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The Quail Lodge, 16th of October 2011

Last week we reported about the Porsche Rennsport Reunion in Laguna Seca organized by Porsche America but this was not the only event during that weekend on the Monterey Peninsula. When the move of the Reunion to the west coast was announced Porsche enthusiast, historian and book author Steve Heinrichs came up with the idea of a special gathering for the early race Porsches. A location was soon found within the grounds of the Quail Lodge resort but it took over 2 years to trace all the cars and convince the owners to bring their prized treasures, the fact that Heinrichs and his team already organized the 50th anniversary meeting of the 356 Speedster back in 2004 with more than 500 cars certainly helped to get together the most spectacular display of early Porsches ever.

Well before 10am on Sunday morning the crowd of Porsche aficionados was eagerly waiting for the gates to open, with a ticket price of 400 $ the expectations were very high and they were not disappointed at all. The ticket price and the venue might remind of the Motorsport Gathering in August but the approach of these two events is totally different as the Race Car Classic was intended for charity with almost 90 percent of the ticket price donated to the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation under the motto “Drive Cancer off the Planet”. The Race Car Classic was all about the cars and the good cause with less glamorous surrounding (the gathering is more about food, jewellery and accessories) so it attracted more the well-informed public than the Monterey society.
Some of the visitors might have been surprised when entering the field as all cars were covered with a cover specially made for this event. This idea sounded strange at the beginning but the result looked great, almost like an installation of artist “Christo”. When most of the visitors spread out on the field the cars were unveiled all at the same moment, the right side of the field was dominated by the silver colour of the race cars of this period and the left side was dedicated to the early Speedsters, Coupés and Cabriolets.
The oldest cars on the field was a pair of the very rare Gmünd Coupés of the Austrian period when Porsche build the first cars before moving to Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. Known as the type 356/2 this series of 52 cars followed directly the famous “No.1”, the Roadster that started the Porsche fame. Unfortunately No.1 was not present during this weekend in Monterey but as this most important car of the Porsche History had an accident falling from fork lifter on a former journey to the USA several years ago it did not make the long trip this time. One of the Gmünd Coupés was brought by America comedian and Porsche collector Jerry Seinfeld beside several other models. With 1100 ccm and about 40 hp these early cars were not very strong but a good aerodynamic and an aluminium body made them competitive with a class win at Le Mans in 1951.
Beside the 356/2 the early history was represented by a Glöckler 356 roadster, a race car build by Walter Glöckler in 1952 and not less than 4 Typ 540 “America Roadster”. With just 16 units build this car was intended for the American market with a reduced comfort as was the more successful Speedster later but these alloy bodied cars are not considered to be the most beautiful variation of the 356 especially compared to the pure design of the Speedster. Due to their rarity these are well sought after by Porsche collectors and one does rarely see one, not to think of 4 in a row.

The first pure race car build was the iconic 550 Spyder. In 1953 Porsche introduced the new 550 Spyder that was entered in the first races with the conventional Boxer-engine before the new Fuhrmann engine with 4 cams driven by a vertical shaft was used. The first of 15 prototypes were raced both in Spyder and Coupé form with attached hardtop depending on the races entered, with 550 kg (therefore the name) and about 110 hp the Spyder were very competitive in sports car races on both sides of the Atlantic. Today it seems that 9 of the Prototypes survived and no less than 5 of them could be seen on the green, three of them in the Carrera Panamericana livery. The first Prototype (550-01) was brought by the Collier collection wearing the race number of the 1953 race were it was entered with the other 2 cars without success as all three cars did not finish. The car was already seen at Amelia Island and Goodwood in the past and differs from the other Prototypes by absent rear fins that are characteristic for the early cars. The car returned to the CP in 1954 together with chassis 550-04 that won its class in the hands of Hans Herrmann coming home in third behind two Ferrari 375 with more than 3 times the engine capacity. Today this car is part of the Porsche Museum collection as open spyder and is regularly demonstrated on various classic car rallyes, its driver Hans Herrmann was present as was Denise McCluggage who drove the car in 1956 with success at the Nassau Speed Week. But star of the Prototype display was Jerry Seinfelds chassis 550-03 that made its post-restoration debut in coupé specification of the 1953 race. At the end of the gathering the three cars could be seen side by side giving a once in a lifetime photo-opportunity for all those who stayed until the end.
They were joined by two more prototypes, one (chassis 550-06) was raced by John von Neumann who helped to form Porsches reputation in California racing and selling the cars. The other (550- 09) was a factory team car and was a class winner in Le Mans in 1954.
After the successful prototypes Porsche set up a series of 90 Spyders that were very successful in the hands of many privateers all over the world. But not just the success on the race track made this car an icon of the marque but it will be also linked forever to James Dean who died at the wheel of his own Spyder that was known as “Little Bastard”. Seven original Spyders (and the modified chassis 050) could be seen that day making a spectacular line-up together with 4 of the later 550 A Spyders. In 1956 the last evolution of the Spyder was introduced with the lighter and more powerful 550 A that featured a stiffer frame and new suspension to give Porsche its first major race win in the hands of Umberto Maglioli at the Targa Florio. Today the car is in a very important Porsche collection in the US in unpainted form wearing number 21 just as it did in 1956 at the Nürburgring when it won best in class driven by Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips.

