Though examples could be obtained for reasonable sums of cash only a few decades ago, early 1950s Porsche models have skyrocketed in value since the turn of the millennium, with even basketcase specimens commanding exorbitant amounts. And while practically all mid-century Porsche production models are now incredibly valuable, few if any boast valuations as high as the 550 — with a 1958 550A Spyder recently fetching $5,170,000 at a Bonhams auction in 2018. Despite the immense rarity of the car, a long-lost Porsche 550 Spyder specimen has recently been unearthed and is now heading to auction.
Introduced in 1953, the Porsche 550 only saw four years of production before being replaced by the 718 in 1957 — during which time only 90 examples were constructed. Engineered from the ground up specifically for racing, the 550 was crafted around a flat-welded steel tubular frame that came adorned in handworked alloy bodywork. At the heart of the 550 was Porsche’s Carrera four-cam engine — a mid-mounted, air-cooled, dual-ignition 1.5-liter flat-four with double shaft-driven overhead cams, twin 2-barrel Solex PJJ downdraft carburetors, and dry-sump lubrication that was good for around 110hp and roughly 90ft-lbs of torque.
Successor to the Ferry Porsche-designed 356/1 prototype racer, the 550 would win the very first race it entered — the 1953 Nurburgring Eifel Race — before going on to secure a slew of additional high-profile wins in 1.1L and 1.5-liter class competition. On top of its well-designed engine, chassis, and low drag coefficient bodywork, another major factor that contributed to the 550’s success in racing was its svelte approximately 1,200lb curb weight and its rather short 82.7” wheelbase — factors that, together, afforded the 550 excellent handling and cornering capabilities. Despite its slew of podiums and race wins, Porsche’s 550 Spyder may be best-known as the vehicle James Dean was driving when the actor lost control of his vehicle — known as “Little Bastard” — and ultimately crashed and died just outside of Paso Robles, California on September 30, 1955. The 1956 550 that’s now headed to auction is a remarkable barn find that appears to be in largely original condition — complete with period racing stickers and a Carerra 1.5-liter flat-four.
This 1956 Porsche 550 Spyder is slated to cross the auction block at Gooding & Company’s upcoming London Auction sale on September 3, 2022. And while Gooding & Co. has yet to reveal a valuation for the 550, we anticipate this ’56 specimen to sell for well over a million dollars.