In the early 1950s, Porsche’s focus was on making production cars such as the type 356. As competition grew fierce from other manufacturer’s racing endeavours, Porsche realized they would have to enter the racecar business as well. In 1953, engineers started work on the first Porsche vehicle built exclusively for racing. Taking cues from the original 356 prototype and with guidance from Walter Glockler, the team added steel-ladder framing, a production based 1500cc alcohol burning type 502 pushrod boxer engine and skinned it with aluminum bodywork by the Frankfurt coach builder – Weidenhausen, who had built the original Glockler specials which the 550 prototypes had been inspired from. Porsche produced only two of these beautifully shaped machines: 550-01 and 550-02.
In its debut outing on May 31, 1953, 550-01 won its first ever race event, taking class victory at Nurburgring in the rain with Walter’s cousin, Helmut Glockler behind the wheel. Car 550-01 competed as a roadster without its aero-aiding hardtop.
Shortly after, 550-01 and 02 were sold to a group led by Czech-born Guatemalan garage owner, Jaroslav Juhan. Later that year, 550-01 and 550-02 won the 1000 kilometre race in Buenos Aires, and both cars competed in the grueling, five day, 3,000 kilometre Carerra Panamerica. Car 550-02 took out the class win, after sister car 550-01 retired with the fastest time in four of the event’s eight stages. After its Carerra Panamerica debut, 550-01 raced in Mexico until 1957, appearing in over 30 events.
In 1997, 550-01 was sold to an Australian collector, who engaged Joe Cavaglieri of Sherman Oaks, California to do an extensive restoration. Shortly after being restored, the vehicle was sold and became part of the Collier Collection of Naples, Florida. On March 13, 2005, Porsche 550-01 made its debut at the Amelia Islands Concours d’Elegance, where it won ‘Best of Show Porsche’ and ‘Best of Show Sports’.
There are a number of historic and current videos of 550-01 which can be seen here