1955 Porsche 550
Year of manufacture1955
Eldon C. Beagle, Sacramento, California (acquired new via Oxford Motors in June 1955)
Oakland Diesel Distributors Inc., Emeryville, California (acquired by 1967)
Jim and Mary Richeimer, Columbus, Ohio (acquired circa 1971)
Jim Meehan, Columbus, Ohio (acquired circa 1977)
Chris Swatta, Annapolis, Maryland (acquired from the above in 1977)
Lewis Markoff, Bethesda, Maryland (acquired from the above in 1986)
Benjamin Edwards, Prospect, Connecticut (acquired from the above circa 1998)
Current Owner (acquired from the above via Paul Russell and Company in 1999)
All races listed below driven by Eldon C. Beagle.
Sacramento National Sports Car Road Race, Sacramento, California, October 1955, No. 12F (4th in Class)
Stockton Sports Car Races, Stockton, California, March 1956, No. 12F (2nd in Class)
Pebble Beach National Championship Sports Car Road Races, Pebble Beach, California, April 1956, No. 12F (9th in Class)
Rose Festival Sports Car Road Races, Santa Rosa, California, May 1956, No. 12F (3rd in Class)
Rose Festival Sports Car Road Races, Santa Rosa, California, May 1956, No. 12F (6th in Class)
Great Salt Lake Road Races, Salt Lake City, Utah, June 1956, No. 12F (2nd in Class)
Great Salt Lake Road Races, Salt Lake City, Utah, June 1956, No. 12F (3rd in Class)
Buchanan Field Race, Pacheco, California, July 1956, No. 12F (7th in Class)
Buchanan Field Race, Pacheco, California, July 1956, No. 12F (3rd in Class)
Santa Maria Road Races, Santa Maria, California, July 1956, No. 12F (3rd in Class)
Santa Maria Road Races, Santa Maria, California, July 1956, No. 12F (DNF)
Santa Maria Road Races, Santa Maria, California, July 1956, No. 12F (10th in Class)
Redwood Empire Sports Car Road Races, Arcata, California, August 1956, No. 12F (3rd in Class)
Redwood Empire Sports Car Road Races, Arcata, California, August 1956, No. 12F (2nd in Class)
Rolf Sprenger and Steve Heinrichs, , chassis no. listed on p. 353
By 1953, Porsche had been successful racing its 356, but understood it would need a true purpose-built race car to compete at motorsport’s highest levels. The resulting designs, the 550 Spyder, and its successors the 550A and 718, became some of history’s most important race cars, scoring not only class victories but significant overall wins. At just over 1,200 pounds, the 550 Spyder was incredibly agile and its advanced four-cam engine meant it was quite powerful relative to its weight. The design’s brilliance was apparent from 550-001’s very first race, when Helmut Glöckler proved victorious after fighting unrelenting rain in his methanol-fueled Spyder at Nürburgring in 1953. That same year, 550-001 and 002 took significant class victories at Le Mans, the Carrera Panamericana, and the Buenos Aires 1000 Km. This 550 Spyder, chassis 550-0053, is a remarkable example with a fascinating and well-documented history. A 1955 letter to Eldon C. Beagle of Sacramento, California, from John von Neumann’s Competition Motors of Hollywood illuminates its original delivery details:
“Dear Mr. Beagle: Your Porsche Spyder is scheduled to dock this weekend in Los Angeles harbor. The serial number of your car is #550-0053, the engine number is #P90049, the color of the car is silver with red upholstery. The car is equipped with a full double windshield.”
Beagle grew up in Merced, California, the son of a miner-turned-car dealer. He studied engineering at Caltech and Stanford, but his college days were interrupted by WWII, and he served as an aircraft mechanic in Italy, where he relished organizing high-speed test flights. After the war, Beagle returned to California, starting a family as well as a successful agricultural supply business. He eventually acquired a spacious home in Sacramento and the 550 Spyder offered here. As documented by its accompanying 1955 Bill of Sale, Beagle paid $6,430 for the new Porsche, which was retailed to him through local dealership Oxford Motors. It was the first in a line of Porsche racing Spyders that Beagle owned and campaigned with great success on the West Coast and in the Bahamas.
According to his family’s archival book, , Beagle drove 550-0053 in 14 races from 1955-1956. In his first race at Sacramento in 1955, he started on the front row next to von Neumann and finished 4th in Class. In 1956 races, his notable class results in 0053 included a 2nd Place at Stockton, California, 2nd and 3rd at Salt Lake City, a 3rd at Buchanan Field, 3rd at Santa Maria, and 2nd and 3rd at Arcata. According to the book, Beagle finished on the podium in 0053 in eight of the 14 races he entered. He retired only once, and the results demonstrate the car’s speed and reliability as well as Beagle’s driving prowess, which he honed in competition with such noted drivers as Lance Reventlow, Rod Carveth, and Pete Lovely.
