By 1955, the Porsche factory already had two full years of success behind them with their incredible little 550 'Giant Killers' on the major racing circuits of the world. Originally built in 1953 as coupes with removable hardtops, they were victorious at the Nurburgring, and achieved class wins at Le Mans as well. Let's remember, these diminutive cars were going head to head with the likes of the 300 SLR from Mercedes, Jaguar D-Types, and factory-built OSCA's. All this with a 1.1 litre engine under the rear bonnet!
Circa 1955, the Porsche Type 547 1.5 litre four cam race engine was fitted, which became known as the 'Carrera' motor, and the string of victories continued apace. Porsche commissioned German coachbuilder Wendler to construct sixty nine 550's for private customers, thirty three of which were imported to the U.S.
The 550 Spyders soldiered on until 1965, competing on the international stage at such venues as Goodwood, Le Mans, the Targa Florio, Carrera Panamericana and Avus. Pilots of note include Stirling Moss, Hans Herrmann, Umberto Maglioli, Ken Miles and Jack McAfee. During its career, the little Porsche participated in over 370 championship races, won 95 of them, and took home another 75 class wins. Amazing!
R.A.E., the London-based model manufacturer, produced our 1:8 scale Porsche 550 for distributor Carl Schneider as part of his '100 Grand Collection'. It is a marvelous representation of the real car, and while it is a 'curbside' model, there is detail plentiful enough for even the most demanding collector. The model's lovely lines are accentuated by beautiful metallic silver paint work, and cast metal and photo etched parts are used to good effect.
Starting from the front, beside the inlet grille are two recessed ball-tipped jack points. Moving upward we arrive at the covered headlights, featuring etched lenses and chromed bezels. The hood's centrally mounted Le Mans type gas filler is flanked by photo etched hood latches.
Since this model depicts one of the racing 550's, a drivers-side-only windscreen surmounts the instrument binnacle. A lovely photo etched 'Spyder' script adorns each flank just aft of the front wheels.
The cockpit is great, with full instrumentation, lovely delicate switchgear, and a correct 'banjo' steering wheel. The bent gearshift lever is nicely depicted as are the hand brake, and full set of drilled pedals. The black chassis tubing is quite evident, and the lightened, riveted bulkheads and door panels are well executed.
Moving rearward, the twin engine grilles are produced in crisp photo etch and are suspended above a black-painted recess which simulates the engine bay. Chrome bezels surround the delicate tail lights while the license plate frame is similarly chrome framed. Below it all is the two-into-one exhaust pipe which is flanked again by twin jack points.
All this loveliness is secured atop a burled walnut display base which is fitted with a perspex cover. Interestingly, this model is supplied with an aluminum plaque personally signed by Sir Stirling Moss in black marker with his name engraved beneath. This plaque did not accompany the original examples of the model, and is an appropriate finishing touch to a significant representation of an automobile racing legend. The model with case measures 23.5 inches in length, 11.5 inches wide, and 9 inches tall.