Porsche 550 (1953-1956)
550 was Porsche's first production racing car. The car was completely street legal, so it could be driven to the races and back home. A really special engine was developed for it, engineered by Ernst Fuhrmann. It was a flat DOHC engine, meaning it had 4 overhead camshafts like the Porsche type 360 design for Formula 1. Although with just 4 cylinders, the engine was really complicated and took a lot of time to build. Compared to the "regular" 1500 cc engine in the 356, the Fuhrmann 1500 didn't have anything in common with it. The 4-cam Porsche engine developed twice the power compared to the single-cam unit based on the pre-war Volkswagen design (which was also a Porsche design).
The 550 started its life in a coupé-like hardtop configuration, but that was not a typical shape of the car which was designed as a spyder. Spyder or roadster is a 2-seater open sports car. Spyders are usually mid-engined, but that is not a rule. The first cars had long front lids and regular engine lids while just a few months later at the 1953 Paris Motor Show a 550 with a 356-like "regular" front lid was shown. It was a show car, another 550 prototype, the only one with "regular" front and rear lids. Out of all 550 made, the Paris show car looked the most as a series production street car. The next prototype was a humpback version (Buckel-Spyder) which came with a completely new feature – instead of the rear engine lid, the complete rear part of the car opened up to allow better access to the engine. Although the humpback was quickly dropped, from 1954 all the 550 were made with fully openable engine compartments.
The 550 had aluminium body on a frame similar in design to Ferdinand Porsche designed Auto Union racers of the nineteen thirties – with two large tubes running from front to the rear and the rest of the frame built of smaller diameter tubes.
For 1956, the 550 evolved into more powerful 550 A, which had a 5-speed transmission and an enhanced spaceframe. The engine cover had additional service hatches with louvres on the sides. The 550 A gave Porsche its first overall victory at a major motor sport event, the 1956 Targa Florio.
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