The Porsche 550 was pivotal in the success of Porsche evolving into the marque it is today. It was the purpose built racer that was dominant against both the equals and giants of motor racing during the 50s. I get immense satisfaction researching the provenance of these Spyders but sometimes resources are limited to information and photos found on the internet, or the chance connection with a pilot who raced in the day, or a current owner happy to share the racing history that was passed on with the purchase of the car. It would be great to have one of the golden keys that unlocks the thousands of drawings, photographs and documents that are meticulously sorted and filed into the archives housed at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, but where would one start with unlimited access?
This week, I took great pleasure in acquiring one of those keys in the form of a book aptly titled ‘Carrera’. It is one of those words synonymous with Porsche and as Dr Wolfgang Porsche coined it – ‘typical Porsche’. If you need 840 pages and seven years to get it published, you would expect a book of biblical proportions and that is exactly what this is. The book is a tribute to Ernst Fuhrmann – the forefather of the type 547 engine, or commonly known as the ‘Carrera’ engine, researched and written by two Porsche knowledge banks – Rolf Sprenger and Steve Heinrichs. Utilising the resources of the team at the Museum archives, they have been given access to all areas, to dig deep and analyse thousands of documents and images to compile this book.
Starting with a 550 prototype in April 1953, the quad-cam engine was designed and tested with outstanding results in both speed and endurance on the track. The engine was then adopted and evolved over the next 12 years for the Porsche 356, 550 Spyder, 550A, 718 RSK, 60 and 61, 718, 787, 804, Elvas and 904 Carrera GTS – over 1500 individual builds.
The book is divided into 10 key chapters and each one creates its own universe of information around the purpose and history of this engine. From technical data, original blueprint drawings of all engine components and development over the years, to interviews with the highly trained technicians who built and made them race ready. A great selection of nearly 60 victory race posters illustrating the amazing talents of iconic graphic designers Erich Strenger and Hanns Lohrer are also displayed.
The last chapter – Chapter 10 covers the race results. No book has previously been able to provide a database of Porsche racing history which is so extensive. This is not a simple task and requires a complicated process to verify each car – like ‘four of a kind’ to win. Four key findings you need are chassis number, driver, date and location – if they all come together, you should be correct. Unfortunately sometimes there are over riding factors that can affect the desired outcome, where photography on the day tells a different story, or the account of the car’s pilot does not match up or cars have been reconfigured and referred to as a different chassis number by mistake. The authors admit possible errors and the process of documenting so many races will always create debate of accuracy of some results, but that is what history is all about. The chance to discuss these findings and refine or correct them only ensures the provenance of these cars will not be forgotten and lost, as the generation who experienced this era leaves us. These cars raced over 60 years ago and many were grass roots events where they were not documented lap by lap as they are done today.
At the end of the day, Carrera is a resource book. It is not one you typically ‘read once and put back on the shelf’, it is one that you go back to, to find the race, the driver or the car. As accurate as Porsche records are, the authors have researched beyond the individual build information of each car, commonly referred to as the ‘Kardex’ system and provided extensive information from color schemes to build and part numbers, with additional information such as the original dealer or if it was right hand drive. Each Porsche built, powered by a Carrera engine, is listed in order of model and engine number.
The book is amazing value and for a very limited time is only $100 plus delivery. You can order the book from http://www.biglakemedia.com/ There is also a limited edition leather bound book which will be available in the new year, but preorders will be essential. If there is one book you need to start a collection, this is definitely the one – enjoy!