Alfred's Motor Report
Short bits and bytes from motoring's past, present and future
The Porsche 550 Coupe, 1953
"Little Porsche...Big Heart..."
By the early 1950s, Porsche had discovered that modified production cars were no longer competitive in races. The Gmünd coupes were the forerunners of the company's sporting heritage.
Walter Glöckler, a Frankfurt VW dealer and acquaintance of the Porsche family, had followed with his eigenbau (homemade) specials.
It was past time for Porsche to build a race car of their own.
The 1498cc production car engine was “improved” with twin-choke Solex 40 PII downdraft carburetors for increased power.
The wet-sump lubrication system was supplemented by an external oil cooler in the nose.
Porsche, like Glöckler, employed Weidenhausen of Frankfurt to create the alloy bodies for the two cars that were being prepared for the 1953 season.
A coupe was designed with Le Mans in mind, but the first car finished as a roadster in its first race at the Nürburgring.
Helm Glöckler (Walter's cousin) would have liked the car to have its hardtop because it was raining, but he battled the storm, Borgward and EMW, as well as carburetion issues – and won.
Victory in a race for the first time is a positive thing for any race car.
Hans Hermann joined Helm Glöckler in 550-01 at Le Mans, while Richard von Frankenberg and Paul Frère, two driver-journalists, took 550-02.
The Porsche's reached 124 mph on the Mulsanne straight during practice with the coupe tops on, but at a cost to the drivers.
Despite this, claustrophobia, a lack of ventilation, and an almost intolerable amount of noise were grudgingly tolerated in exchange for the speed advantage.
For the entire 24 hours, the two cars were within a lap of each other and reached the finish line at the same interval they began.
Since Le Mans scorers hate ties, a little more distance was found for 550-02, and the journalists won the 1500cc class and set a new record.
By the end of the season, the cars were on their way to Guatemala, where they were raced in the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico (where the 550-02 won its class) and the 1000-Kilometer Race in Buenos Aires (where the 550-01 won), as well as at Sebring.
Autosport described the Porsche's as "incredible."
The 550 demonstrated that Porsche was serious about racing on three continents.
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