Page 1 of 3 Next >> Inspired by the success of the Porsche-based Glöckler specials of the early 1950s, Porsche set out to construct the company's first proper racing car. Although stripped out competition versions of the VW based 356 had proven moderately successful, the team in Zuffenhausen agreed that a more specialized machine was required to continue their racing success. Despite the limited funds and time available, two separate programs were initiated at the factory. Ernst Fuhrmann was in charge of designing a competition engine (project 547) and Wilhelm Hild headed the development of a new chassis (project 550).
There were only a few months available for Hild's team to construct the new racer for its scheduled debut in the 1953 24 Hours of Le Mans. The design was very similar to the mid-engined Glöckler, which was equipped with a modified 356 drivetrain reversed with the engine between the driver and the rear axle. A simple steel tube ladder frame was created with six cross members. The front and rear suspension were similar to the production Porsches with some small revisions to handle the expected higher load. The brakes and wheels were also sourced from the 356 parts bin.
Two chassis were constructed, but with Fuhrmann not ready yet, a 356 1500 Super engine was fitted. Close to 100 bhp could be produced by the engine when fueled by alcohol and running a very high compression. For the 550 a compression of 9.0:1 was chosen for reliability reasons, which was still enough for 78 bhp. Equipped with a Roadster body the first 550 debuted in the Eiffel Races at the Nürburgring. Although troubled by a failing carburettor and very poor weather, Helm Glöckler piloted Porsche's first racing car to a debut victory, despite strong opposition from EMW and Borgward.
Porsche subsequently entered two cars at Le Mans. Like the second car, the Nürburgring winner was fitted with a coupe body that was expected to be better suited to the high speed track. The 1101-1500 cc class competition was easily beaten without really stressing the cars and at the end of the race both cars had covered an identical distance and finished 15th and 16th overall. The organizers eventually awarded the class victory to the Richard Frankenberg and Paul Frere driven 550-02. After Le Mans the cars were raced twice more in German events, with Hans Herrmann scoring another win in 550-02. Page 1 of 3 Next >>