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.