As there are only 90 in existence, any 550 Spyder warrants a lengthy description when it goes up for sale. Chassis 550-0050, one with a few notable owners, might even deserve a little extra attention.
In 1955, this car was purchased by Jim Cook, who raced it alongside C. Pitt Browne until ‘65. By the mid-‘80s, it had made its way to Las Vegas to Frank C. Cook. Soon after, a Japanese businessman put it through a no-expense-spared restoration project spanning four years. From then on, it changed famous hands every few years. From a French-based dealer to collector Claude Picasso, then onto classic car enthusiast Jean Guittard, to french singer Florent Pagny, to Ladurée CEO David Holder.
The 550 Spyder’s diminutive size lent it an agility which made it able to outrun larger, more powerful rivals, earning it the moniker “Giant Killer.” More that a rolling supporter of a driver’s Napoleonic complex, the 550 Spyder had real performance; its lightweight design, advanced engine, and great aerodynamics helped it to an outright victory at the 1956 Targa Florio and class wins at Le Mans and the Carrera Panamerica 3 years prior.
Its controversial engine which took a few years of development before it was reliable enough for road usage. In fact, the Type 547 boxer engine was commonly referred to as the ‘Drawer Motor’ because its engineering drawings were quickly hidden in designer Dr. Ernst Fuhrmann’s desk whenever Dr. Porsche walked into his office.
The sophisticated 1.5-liter boxer featured dry-sump lubrication, four camshafts, and two spark plugs per cylinder. With compression of 9.5:1 and breathing through a pair 2-barrel Solex PJJ downdraft carburetors, this engine produced 110 brake horsepower. While that might not sound like a race-winning amount, the lightweight chassis weighed just 1,300 pounds and made good use of the power available.
Built on a frame of seamless mild steel tubing, the 550 utilized 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.
More on the background of this sleek, elegant car can be found in its listing at Auxietre and Schmidt. Price is available upon request, but anything with such an illustrious history and celebrity ownership will likely fetch a king’s ransom.