Get a quote
News

Rare 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder uncovered in California shipping container

by Jeff Peek
2 April 2021 6 min read
Rare 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder uncovered in California shipping container
Facebook/Old crow speed shop/Blue Nelsen

Wow, what a discovery. More like a rediscovery, since the rare 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder that Bobby Green uncovered in California recently was never technically lost. Regardless, when the Old Crow Speed Shop owner cracked open a storage container that sits high atop a hill in a remote area of Orange County, California, sunlight poured inside and a Porsche racing legend returned to the road for the first time in decades.

“The find of the century… at least for me anyway,” Green wrote on his Facebook page on March 26. “And to think it all started by chasing old motorcycles.”

How much is your car to insure? Find out in four easy steps.
Get a quote

Over the weekend, Green released a short film – made by his friend Blue Nelson – about his encounter the 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder.

<div class="video"><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/sgsThMgWXGA" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></div>

Green, who on social media describes himself as a “designer, racer, restorer, dreamer, collector, entrepreneur, and antiquated thinker,” became infatuated with classic cars after his family moved from Oklahoma to Los Angeles in 1980 and he saw a 1957 Chevy cruise past. He was 10 at the time, and it’s a thirst he still can’t quench. Green owns dozens of cars and motorcycles and is the co-owner and producer of The Race of Gentlemen, New Jersey’s popular throwback motorsports event.

Green’s Old Crow Speed Shop took its name from his 1952 belly tank racer, “Old Crow,” which he has taken to Bonneville and driven 168mph. The shop, he says, is more of “a coalition of pals that got together for one reason: to participate, preserve, and promote the art and activity of land speed racing.”

<blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/CM5bSOJpTyP/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="13" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:540px; min-width:326px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:16px;"> <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CM5bSOJpTyP/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" style=" background:#FFFFFF; line-height:0; padding:0 0; text-align:center; text-decoration:none; width:100%;" target="_blank"> <div style=" display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div></div></div><div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display:block; height:50px; margin:0 auto 12px; width:50px;"><svg width="50px" height="50px" viewBox="0 0 60 60" version="1.1" xmlns="https://www.w3.org/2000/svg" xmlns:xlink="https://www.w3.org/1999/xlink"><g stroke="none" stroke-width="1" fill="none" fill-rule="evenodd"><g transform="translate(-511.000000, -20.000000)" fill="#000000"><g><path d="M556.869,30.41 C554.814,30.41 553.148,32.076 553.148,34.131 C553.148,36.186 554.814,37.852 556.869,37.852 C558.924,37.852 560.59,36.186 560.59,34.131 C560.59,32.076 558.924,30.41 556.869,30.41 M541,60.657 C535.114,60.657 530.342,55.887 530.342,50 C530.342,44.114 535.114,39.342 541,39.342 C546.887,39.342 551.658,44.114 551.658,50 C551.658,55.887 546.887,60.657 541,60.657 M541,33.886 C532.1,33.886 524.886,41.1 524.886,50 C524.886,58.899 532.1,66.113 541,66.113 C549.9,66.113 557.115,58.899 557.115,50 C557.115,41.1 549.9,33.886 541,33.886 M565.378,62.101 C565.244,65.022 564.756,66.606 564.346,67.663 C563.803,69.06 563.154,70.057 562.106,71.106 C561.058,72.155 560.06,72.803 558.662,73.347 C557.607,73.757 556.021,74.244 553.102,74.378 C549.944,74.521 548.997,74.552 541,74.552 C533.003,74.552 532.056,74.521 528.898,74.378 C525.979,74.244 524.393,73.757 523.338,73.347 C521.94,72.803 520.942,72.155 519.894,71.106 C518.846,70.057 518.197,69.06 517.654,67.663 C517.244,66.606 516.755,65.022 516.623,62.101 C516.479,58.943 516.448,57.996 516.448,50 C516.448,42.003 516.479,41.056 516.623,37.899 C516.755,34.978 517.244,33.391 517.654,32.338 C518.197,30.938 518.846,29.942 519.894,28.894 C520.942,27.846 521.94,27.196 523.338,26.654 C524.393,26.244 525.979,25.756 528.898,25.623 C532.057,25.479 533.004,25.448 541,25.448 C548.997,25.448 549.943,25.479 553.102,25.623 C556.021,25.756 557.607,26.244 558.662,26.654 C560.06,27.196 561.058,27.846 562.106,28.894 C563.154,29.942 563.803,30.938 564.346,32.338 C564.756,33.391 565.244,34.978 565.378,37.899 C565.522,41.056 565.552,42.003 565.552,50 C565.552,57.996 565.522,58.943 565.378,62.101 M570.82,37.631 C570.674,34.438 570.167,32.258 569.425,30.349 C568.659,28.377 567.633,26.702 565.965,25.035 C564.297,23.368 562.623,22.342 560.652,21.575 C558.743,20.834 556.562,20.326 553.369,20.18 C550.169,20.033 549.148,20 541,20 C532.853,20 531.831,20.033 528.631,20.18 C525.438,20.326 523.257,20.834 521.349,21.575 C519.376,22.342 517.703,23.368 516.035,25.035 C514.368,26.702 513.342,28.377 512.574,30.349 C511.834,32.258 511.326,34.438 511.181,37.631 C511.035,40.831 511,41.851 511,50 C511,58.147 511.035,59.17 511.181,62.369 C511.326,65.562 511.834,67.743 512.574,69.651 C513.342,71.625 514.368,73.296 516.035,74.965 C517.703,76.634 519.376,77.658 521.349,78.425 C523.257,79.167 525.438,79.673 528.631,79.82 C531.831,79.965 532.853,80.001 541,80.001 C549.148,80.001 550.169,79.965 553.369,79.82 C556.562,79.673 558.743,79.167 560.652,78.425 C562.623,77.658 564.297,76.634 565.965,74.965 C567.633,73.296 568.659,71.625 569.425,69.651 C570.167,67.743 570.674,65.562 570.82,62.369 C570.966,59.17 571,58.147 571,50 C571,41.851 570.966,40.831 570.82,37.631"></path></g></g></g></svg></div><div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style=" color:#3897f0; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:550; line-height:18px;"> View this post on Instagram</div></div><div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"><div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"></div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"></div></div><div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"></div> <div style=" width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg)"></div></div><div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style=" width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"></div> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"></div> <div style=" width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"></div></div></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"></div> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"></div></div></a><p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;"><a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CM5bSOJpTyP/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none;" target="_blank">A post shared by Bobby Green (@oldcrowspeedshop)</a></p></div></blockquote> <script async src="//www.instagram.com/embed.js"></script>

