Porsche 550 / 718 RSK Spyder Replica by Spyder Conversions
The Porsche story is a fascinating one and its roots go back to the 1930’s when Professor Ferdinand Porsche was instrumental in the design of the first Volkswagen and also Auto Union race cars. By 1939 he had built three Porsche cars to compete in the 800-mile race from Berlin to Rome. Unfortunately, the race was cancelled due to the war and Porsche was forced to focus on supporting the German war effort, however, he had always wanted to build his own cars. In 1944 Porsche was forced to leave Stuttgart and he set up a small operation in Gmünd, Austria. Soon after the Porsche family and many of their engineers were captured and sent to jail. Ferdinand Porsche’s son. Ferdinand junior, or ‘Ferry’ as he was known, was released six months later and he returned to Gmünd to rebuild the family company. Things moved quickly and Porsche was involved with cars again and in mid-1948 the first Porsche 356 was built. It is understood Porsche built some 50 hand built aluminium bodied cars in their small factory at Gmünd before relocating back to Stuttgart, Germany. The rest as they say is history as the 356 evolved into one of the most successful sports cars ever built. A hard act to follow indeed . . . but its replacement, the Porsche 911 went on to become a legend!
Ferry Porsche decided that he would be able to increase sales of his cars by winning races on the track. This was a big decision and arguably one of the most strategic and important decisions in Porsche’s rich history.
In 1951 Porsche entered two modified 356’s in the Le Mans 24 hours. This would be the third running of the French endurance race since the end of the Second World War. Interestingly, Porsche was the first German motor manufacturer to enter the race after the War. The Porsche 356 SL as it was designated was specifically adapted to the needs of motor racing. It had an all alloy body, the fuel tank capacity was increased, and to speed up refuelling the filler neck protruded through the bonnet. One of the cars was badly damaged in practice so only one car made it to the start line. Driven by the French Porsche importer Auguste Veuillet and co-driver Edmonde Mouche, this 356 SL ended up winning its class.
1953 saw the birth of a Porsche specifically designed for motor racing, the 550 Spyder. It had a lightweight yet rigid steel frame chassis made from steel tubing and a streamlined, stylish body. The engine was located behind the driver but before the rear axle. The car was officially launched at the1953 Paris Motor Show to critical acclaim. It then made a very successful race debut, winning the Nurburgring Eifel Race in May 1953.The Porsche 550 Spyder was raced with great success the world over, however, it wasn’t until 1956 that Porsche actually won a major event. A Porsche 550A Spyder, which was even lighter and had a more rigid spaceframe chassis than its predecessor, won the 1956 Sicilian Targa Florio, beating Ferraris and Maseratis.
The 550 was both a road car and a track car and it wasn’t uncommon for privateers to drive the Spyder to the track, race it and then drive it home again. These privateers also kept racing the 550 when Porsche moved on and built the 718.
The Porsche 550 Spyder also became famous for a not so good reason. Actor James Dean had only just taken delivery of his 550 when on his way to his first race in it, he was involved in a catastrophic collision and was killed at the young age of 24.
In 1957 Porsche released the 718 RSK which was a further development of the 550A Spyder. This car continued Porsche’s significant success on the race track. In 1958 a Porsche 718 finished first in class and third overall at Le Mans as well as achieving second at the Targa Florio. In 1959 a Porsche 718, driven by Edgar Barth and Wolfgang Seidel, claimed overall victory at the Targa Florio. A 718 also won the European Hill Climb Championship in both 1958 and 1959. In 1958 Porsche 718’s were entered in Formula 2 and they achieved immediate success winning races in 1958 and continued their winning way in 1959 and 1960. Formula One switched to a 1.5 litre formula in 1961 and Porsche entered three 718’s for Dan Gurney, Hans Herrmann and Jo Bonnier. Gurney scored three 2nd places (France, Italy and United States) taking him to 4th place in the Drivers’ Championship. In 1961 a 718/4 RS Spyder achieved a class win at Le Mans.
Despite its popularity only 90 Porsche 550 / 550A Spyders and only 35 of the 718 RSK Spyders were ever built. These cars have become hugely collectable and as a result, are very difficult to find and very expensive to buy. This has resulted in these Porsches becoming one of the most frequently reproduced classic cars. Over the years various companies have offered either kits, complete replicas or recreations to the general public.
Oldtimer Australia is delighted to offer for sale a 1985 Porsche 550 / 718 Spyder replica.
It is understood that this car is one of a small number of cars built by Spyder Conversions who were based in Boronia in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. The cars were sold as the Spyder RSK.
The back story is an interesting one. The Spyder RSK was featured in the October / November 1985 issue of Sports Car World magazine. In summary, Victorian businessman Richard Raftes saw a Porsche 718 Spyder Replica whilst visiting the UK and fell in love with it. He decided to set up his own company to produce an Australian built Porsche 550 / 718 Spyder Replica. He partnered with pal Roger Tomlinson and Spyder Conversions was born. Neither one had experience building cars, but their lack of experience was compensated by a lot of enthusiasm and desire to succeed!
The UK replicas where all built on a shortened VW Beetle chassis and Spyder Conversions intended to use the same for their cars as well. However, after the completion of their first car, obtaining type approval in Australia turned out to be a problem. Basically, the shortened chassis made it impossible to get a proper approval to produce the car in larger numbers. So it was ‘back to the drawing board’. It was ultimately decided to start from scratch, this time on a full length VW Beetle chassis. New body moulds were made using a wooden buck.
In Sports Car World’s road test of the Spyder Conversion they state “this car can seriously be regarded as an affordable and very ‘ownable’ proposition at a price where sports cars are as rare as hen’s teeth”. The same article states that at the time of writing 10 kits and 2 complete cars had been sold. The car being tested was the third complete car built.
The car offered for sale has been used as a static display for pretty much all its life which explains why the odometer only shows 86 km.
Given the mileage it is not surprising that this car presents like new. The silver paintwork is immaculate as is the red interior. Everything looks to be in working order and the car has recently passed a Queensland roadworthy inspection and it has been road registered in Queensland. Prior to this, the car was last registered in Victoria in 1992 and it carried the number plate DKV966.
This car is powered by an upgraded twin port VW Beetle engine, most likely1600cc in capacity. Prior to being offered for sale the car has been recommissioned and today it runs and drives well. The engine has plenty of power & it revs willingly, the gearbox is relatively smooth and the car is surprisingly tight on the road. It is incredibly light and nimble to drive.
Accompanying the car is its original soft top and frame which can be stored in a purpose built bag behind the seats.
The car would benefit from having new slimline race style seats installed. The current ‘bucket’ seats are very comfortable, but they are thick and currently provide an awkward driving position. You sit way too high in the car.
- A unique Australian designed and built Porsche 550 / 718 Spyder replica
- Essentially a ‘new car’ with only 85 km on the odometer.
- With VW mechanicals the car is easy to maintain.
- Porsche 550 / 718 RSK Spyder Replica
- 84 km