In 1957 Porsche introduced the new 718/1500 RSK as successor of the 550A. Still with the 1.5 litre engine it was aerodynamic improved and lighter than the former Spyders and it was even more a strong rival for overall wins against the larger capacity opponents and still favourite for class wins. Over the years new regulations led to a larger displacement to compete in the 1.6 litre or 2.0 litre class known as RS60 and RS61. One of the driver of these cars was Sir Stirling Moss and the fact that he bought himself one of them a few years ago to compete in historic racing shows the importance of the 718. 11 of these were on display at the Race Car Classic, they were joined by “Großmutter”, the 718 W-RS Spyder from the Porsche Museum. This car is a modified 718 to accept the 8-cylinder engine from the formula 1 car. Beside several class wins in almost every important race it became European Hill Climb Champion in the Hands of Edgar Barth in 1963 and with 4 years of active racing (a long period in the rapid development of the early 1960s) it deserves its nickname given by the race mechanics.
The 718 served also as basis for the early F1/F2 adventure of Porsche with the 718/2. Works drivers were Sir Stirling Moss, Hans Herrmann, Dan Gurney, Joakim Bonnier and even Graham Hill to make Porsche the most successful F2-Team in 1960 and Dan Gurney became 4th in the 1961 F1 drivers championship.
In 1962 Porsche entered the 804 with an 1.5 litre 8-cylinder engine in the F1 before they concentrated on the sports car races. Only 4 cars were build for that season and 2 of them could be seen here.

Beside the Spyders in the race car classes Porsche was also successful in the GT class in this era with the 356 Coupés of the different series. In the 1950s and 1960s Italian coach-builders had a superb reputation and several German and British manufacturers laid up small series of special  Italian coach-build race-cars. Franco Scaglione was well known for his design of the BAT-Alfa Romeos or other Bertone bodied cars (including the Arnolt-Aston Martin) and in 1960 he designed a aerodynamic improved body for the 356 B that was build by Abarth in full aluminium. With a spartan interior the weight was reduced significantly to make the Abarth Carrera GTL unbeatable in its GT class for the following 3 years. With just 20 cars build a display of 10 of them was just breathtaking, it was funny to see that no less than 3 cars had the registration plate WN-V1, a famous number of the time.

The last race car of the period was the revolutionary 904 Carrera GTS. The 904 was the first Porsche to feature a fibreglass body on a ladder-frame. The engine was the 180 PS 4-cylinder from the Carrera 2 to compete in the 2-litre GT class and 100 cars had to be build for the homologation to win the 1964 and 1965 GT- Championship. Today these cars are regularly seen on various race events and rallyes like the Tour Auto. In 1965 the 4-cylinder engine was replaced by the new 6-cylinder of the 901 and named 904/6.

On the other side of the field the 356 was represented by many Speedsters, Coupés and a few Cabriolets, many of them were powered by the Carrera engine. Altogether about 150 cars of the first 15 years of the marque could be admired that day. Although lined up as in a concours there was no judging and prize giving making it a relaxed meeting both for visitors and owners without competition.
The show was a big success raising money for the good cause and putting together a display that might not be seen again for years to come. Together with the races in Laguna Seca this was a superb weekend for all people interested in Porsche giving owners the opportunity to show and race their cars. Unfortunately the Race Car Classic was at the same day as most of the races in Laguna so one had to agony of choice to see the races for the 906-917 and 962 model range or visiting the Quail. Although it was intended as a once in a lifetime event one can be curious what might follow at the Rennsport Reunion V in the next years.

Report&images: Peter Singhof www.ClassicCarPhotography.de <http://www.ClassicCarphotography.de/>