Numerous stunning original photos of these races from 1956 accompany the sale and document Beagle racing through the Del Monte Forest at the 1956 Pebble Beach Road Races. In addition, video accompanies the sale and affords a rare view of the car in action in period.
An e-mail included in the car’s history file from Eldon’s oldest son, Alan, fondly recalls his father and 0053: “My memories of my father’s first Spyder mostly concern the simple way that sports car racing was practiced in the mid-’50s. When Dad had the Spyder in ’55, I was seven years old. Saturday morning early, when it was still dark, Dad would put on a really heavy big brown parka, and I would put on some really warm clothes. We would then drive the Porsche to the race track, often about an hour-plus drive. It was really cold, and I would squeeze into the passenger seat under the silver painted tonneau cover surrounded by blankets, and we would take off. I remember the engine noise right behind me as though it was yesterday morning. When we got close to the track, my dad would pull over, tell me that we were almost there, and to use the blankets to make myself inconspicuous… and we would drive past the person controlling entrance to the track. With my large dad in the driver’s seat, I was invisible. The idea was to get through the entrance gate and to the pit area, where I understood kids my age weren’t permitted. When we got there, I would carefully exit the Spyder so not to be seen by officials, and, until the temperature warmed up, sit in the passenger car.”
The elder Beagle was a meticulous driver, as records indicate only one retirement in his entire career, and his sons don’t recall 0053 being in any kind of major accident. By September 1956, Mr. Beagle was no longer racing 0053 but running 550 Spyder chassis 0088.
The next stage of 0053’s life was recently illuminated by a conversation with Porsche historian Jim Perrin, who recalled that his friends Jim and Mary Richeimer of Columbus purchased 0053 around 1971 from Porsche racer Carl Block, who had worked on 0053 in 1955. The Richeimers, owners of 550-0067, heard of 0053’s availability and hooked up a rickety old trailer to their Datsun station wagon, heading to Berkeley, California, to the shop of 356 racers Richie Lukes and Harry Shoreman. When the Richeimers found 0053, its nose had been pushed in and the paint was partially stripped off, but it otherwise appeared complete and original.
The Richeimers, collectors of four-cam Porsches, stored the car for some years and sold it to Jim Meehan, who then sold it in 1977 to Chris Swatta of Annapolis, Maryland, who also owned a Carrera Abarth GTL. Mr. Swatta also kept 0053 in storage, selling it in about 1986 to Lewis Markoff of Bethesda, Maryland, a meticulous enthusiast who embarked on a complete restoration with local experts. Porsche specialist Matt De Maria oversaw the restoration, did assembly and disassembly work, and rebuilt the gearbox. When De Maria received it, 0053 was largely untouched with its faded original silver paint and patinated interior, and complete with its orginal leather spare tire strap and racing windscreen. Bill Doyle, a renowned four-cam expert, rebuilt the engine, and metalworking specialist Tom Selby completed the bodywork, making some repairs to the nose. Local expert Joe Schiavone painted the car, North Hollywood Speedometer restored the instruments, and the interior was redone by a local specialist.
After its completion, Mr. Markoff drove 0053 every few weeks, but, realizing the limitations of the roads around Maryland, decided to sell it. His ad in the November 1992 edition of stated: “Porsche 550 RS Spyder – Ex-von Neumann, CA car w/less than 9K mi. Orig. alloy body, eng. & trans. Complete, correct mechanical & cosmetic restoration. Silver/red. $359,000.” Benjamin Edwards of Connecticut purchased 0053 around 1998, and the consignor purchased it from him through Paul Russell and Company in 1999. The consignor has enjoyed it sparingly, bringing it to Doyle in 2006 for a mechanical service. For the past 19 years, 0053 has remained a part of the current owner’s focused collection of German sports cars.
In spring 2018, the consignor brought the Spyder to renowned four-cam expert Jeff Adams at Speedsport Tuning in Danbury, Connecticut, after it had not been run in about five years. Adams has worked on some of the most original 550s in existence, and found 0053 to compare quite favorably in its components, purity, and correctness. Adams believes it to be one of the best 550 Spyders he has encountered, and his report on his opinions as to the car’s originality, correctness, and condition is available for review in the car’s file.
Significantly, the engine and gearbox numbers match the Porsche Kardex. In addition, Adams’ work revealed that the engine internal number, 59, matches the Kardex, the heads possess matching gear train and valve cover numbers, and it features the correct side oil-port case and correct block-style Porsche lettering on the intake valve covers. The service completed for the consignor by Adams, as documented in receipts on file, totals over $30,000, and includes work to the engine, braking system, and gearbox. As with any automobile emerging from storage, additional mechanical work may be required with further use.
In 1955, there was little that could compare to both the performance and innovation of a 550 Spyder. This example is an immensely desirable Porsche Spyder, and thus one of the great postwar sports cars. Its rich provenance, very rare period documentation, competition history, and genuine character make it an immensely historic automobile. Without question, 550-0053 is among the very best of an incredibly distinguished breed.