Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Wendler
Formerly the Property of Roy Schechter, Dr. William Jackson, and E. Kent Rawson
THe 718 RSK
Following the enormous success of the 550 program, Porsche unveiled the latest evolution of their lightweight, four-cam Spyder in the middle of the 1957 racing season. Internally designated as Type 718, the RSK replaced the highly developed 550A, a car that dominated its class and furthered Porsche’s reputation as a manufacturer of innovative sports racing cars.
Visually, the RSK looked much more modern than its predecessor with streamlined Wendler coachwork, faired-in headlamps, and lower aerodynamic drag. Beneath the alloy skin, the RSK benefitted from thorough development and offered more power, efficient braking, and much-improved suspension.
The space frame, made of seamless drawn- steel tubes, provided a lighter and stiffer platform for the revised torsion-bar suspension, spherical joint spindles, and ZF Ross steering box. At the rear, Porsche engineers increased the suspension travel, modified the rear swing-axle pivot point, and installed coil-over Koni shock absorbers. For the first time, the brake drums featured angled “turbo fins,” which aided cooling.
The Fuhrmann-designed four-cam engine was an advanced version of the Type 550 that gained power and durability through adjustments to the roller-bearing crankshaft, cam timing, and compression. Delivering its power through a magnesium-cased five-speed transaxle, the RSK was infinitely adaptable to a wide variety of applications, from hill climbs to high-speed circuits such as Avus.
With a dry weight of just 1,168 lbs. and more than 140 hp, the new 718 Spyder made its debut at the 1957 24 Hours of Le Mans and underwent further development during the remainder of the year.
In 1958, the 718 RSK took the racing world by storm. The new Porsche Spyder continued to maintain a strong lead in the small-displacement category, winning its class and placing on the podium at Sebring, Targa Florio, and Le Mans. Perhaps the most remarkable result for the RSK took place at the 1959 Targa Florio, where Edgar Barth and Wolfgang Seidel’s works-entered car took the overall win, leading Porsche’s 1-2-3 finish at the legendary Sicilian event.
As the Porsche works team challenged Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Maserati in international events, privately entered RSKs racked up countless wins and captured production championships in both American SCCA racing and European hill climbing. The RSK was such a formidable competitor that a center-seat configuration was developed, making it legal to race in Formula 2 events, which did not require open-wheel bodywork at the time.
With the RSK, Porsche had a true giant-killer and an ideal foundation for future success. Although Porsche built just 35 examples of its original Type 718 Spyder, this important model set the tone for four decades of dominance at the height of international sports car racing.
The RSK presented here, 718-023, is a very special example of Porsche’s original Type 718 four-cam Spyder.
Constructed at Werk I, Porsche’s racing department, in March 1959, 718-023 was built to the specifications of a privateer 1500 RSK, complete with the improved Type 547/3 engine. Originally equipped with engine no. 90215, the RSK was finished in the iconic silver livery with light basket-weave upholstery, a full Plexiglas windscreen, polished alloy wheels, and Continental RS racing tires.
According to factory records, 718-023 was originally destined for French Porsche importer Sonauto but was instead sold to Roy Schechter of Miami.
A successful gentleman driver, Schechter began his racing career in spring 1957 behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing. That summer, he made the move to a Lotus Eleven and was soon enamored with the featherweight, small-displacement sports car. Schechter became a Porsche convert in 1958, racing a 550 1500/RS Spyder with consistently strong results. Hoping that Porsche’s latest Spyder would earn him continued success on the racetrack, Schechter paid approximately $8,000 for the new RSK, a considerable investment at the time.
In September 1959, Schechter took delivery of 718-023 and immediately put it to good use.
His first outing in 718-023 took place on September 6, 1959, at the 4 Hours of Alamar, a little-remembered sports car race near Havana, Cuba. Relations with the US were still good enough for the SCCA to do most of the organizing of the Cuban race, despite the fact that the event was held not far from Fidel Castro’s private home and gave the winner a good purse.
Entries for the endurance race were eclectic, but serious competition came in the form of a well-sorted Porsche 550, a new Ferrari 250 Tour de France Berlinetta, and a powerful Jaguar XKSS. Wearing race no. 7, Schechter piloted his brand-new RSK with great skill. In fact, had he not been struggling with rainy conditions and a slipping clutch, the Porsche might have fared better than its already impressive 4th place result.
With the RSK better prepared for serious racing, Schechter made a strong comeback at the Courtland sports car races held on October 11in Alabama. In the preliminary event, he battled Jim Hall’s mighty 450S for 15 laps, leading six of them before giving way to the much more powerful Maserati. In the 25-lap main event, the battle continued between the 1.5-liter Porsche and the 4.5-liter Maserati. Having a major disadvantage on the short road course, Hall was forced to pit eight laps from the finish for new tires, allowing Schechter to pass E.D. Martin’s Ferrari Monza and capture the overall win against the Italian machines.
Two weeks later, at Napier Field in Dothan, Alabama, 718-023 was pitted against the 450S as well as Martin’s brand-new Tipo 60 Birdcage. This time, the airport circuit was not in Schechter’s favor, and he had to settle for a 3rd place finish behind the two Maseratis.
