Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Wendler
From the Jerry Seinfeld CollectionLou Hilton, Greenville, Maine (acquired circa 1963)Joel Horvitz, Georgetown, Massachusetts (acquired from the above in 1998)Jerry Seinfeld (acquired from the estate of the above in 2007)
PCA Porsche Parade, Portland, Maine, 1986PCA Porsche Parade, Boston, Massachusetts, 1991356 Registry East Coast Holiday, Charleston, South Carolina, 2002Porsche Exhibition Hall, Los Angeles Auto Show, 2009
“You can’t drive a sonnet by Shakespeare or a symphony by Beethoven. But this would be the automotive equivalent.” – Jerry Seinfeld
Anyone with even a passing interest in collector cars would agree that there is something special about the Porsche 550 Spyder. Beyond the typical qualities that make 550 Spyders so desirable – the period in which they were built, the mystique of their competition heritage, their precision engineered four-cam air-cooled engines – these Porsches have developed a revered reputation for their exquisite beauty, brilliant performance, and all-around versatility.
Though built in limited numbers and equipped with relatively small 1.5-liter engines, 550 Spyders are among the most mythical Porsches of all time. The mere mention of the model brings to mind victories at important road races and the legends who drove them, such as Hans Herrmann and James Dean. Even today, the 550 Spyder shows its lasting influence in the character and design of Porsche’s latest sports and racing cars. Given their enormous success in motorsport, very few 550 Spyders have survived the past 60 years unscathed. The example presented here, however, 550-0060, is surely among the finest and most original examples of Porsche’s first purpose-built sports racing model.
As confirmed by a copy of the factory build record, 550-0060 was constructed during summer 1955, returning to Werk I from Karrosserie Wendler that July, its aluminum body painted blue with white tail stripes and cockpit trimmed in beige vinyl. Originally equipped with a type 547 four-cam engine, numbered 90063, and four-speed transaxle, numbered 10051, the 550 Spyder was completed in August 1955 and test-driven by Herr Mimler before being prepared for delivery to the US.
While little is known about the Spyder’s first few years, in the early 1960s a young car enthusiast named Lou Hilton discovered the blue Porsche on a used-car lot in Worcester, Massachusetts, and added it to his growing stable.
Hilton, who lived in Greenville, Maine, had inherited a fortune from his grandfather, Louis Oakes, brother of Sir Harry Oakes, who discovered the second-largest gold vein in the world in Ontario, Canada. A family of ample means and good taste, the Hiltons owned the New Mt. Kineo House, a grand hotel built in 1884, restored the historic steamship Katahdin, and donated the land for the Moosehead Maritime Museum. In addition to cultivating his own philanthropic efforts, Lou Hilton developed a passion and discerning eye for fine machinery. He piloted his own planes and assembled a small collection of high-quality automobiles that included a Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio, BMW 507, and Mercedes- Benz 300 SL Gullwing, among others. The 550 Spyder, however, which he repainted once in its original blue during the late 1960s or early 1970s, was the true masterpiece in his collection.
Joel Horvitz of Massachusetts, a longtime collector and founding member of the 356 Registry, was among the many Porsche enthusiasts who admired and longed to own Mr. Hilton’s 550 Spyder. In 1998, after actively pursuing the car for many years, Joel Horvitz managed to convince Lou Hilton to sell him his prized Spyder.
In an article published in Hemmings Sports & Exotic magazine, Joel’s son Brian describes his father’s love for 550-0060 and his particular appreciation for the car’s authentic character.
“Since he bought his first 356 in the early ’70s, my father had a number of very special cars; however, none represented his passion for collecting as completely as his Spyder,” Brian Horvitz said. “He had been after this very car since 1981, and realized his dreams in 1998. He knew that he wanted a Spyder, but I tend to think that no other Spyder would have done. This is not a pristine concours vehicle – the paint is cracked, the upholstery isn’t perfect. What it has is that palpable feeling of history. You stand next to it and you imagine yourself at the factory in 1955 watching the car being assembled.”
The article, written by David LaChance and titled Giant Killer, goes on to describe 550-0060 in detail and gives a wonderful first-hand account of what it’s like to drive an original 550 Spyder:
“Getting aboard calls to mind climbing into an aluminum rowboat – it’s a little awkward, and in the case of the Porsche, you’re worried about bending the aluminum body panels as you look for handholds. Once in, it’s a snug fit, though not claustrophobic. The engine comes to life immediately with a press of the starter button, and with the exhaust booming and all those spiral bevel gears singing away somewhere just behind my right hip, we set off down an empty two-lane highway not far from New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee,” LaChance wrote.
“Acceleration is spirited below 4,000 rpm, but above that magic number, the engine just comes to life, providing a relentless urge to go faster. Forget about looking at the speedometer – all I a can do is steal a glance at the tachometer as I peer out over the little Plexiglas windscreen… It’s a fantastic drive, even at well under the car’s capabilities. Just to be in the presence of a 550 Spyder is to bear witness to the birth of one of the most successful factory racing efforts ever. If only for that, this is a car without equal.”
In January 2007, Jerry Seinfeld, assisted by Alex Finigan of Paul Russell and Company, acquired the 550 Spyder from Mr. Horvitz’s estate. Mr. Finigan, who has known and helped maintain 550-0060 since the mid-1970s, is among the car’s many admirers and, in a recent conversation, described it as “a fantastic, fantastic car – I can’t say enough about it.”
When the car arrived in Mr. Seinfeld’s collection, it had covered just 9,896 miles from new. Over the past nine years it has accrued less than 500 additional miles and benefited from attentive care and maintenance in the hands of two respected Porsche specialists – Joe Cavaglieri and Adrian Gang. During its time in the Seinfeld Collection, the Spyder has been exhibited on rare occasions. In 2009, it was featured in the Porsche Exhibition Hall at the Los Angeles Auto Show, and in 2012 it was loaned to Porsche for a special display in Pebble Beach during the Concours weekend.
Today, the car remains in exceptionally original condition, wearing its decades-old blue paint and retaining its wonderful, well-preserved upholstery – a special ribbed vinyl material with a patina and character that would be impossible to duplicate. The elemental cockpit features the correct banjo steering wheel and three large VDO gauges, with their elegant and distinctive green typeface. Under the front compartment one finds the patinated aluminum fuel tank, with original felt under the securing straps and a VDO sending unit dated February 1955. In the engine bay, the matching-numbers engine and transaxle are present, as is the original chassis number stamping and rarely seen Karosserie Wendler Reutlingen body tag. In each and every area of the Spyder magnificent details abound, from the proper horsehair weather stripping to the cracked white paint of the tail stripes.
As a definitive and authentic example of the legendary 550 Spyder, 550-0060 ranks among the most desirable sports cars ever built. Finished in its elegant factory-delivered color scheme and presented in remarkably original order, it is all the more enticing. Consider then that it has covered less than 10,500 miles since 1955 and you have an exceptionally rare and desirable sports racing Porsche.
Beyond its outstanding condition, its remarkable history and provenance are second to none. Over the past 50 years, this 550 Spyder has benefited from the responsible stewardship of just three passionate owners and its appealing presentation reflects the care and attention it has continued to receive.
A 550 Spyder, with only the right kind of stories, is hard to come by. Very few examples possess the outstanding qualities of this car, which has been an object of desire since Lou Hilton discovered it on a used-car lot in the early 1960s. For the true collector – one who has a deep appreciation for extraordinary automobiles and the fascinating lives they have led – 550-0060 is a unique prize.