550 Spyder Restoration
The French blue spyder 550-0056 was imported into Australia early in 1956 by then distributor Norman Hamilton, being the only spyder destined to come down under. The car saw little track action, but attracted legend drivers such as Jack Brabham behind the wheel causing uproar at the Gnoo Blas 1958 South Pacific Championship in NSW, resulting in just a demonstration lap. Brabham went on to win the race in a Cooper T43.
Another circuit driver Stirling Moss, drove it to victory in the New Zealand Ardmore Handicap, and then in the next race won the 1956 New Zealand Grand Prix in a Maserati 250F, with the spyder finishing 9th driven by Frank Kleinig.
It was entered as No 15 in the 1957 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park Victoria with Ern Tadgell as the driver while still owned by Norman Hamilton, finishing 14th and then appeared again in 1958 at Fisherman’s Bend Victoria with race number 37, owned and driven by Bruce Walton finishing 9th. In the early ’60s it was owned by Lionel Marsh and raced extensively in the Australian Hill Climb Championships with great success.
After changing hands numerous times, trucking tycoon Lindsay Fox purchased the car in 1992, and assigned master coach builder Brian Tanti to perform a total restoration in March 1994. Sourcing original drawings from Porsche, the issue of hand built cars made it very difficult to determine accurate dimensions to fabricate replacement parts. Fortunately the type 547 engine had recently been fully rebuilt by the factory at a cost of $57,000, but during its time in Australia, 550-0056 was converted to right hand drive, which needed to be corrected during this mammoth restoration task. After three years to complete a total rebuild, the RS550 spyder now resides at the Fox Car Museum in Melbourne, Australia.
Thank you to www.type550.com for the background.
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Brian Tanti’s Workshop
Brian Tanti is an internationally respected restorer and coach builder who is widely regarded as a leading voice in the car industry. As a experienced restorer, Brian is a co-presenter of Discovery Channel TV series Car Chronicles.
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