Like many East Coast racers, Schechter wrapped up the 1959 season at the Nassau Speed Week in the Bahamas. A popular winter destination, Nassau was an ideal venue for manufacturers to test the next season’s racing machines, and for privateers to enjoy some additional practice in the mild Caribbean climate.
On December 4, 1959, Schechter campaigned 718-023 in the five-and 12-lap Governor’s Trophy for cars under two liters. In a grid that included Lotus 15s, RSKs, and a NART Ferrari 196 S, Schechter managed a 7th place finish in the first heat and an impressive 5th place result in the 12-lap main event.
The following day, 718-023 was entered in the five-lap Porsche Race, where it finished 3rd, just behind the RSKs of Harry Blanchard and Wolfgang von Trips.
The 1959 season ended on December 6th with the 49-lap Nassau Trophy Race. In a race that saw George Constantine’s Aston Martin DBR2 battle Phil Hill’s Ferrari Testa Rossa for the overall win, Schechter’s 1,500 cc Porsche finished a respectable 14th overall, placing it between the Rodriguez brothers’ TR59 and Lloyd Ruby’s 450S.
Following his impressive performance throughout the 1959 season, Schechter was paired with Bob Holbert and Howard Fowler in the Brumos Porsche RS60 (718-052) at the 12 Hours of Sebring in March 1960. In what was a highlight of Schechter’s racing career, the Porsche Spyder finished 2nd overall, just behind the RS60 of Hans Hermann and Olivier Gendebien, and ahead of a string of Ferraris, from alloy-bodied California Spiders to TR59s.
On April 3, 1960, Schechter returned to 718-023 to compete in the Riverside Grand Prix in Southern California. In a race that generally favored large-displacement sports racers, the RSK placed 3rd overall in race number five. Despite the successful finish, Schechter retired his lightly used Porsche Spyder and placed an advertisement for it in the September 1960 issue of Road & Track.
According to several sources, 718-023 was eventually sold to Tom Beil of Reading, Pennsylvania, and later joined Dr. William Jackson’s Denver-based Porsche collection in the mid- to late 1960s. Known for his discerning eye and exceptional taste, Dr. Jackson was one of the first American collectors to appreciate the significance of early Porsche racing cars. At its height, Dr. Jackson’s collection included some of the most important examples of the marque, from four-cam Spyders and rear-engine prototypes to significant Turbo Era 911s. For approximately three decades, 718-023 remained a fixture in this remarkable collection, where it benefitted from minimal use and careful preservation.
In 1999, Heritage Classics of West Hollywood, California, purchased a number of significant cars from Dr. Jackson’s collection, including 718-023. From there, the RSK ended up with noted Florida collector E. Kent Rawson, where it joined an extraordinary collection of early Porsche road and racing cars.
In 2006, following a high-quality, concours-level restoration, 718-023 was sold to Peter Wirichs, a Porsche collector living in Germany. In January 2008, famed racing driver and Porsche historian Jürgen Barth performed an inspection of the RSK and produced a detailed report on the car’s racing history and provenance. Thoroughly impressed with the Porsche’s originality and outstanding restoration, Barth confirmed 718-023 as a matching-numbers example, complete with its factory-delivered engine.
Soon after completion of Barth’s inspection, the RSK passed to a prominent New York collector who acquired the car after a lengthy search for an exceptional four-cam Spyder. In keeping with his philosophy of acquiring only the finest, best-of- category automobiles, the collector enlisted Paul Russell and Company to maintain the Porsche in fine cosmetic and mechanical order. Sold in early 2013 to the consignor, a noted West Coast collector, the car was sparingly used and regularly maintained by a team of staffed experts tasked with the care of numerous sports racing cars of the era.
Thanks to an unblemished history, limited racing record, and responsible stewardship in the hands of knowledgeable collectors, 718-023 remains an ideal representative of Porsche’s famed RSK. As many four-cam Spyders suffered from damage, modification, and neglect, this example must be one of only a handful of these important Porsche sports racers to retain its original chassis, engine, and aluminum Wendler coachwork.
Equipped with the short-range fuel tank and highly tuned type 547/3 engine, 718-023 features the correct equipment for a privateer 718 Spyder specified for SCCA racing in North America. Of the 17 RSKs originally delivered to the US, this car is unique in light of its successful competition record, documented provenance, and superb overall presentation.
Widely regarded by Porsche enthusiasts as the most attractive of all the four-cam Spyder variants, the RSK is a magnificent vision of the ideal small-displacement sports racing car. Its mid-engine layout, purposeful coachwork, and adaptable character made it an innovative automobile in its day, while its spectacular performance, ease of use, and reliability made it a popular choice with drivers – from the most celebrated professional racers to well-heeled gentleman drivers. Raced with success against much larger sports cars, such as Aston Martin, Ferrari, Jaguar, and Maserati, Porsche’s RSK was certainly beloved by its drivers and feared by its rivals.
Today, these rare Porsche sports racers remain versatile, as they are eligible for the best historic events, from the Colorado Grand to the Le Mans Classic. Easily prepared for road use, an RSK can also be enjoyed on weekend outings through the countryside and will always stand out at Porsche shows and major international concours.
To find a 718 RSK as pure, correct, and well prepared as 718-023 would pose a serious challenge. The new owner will be acquiring not only a 1950s sports racing car of the highest quality and distinction, but also a real piece of Porsche’s legendary competition history.