If there is one Porsche that fans of the German marque would dearly like to see return to the road, it’s the 550 RS Spyder. The 1954 roadster that is forever associated with motor racing and the death of James Dean was small, feisty and fast – and it didn’t cost a king’s ransom in its day. So the news that Porsche toyed with the idea of creating a modern remake of the 550 RS Spyder but never pushed beyond the conceptual stage is likely to be cause for dismay.
The 551 Vision Spyder was built in 2019 but kept a secret until its unveiling this week. Billed as a 21st century reimagining of the 1954 machine that made Porsche’s name, in fact it’s really an hommage to one particular car, James Dean’s Little Bastard, wearing the race number 131 (Dean’s was 130) and the licence tag “Little Rebel”.
Clear design references include a diminutive windshield, the radiator grilles above the mid-mounted engine, and the subtle rear fins. The carbon roll bar is both unusual for its modernist form and at one with the overall design, which will, no doubt, have Porsche air-cooled fans writing petitions to their dealers.
No details have been shared as to the platform the concept was built on, or indeed whether it was intended to be powered by a petrol engine or electric motors. The company would only say that making such concept cars was an important element of exploring its identity and design trends.
The modern-day 550 wasn’t the only surprise from Porsche. The company also shared what could have been the most family-friendly Porsche ever made – an all-electric, six-seater people carrier with “space shuttle” styling and a central driving position. The concept, from 2018, never made it past the clay model stage, but it gives us some insight into the minds of Porsche designers, when let off their corporate leashes.
The Vision Renndienst or “racing service” van was inspired by the fabulous Rennsport VW T1 transporters that supported Porsche racing in the 1960s, although the 2018 car was designed to provide its service to families.
The Renndienst has been revealed in a new book Porsche Unseen, which showcases a total of 15 stillborn design projects including a road-going 919 and a modern take on the 550 Spyder.
The 2017 919 Street was exactly what the name suggests: peel the sponsors stickers off the 919 Hybrid and sell it in the showroom. The bodywork was subtly revised for the road, but the 900 horsepower powertrain and carbon monocoque were straight from the race car. What a shame this one never appeared.
To see more of these amazing concepts you’ll need to buy Porsche Unseen which is available from the Porsche Museum store.
Via Hagerty US