The Porsche 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. The 1956 version of the Porsche 550 was known as the 550A. It had a lighter and more rigid spaceframe chassis, and gave Porsche its first overall win in a major sports car racing event, the 1956 Targa Florio. 40 units were made.
Derived from Porsche’s initial purpose-built racing car, the mid-engined RS 550 Spyder, the 550A made its debut at the close of 1956. Distinguishing itself from its precursor, the 550A employed a full tube spaceframe with multiple rear supportive cross-members, replacing the heavier welded sheet steel internal structure of the 550. The new low-pivot rear suspension arrangement replaced the 550’s swing axles, enhancing handling predictability.
Dr. Ernst Fuhrmann designed the intricate 1.5-liter four-cam boxer-four, generating approximately 135 hp at 7,200 rpm and 107 foot-pounds of torque in full racing tune. The close-ratio four-speed transaxle featured an additional “semi-first” gear for starting. The large finned brake drums, laterally drilled for additional cooling, were more than capable of slowing down these nimble and lightweight cars from their factory-claimed top speed of nearly 150 mph.
While the 550A’s body initially appears similar to older models, subtle distinctions reveal its upgraded nature. Notably, the rear engine cover lost its rear hinges, being lifted off the frame to save weight. Repositioned grills, small louvred hatches in front of the rear haunches, and a front storage location for the spare tire contributed to better weight distribution. Minor adjustments to lighting elements at the front and rear, along with a reprofiled nose for improved aerodynamics, further distinguished the ‘a’ model.