Kartex details for 550A-0121 documented at the Porsche Race Department Werk 1 by Hubert Mimler, Chief Mechanic, Porsche.
Chassis Number: 550A-0121
Engine Number: P 90 114
Internal Number: 419
Gearbox Number: 690 012
Build Order Number: 8602
Delivery Date: 28 March 1957
Delivery Country: Dänemark
Customer: Preben Andersen
550A-0121 Photography by Peter Singhof
550A-0121 Race History
|22 Apr 57||21||Roskilde Ring||Denmark||Julius Voigt-Nielsen||S2.0||1||1|
|2 Jun 57||21||Roskilde Ring||Denmark||Julius Voigt-Nielsen||S1.5||1||1||Copenhagen Cup|
|23 Jun 57||21||Roskilde Ring||Denmark||Julius Voigt-Nielsen||S1.5||4||4||Midsommer|
|11 Aug 57||29||GP Sweden Rabelof,
|Sweden||Julius Voigt-Nielsen||S2.0||DNS||Practice breakdown|
|17 Aug 57||21T||Roskilde GP||Denmark||Julius Voigt-Nielsen||S1.5||1||1||Race 1|
|17 Aug 57||21T||Roskilde GP||Denmark||Julius Voigt-Nielsen||S1.5||DNS||Race 2|
|17 Aug 57||21T||Roskilde GP||Denmark||Julius Voigt-Nielsen||S1.5||3||3||Race 3|
|18 Sep 57||21T||Roskilde GP||Denmark||Julius Voigt-Nielsen||S1.5||3||3||Revanche Race|
In the production run of only forty Porsche 550As, 550A-0121 was the fifteenth spyder to be assembled at the Werks factory in Zuffenhausen, Germany and was completed on 28th March 1957. The spyder was ordered by Preben Andersen, a wealthy Dane with a passion for racing. He owned one of the first racing teams established in Denmark – Scuderia Palan, a circuit team which consisted of a garage of track cars including Coopers, a Mercedes 300 SL, a Porsche 356 Carrera plus its latest acquisition, the Porsche 550A spyder.
550A-0121 was delivered early April 1957, where Andersen was keen to test the car on the local Danish track, the Roskilde Ring. It was the only 550A spyder to be delivered to Denmark with most being exported to the US and other European countries. Adorned with a red and white Danish flag painted across the front hood, which was the trademark livery for the team, it was entered into the Roskilde Ring race at the end of the month with Danish racing legend Julius Voigt-Nielsen at the wheel, against the more nimble Cooper and Lotus cars.
Voigt-Nielsen achieved national racing fame first in a VW 1200, Porsche 356, Cooper T39 and then later in the Porsche 550A, winning many victories at Roskilde against more powerful cars. He started as a reserve driver for Scuderia Palan in 1956 and soon became the team’s main driver. Voigt-Nielsen was known as an aggressive but competent pilot who pushed his cars to the limit, often spinning out on the track in the process, but his driving ability often saw him back in contention for a podium finish. During the practice session of his first race in 550A-0121, he found the 16” wheels on the 550A a challenge to steer with, so they were switched over with the 15” wheels from the team’s Porsche 356. He was victorious in his debut race in the 550A and with the other half a dozen races in the spyder over the next five months, he consistently finished in the leading field each time. 550A-0121 became part of Danish racing history as the car to beat before Scuderia Palan went into financial difficulty and the race cars were sold off in 1958.
John Manussis from Kenya, was a veteran rally driver, entering a number of African events including the Safari in both Mercedes and Jaguars in the 1950s. Manussis sold his D-Type Jaguar and imported 550A-0121 from Denmark to replace it. Manussis had partnered with Lucille Cardwell as navigator and rallied together in a Mercedes-Benz in 1957. After a serious road accident, he entered Cardwell into the rally at Nakuru in the spyder. The car later passed into the ownership of Jim and Lucille Cardwell who were living in Tanga, Tanzania.
