Friday, September 30, 2011

The Allure of the Automobile Exhibit at the High Part 18, the 1953 Porsche 550 Prototype

1953 Porsche 550 Prototype

This was the first of the racing prototypes built by Porsche that are usually attributed to their sports car market success. This example is the first of two 550 prototypes built and raced (and apparently the only one to survive) - after a year of development starting in 1952, and winning its initial outing in 1953. Most photos you'll see of the 550 are of the spider configuration (this car actually has a removable hardtop - seems they were raced with or without).

In 1953 the two Porsche 550 Prototypes 550-01 and 550-02 ran for the entire 24 hours of Le Mans exchanging intervals but otherwise running nearly side-by-side, crossing the finish line at basically the same interval from which they started the race. The win was awarded by Le Mans scoring officials to 550-02. The end of the season brought the cars to Mexico where they raced in the 1954 La Carrera Panamericana (the paint and sponsorship reflects that latter period). After that, the cars disappeared with only the original 550-01 appearing in later years in a Mexican warehouse.

I love the lines of this car - you'll often find the 550 as a kit with fiberglass panels - here you'll see the original that started it all. The top speed was 125 MPH with both cars clocked near the limit during practice sessions at Le Mans.

Well that's it for the exhibit - glad you've made the journey with me - I was beginning to think I wouldn't ever finish it. Cindi, in this last photo from the museum (odd "log" bench near the coat check) is certainly glad I'm done!

-- Best, John

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