1955 Porsche 550 Spyder chassis 550-0056
The Porsche 550 Spyder was a sports racing car that was manufactured from 1953 – 1956. The engine in the 550 Spyder was a 1498cc air cooled unit and together with the 4-speed plus reverse ZF gearbox, the very light and nimble car was capable of 140mph (226kph) top speed.
In 1956 Norman Hamilton, of Porsche Distributors (Melbourne) Ltd, entered his 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder chassis 550-0056 as car #10 in the 15 lap ‘Ardmore Handicap’ event for sports cars at the 1956 NZIGP meeting held at Ardmore on 7th January 1956. Hamilton’s car was left-hand drive and painted pale blue with white stripes of the rear body work coming forward from the tail lights. The ‘factory’ and some other Porsche 550 Spyders used a range of different coloured stripes on the rear body work to help differentiate respective drivers.
As entered at Ardmore in 1956, the 550 was to have been driven in the Ardmore Handicap by Norm Hamilton himself (or perhaps Australian Frank Kleinig, who was to drive it in the NZIGP that day) but instead, the great Stirling Moss (GB) accepted the offer to drive the car in Pre-GP sports car race.
Starting 3 laps behind the first cars away in the Ardmore Handicap race, Moss was third-to-last to start, with a handicap of 4 minutes 47 seconds. However, such was his skill, Moss won the race with a time of 29 minutes 49 seconds. Moss also shared fastest lap of the race with Peter Whitehead (UK) who drove his much more powerful Cooper-Jaguar and finished in second place after a starting at the rear of the field with handicap of 5 min 15 secs. Tony Gaze in his HWM-Jaguar was placed third after starting second-to-last with a handicap of 4 min 56 secs. A very young Bruce McLaren drove in this race in his father’s Austin Healey, but Bruce completed only 6 laps before retiring the car.
Australian driver Frank Kleinig drove the Porsche 550 Spyder in the 1956 New Zealand International Grand Prix. After official practice and qualifying he was on 11th place on the start gird of the 24 cars that started. When the flag dropped at the start of the GP, Frank had a fast start and was up to 8th place by the first corner. On lap 3, Frank spun backwards into the hay bales at College Corner. By mid-race he was in back 11th place and after completing 89 laps of the scheduled 100 laps for the race, was classified in 9th place of the 15 who finished. Stirling Moss won the Grand Prix in his Maserati 250F from Tony Gaze and Peter Whitehead in their 3 litre Ferrari 625s.
In 1957 the Porsche 550 Spyder chassis 0056 belonging to Norman Hamilton Pty Ltd of Australia was entered in the 50 lap Ardmore Championship race at the 1957 NZIGP meeting held at Ardmore on 12th January 1957. The driver for the Porsche was listed as ’to be nominated’, but apparently the car did arrive in New Zealand. Bob Gibbons won the race driving Jack Shelly’s pastel blue coloured Jaguar ‘D’ Type from Jack Brabham in his dark green Cooper ‘Bobtail’ Climax. Sadly, UK driver Ken Wharton was killed in this race when his Ferrari Monza rolled.
The Porsche Spyder was also entered as car #8 in the NZ IGP held at Ardmore on the same day, but obviously it did not start. Reg Parnell (UK) won the race from Peter Whitehead (UK), both of whom were driving Ferrari Tipo 555 Super Squalos. Stan Jones (Aus) in his Maserati 250F was third and New Zealand’s Ross Jensen was fourth in a Ferrari Monza sports car.
Now fast forward to 1997…….The ex-Hamilton 550 Spyder chassis 0056 remained in Australian ownership since it was built. There were many owners and drivers of 0056 before it was purchased by Lindsay Fox in 1991. After a total restoration, the 500 made its first public appearances for some 30 years at the 1997 Melbourne International Motor Show and the 1998 Australian GP meeting at Albert Park. The car is still part of the Fox Collection in Melbourne.
NZ Festival of Motor Racing celebrating Porsche – January 2016
Porsche cars that raced in New Zealand
By Jim Barclay