all the wheels and suspension were still intact.
The remains of the Spyder were returned to the Porsche factory for repairs and was later sold to race driver Ludwig Blendl from Munich who was a very accomplished circuit racer in a Porsche 356 Carrera. He was also involved in hill climb racing and thought the 550 Spyder being a light agile car would give him a competitive edge. Blendl entered the Spyder into a number of racing events, with the first being Mont Ventoux in June 1957, followed by Gaisberg and Mont Parnes. The next race at the Freiberg Schavinsland hill climb on 27th July 1957, Blendl lost control of his Spyder and crashed down the hillside. He escaped without serious injury before the car was engulfed in flames due to a grass fire the accident started, as seen in a photo publish in Bergrekord am Schauinsland by Henning Volle. The car was extensively damaged and the aluminium body was melted beyond repair according to Blendl’s mechanic, Kurt Groger. The engine was removed and used in a 356, but other parts including the transmission were too fire damaged to save.
The chassis although was still intact and was sold to Otto Mathe from Austria along with some salvageable parts like the steel seats from the car. It remained in his possession until about 1990 where the frame was sold to Porsche collector, Dr Klaus Raker who was the president of the Porsche 356 club Deutschland, and the parts were probably sold to Vasek Polak who had been collecting parts off wrecked racing cars at the time. Raker only held onto the frame for a short time before selling it to Warren Eads, but it was sold officially documented as the frame to 550-07, as it still had the original welded plate on the frame from when Bousquet owned it.
Extensive research was undertaken into the provenance of the chassis as it was clearly identified as 550-07 from the chassis plate attached. Porsche Archives supported the new owner by releasing detailed plans, drawings and documentation, so a full restoration could be started to bring the car back to the original Buckelwagen configuration. The restoration task was commissioned to master coachbuilder and 550 restoration specialist Bruce Kimmin, who has extensive experience and intimate knowledge of Spyder construction, working on no less than seven projects previously. In preparation of the chassis, he noticed an inconsistency with the 550-07 chassis plate compared to others he had seen. The weld was different and the plate did not sit flush to the tube, as it would be when it was delivered from the factory. The plate was carefully removed to reveal the original plate of 550-0043 correctly intact below.
It is also reported that Bino Heins returned from Germany to Brazil with 550-05. He actually returned with a 550A Spyder – 550A-0143 which he raced.
This car was bought by the Fittipaldi Brothers which was rebodied to become the Fitti Porsche.
Although any historical findings are not conclusive as new resources are constantly discovered, which could verify both car and ownership information differently, I believe that the current research and information provided shows adequate evidence that the findings are correct and plausible. If new information comes to light, this document will be updated accordingly.