Glorious ex-Le Mans Porsche 550A Spyder heads for auction

One bright spark in my inbox this morning was this nicely preserved Porsche 550A Spyder, which is heading for the Bonhams Scottsdale auction in January.

There can’t be too many 550A Spyders left with the provenance of this one. Apparently the penultimate 550A Spyder produced, chassis number 0145 began its racing life in the 1958 season, including taking part in the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, where it finished 11th. Eleventh was also last place but owning an ex-Grand Prix Porsche is a good story.

Going by some online detectiving, this particular 550A has been with the current owner since 2013, and appeared back on the market in 2015 with Fiskens at Retromobile Paris. Offered for sale at $6.5 million back then, it subsequently popped up again at Goodings Pebble Beach sale the following year, with an estimate of five to six million dollars – quite a bit lower. No estimate has been placed on 0145 for Scottsdale just yet, so Bonham’s sense of where the market might be for the car will be interesting. My own feeling is that they will match Goodings’ guidelines at 5 to 6 million dollars.

Porsche 550A Spyder race history

One previous sales text for the car says it was a works race car, competing at four events through 1958 before passing into private hands, but another text tells a different story, with the car being bought by privateer Count Carol Godin de Beaufort from new and raced all over Europe, including Aspern-Vienna airport, Nürburgring 1000kms, Dutch Grand Prix, Le Mans 24 hours, the 12 Hours of Rheims, Zandvoort NAV, Trento-Bondone hillclimb, 10 Hours of Messina, Zandvoort, the Rheinland Palatine Prize, Nürburging Grand Prix,  Karlskoga Grand Prix, Goodwood, Innsbruck and more.

After Count Carol sold the car, it spent time in Canada and then sold into America, where it raced extensively. It came home to Germany in the early 1990s and then moved to Italy in 2002, with an owner who campaigned it on ten Mille Miglia reruns. Good times! Now it is back up for sale.

Scottsdale is always an interesting auction. It takes place at the start of the year, when many classic collectors may be feeling less certain about how tastes have changed through the end of the previous year. Some come into the new year feeling upbeat about prospects but hanging back on bidding just to see what their rivals think. Other buyers will be looking to score a bargain and this can encourage some competitive bidding up to a preset maximum, usually well below the reserve. It is then up to the auctioneer to keep bids coming in, with the backroom team trying to make a deal happen if the car fails to sell on the block.

550 Spyders are often a good signpost on high end collector sentiment. A nicely patinated but unraced 550 was offered at Goodwood Revival in Sep 2016 and sold for £4.6 million – just over $6 million at current exchange rates but well short of the £6.2 million top estimate. How this is estimated and what it actually tops out at (or sells for) will set a tone for the start of 2018. All very interesting.

Photos by Bonhams/P. Litwinski

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