Lucille Cardwell was also an experienced rally driver and became the East African track driving champion behind the wheel of 550A-0121 in 1960. By the late 1960s the spyder was sold as part of a race car deal struck by Gordon Crow, who had recently reopened the Nairobi, Kenya Porsche dealership, where he swapped a race ready Lotus he owned for the 550A. Crow’s wife Di was more than eager to get behind the wheel of the spyder on the local track. Both Di and Gordon raced 550A-0121 at the Nairobi and Nakuru race tracks in Kenya. German ex-Werks Porsche driver, Jürgen Barth, visited Crow in 1969 and inspected the car, then painted blue, which was in good racing condition.
In 1978, Italian Corrado Cuppelini purchased 550A-0121 and sold it a year later to Giuseppe Freschi from Brescia Italy, the home of the Mille Miglia. Freschi entered the spyder into a number of the modern day Mille Miglia races up until 2010. The Porsche 550A was one of the last models to be accepted in the original Mille Miglia, which stopped after the 1957 race, similar to the LeMans race, where concerns for spectator safety forced racing committees to review the viability of these road races.
In 2011, the spyder was sold to collector Pierre Asso of France who after only two months sold it to the current owner, a discerning Porsche collector from Monaco who was drawn to 550A-0121 not by the condition that it was in, but by the originality and completeness of the car. It is not often you find a classic race car today with complete matching numbers, from engine and transmission to all the correct identification plates from Porsche and body builder Wendler, but 550A-0121 was one of them.
After the collector purchased the car, he decided to do a complete body-off restoration. Following years of racing, many of the aluminium panels were fatigued and it was not safe to use the car for its sole original purpose of racing, plus repairs that were previously done were not to the quality of Porsche Factory standards and specifications. All the parts on the car were still in original condition, except for the instrument cluster which had been replaced at some time with incorrect ones, along with the 16” aluminium wheels which were missing, so original 550A sets were carefully sourced from Europe to replace them.
The restoration started in 2012 which turned into a four year project to return the spyder back to its original 1957 Factory finish. The best vintage Porsche experienced craftsmen and coachbuilders were chosen to restore the car, led by Porsche restoration specialist Claudio Roddaro, with a body shop team in Torino, Italy and a mechanical/engine team in Maranello, Italy. Two original 550As were used as reference, 550A-0115 (currently part of the Porsche Museum collection) and also 550A-0132 which were on hand in the workshop throughout the whole restoration process. When the body was stripped down, traces of blue paint under the silver were discovered from the days of Gordon Crow’s ownership, confirming the line of owner provenance that has been thoroughly researched. Every degree of authenticity was replicated using factory tools and techniques to ensure 550A-0121 was completed to concourse condition with the original characteristics of a Factory 550A spyder. The type 547/2 quad cam engine and type 716 gear box, both original and matching to the car, were totally rebuilt with new components to ensure reliability for future road and track racing.
Using reference photos and data sheets obtained from the Porsche archives, 550A-0121 was finished in the original silver paint and tan basket weave vinyl on the seats and trim. The finished car is a testament to the craftsmanship and dedication of the quality found in Claudio’s team when restoring cars of this calibre. Jürgen Barth inspected the complete car to see if the restoration was carried out to the standard expected from Porsche. When finished, he said ‘The 550A-0121 is perfect in its original form and all technical aspects are like it was in 1957.’
With less the 100 km on the speedometer since the restoration, 550A-0121 is now available for sale and is eligible to enter most modern day classic car races such as the Mille Miglia, LeMans Classic and Goodwood events, along with others around the world. Besides the investment growth potential of these model Porsches, the 550A spyder is also a car that can be driven, raced and enjoyed.
Denmark race history and images: Carsten Frimodt
Race results: Carrera Book by Rolf Sprenger & Steve Heinrich
Porsche provenance: Jürgen Barth
Lucille Cardwell history: motorsportmagazine.com
Gordon Crow history: Classic Porsche Magazine (GB)