Factories at Work: Building the Spyders
I make no bones about the fact that the Porsche 550 Spyder is my all-time favorite racing car. I’ve been collecting photos and pouring over reproduction shops’ brochures for this sexy little thing since I was 15 years old. With that in mind, it’s hard to believe that I’ve never showcased the Spyder’s build in our “Factories at Work” series. Partly this is due to the complexity of coachbuilt construction. It’s difficult enough to find photos of just one workshop hammering out the bodies for historic sports and racing cars. With the 550, there were 8 prototypes built in various locations. Truthfully, I don’t know which of these images are Zuffenhausen, which are Wiedenhausen Karosserie and which are Wendler. They all had a hand in early 550 builds.
It’s always a bit jarring to see these machines under construction. Particularly seeing the rear half of the Spyder frame. A bit like the Birdcage, it’s striking how delicate and fragile she looks. Imagining the 4-cam type 547 engine revving high, fighting to break free from the motor mounts that buckle her in place. It’s almost difficult to believe that this little box of toothpicks can hold it in there. Racing bicycle frames have thicker tubes than this. Even so, it’s that delicate nature of her that is part of the allure; the danger that it hints at and the grace that it seems to lend to her movements.
Of course it’s also just a treat to see this many of ’em in a room together.
Most images via Type550.com, where Andrew has put together an extensive list of the particular Spyder builds, with information for several specific chassis. Fantastic as always.
If you love Spyders I think you’ll like this one….
And great post btw, I follow the Chicane for some time now and it is outstanding.
[…] The fantastic site The Chicane has shared some unique pictures of the Porsche factory in the times of the iconic 550 Spyder. Really worth a look and, needless to say, a great starting point to tour that fantastic blog as well. You can find the article right here […]
Actually, that first picture is taken in a garage at Teloché, near the LeMans Circuit. Porsche used this garage over the years to prep their entries. Similar shots of the garage over the years show the 917s, 935s, 962s, etc.
Thanks Bill. I’ll update with the proper caption.
First off, I agree with you that the 550 Spyders are the just about the coolest thing ever on four wheels.
About the only thing that comes close to these vintage Porsches, in terms of utter coolness, is your site and blog. You do a great job capturing exactly what made the era and the cars so special, and your sense of aesthetics is, in my opinion, spot on.
The rear frame in the picture of the single car with no engine in it looks quite different from what you see in the other photos, which have beefier lower sections.
I might be wrong but I think there were two types of frames on the spiders. The first ones had a ladder frame. The last ones had a space frame, which allows for thiner tubes.
With the space frame photo, that is of a 550A spyder which was the successive model of the RS. Thanks for the cred too – always appreciated! Avid reader of this top car site too