The Holmes Spyder is a stunning tribute to
the extremely successful Porsche Spyder 550 which was campaigned
throughout the 1950's. Holmes motor company offer two incarnations of this formidable motor
car, the Spyder 550 and the Spyder RS. For more information about
either please follow the relevant links on the right.
History of the Porsche Spyder 550.
Spyder followed from the earlier sales success of the
356 Speedster, the first production car to bear the Porsche name.
Engineers realized that the 356 had a number of shortcomings when raced.
The steel body was too heavy and the monocoque structure was too
flexible. Porsche wanted a more competitive production race car, they
returned to the original 356 prototype, built in 1948, which had used a
space-frame separate chassis and had the engine mounted in front of the
Work started in late 1952, and by spring 1953 a single mid-engined Type
550 was ready to go racing. It was a simple design,
fitted with a hand-built aluminum body. The Volkswagen-based Super 1500
engine was mounted inboard of the rear axle, giving the design nearly
50/50 front/rear weight distribution with a driver aboard.
motor show in October 1953 Porsche unveiled
mid-engine, two-seat production car prototype based on the race cars and
called the Type 550. Actual production 550 Spyders didn't reach the
market until October 1954.
The origin of the name is said to be attributed to American Porsche
importer Johnny Von Neumann
because he felt that numbers like "type 550" and "356" were not suitable
for the exuberant American market so he gave the names, Porsche Spyder
(550) and Porsche Speedster (356).
The engine delivered only 70 horsepower in street trim and didn't
frighten the Jaguars or Ferraris of the day. However 550-01 won its
class in its first race at the Nurburgring. A second car was built and
550-01 and -02s scored a one-two class finish in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The same cars went on to triumph in the Carrera Panamericana, the race
which gave the Porsche the model name they still use today on cars
directly descended from the 550.
Porsche engineers set about making the 550 better,
they developed a new chassis
and re-designed the car in the process. A lighter, stiffer space frame
produced the 550A, weighing
Ernst Fuhrman was commissioned to build a better engine and the result
was the Type 547, a quad-cam engine that produced 110 horsepower at 7800
rpm, almost double the power of the stock 1500. The Fuhrman-designed
engine, though complex, proved very reliable even in long-distance
events. Before the 550 series was retired, the engine was tweaked to
deliver 135 horsepower at a slightly less frenetic 7200 rpm.The 550A won
a 1,000-kilometer endurance race at Nurburgring and finished first in
the Targa Florio.
The 550A ceased factory-supported racing in 1958, leaving its own legend
behind and establishing the Porsche brand worldwide.
Today only a
dozen or so original Porsche Spyders exist and if you are lucky enough
to see one of the remaining few it will be valued in excess of half a