Asked once to explain how he finds his unique race cars, Brown credited “a lot of networking.” We assume that’s exactly how he came upon the 550 Spyder. Its owner, Les Gunnerson, passed away and left a large British motorcycle collection, which Green heard about through friends.

“As it turns out,” Green explains, “Les was big into Porsches back in the 1960s and ’70s, and (in 1963) he acquired it… for a mere $2K (around £1500). Les restored it in the early 1980s but soon got into motorcycles and just put the Porsche in a shipping container, where it has lived for 35 years… until now.”

Gunnerson, who also owned a Porsche 904, purchased the 550 Spyder – serial 550-0069 with four-cam, flat-four engine no. 0075 – from Loretta Turnbull Richert, who shared the car with her brother Ray in the late 1950s before buying it herself.

Mrs. Loretta Turnbull Richert (left) with Mrs. Bunny Seawright, Bob Brown and Don Berry. Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

According to type550.com, the car was originally ordered by Albert Hosking of Pasadena, California and completed on October 14, 1955. Originally white, it was painted red at some point during Hosking’s ownership. No. 0069’s first race was at Nassau Speed Week in December 1955, where drivers Jean Pierre Kunstle and Johnny Mantz finished third. Kunstle later raced at Torrey Pines, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, and Pomona, and scored several podium positions.

The Spyder was brokered to Ray Turnbull in April 1957 and shipped to Hawaii for the Hawaiian International Sports Car Week, where Turnbull shared driving duties with his sister, a former boat racing champion. After buying the car herself, Loretta drove the car to a number of victories into the early 1960s.

Porsche 550 Spyder
Photo: Facebook/Old crow speed shop/Blue Nelsen

According to its California license plate, the Spyder was last registered in 1994. To that end, Facebook commenter Steven Mandell wanted to reiterate that the Porsche was not a barn find and had not been neglected. “Gus never ‘lost’ it and always knew what he had,” Mandell wrote, “so anyone else becoming aware of its existence does not qualify as it being ‘found.’”

Many know the 550 as the same car that James Dean was driving when he was killed on a California highway in 1955, but there’s so much more to the Spyder than that. Only 90 of the 550kg aluminium-bodied cars were built. They rarely make their way to the market, and when they do, they sell for big money. Three years ago at Pebble Beach, a ’55 changed hands for $4.5M (£3.25M).

“To say the 550s are rare and valuable is an understatement,” Green says, “and to find one that’s been lost to time in a container… Well, that’s like finding a unicorn with bigfoot riding it.”

Via Hagerty US

Read more

Picture-perfect Picasso Porsche 550 Spyder for sale
The Death Eaters, Chapter 1: Tatra T87
Our Classics: 1967 Porsche 912

You may also like

1978 Honda Civic barn find
This rare Honda Civic barn find could save another
1996 Porsche Boxster with the 1993 Boxster concept
The Boxster at 25: How the roadster's renaissance played out at Porsche
White Lightning: The Rinspeed Porsche R69 Turbo is terrifyingly terrific
White Lightning: The Rinspeed Porsche R69 Turbo is terrifyingly terrific
A story about

Your weekly dose of car news from Hagerty in your inbox

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More on this topic
Share

Thank You!

Your request will be handled as soon as possible