August 15, 2018 at 10:25 pm #5289
This is a car known as the Wendler RS001. It was built by in 1960 by the well-known German coachbuilders Wendler, who were based in Reutlingen and made many bespoke road cars including a number of Porsches. They also built the 550 and 718 sports racing cars on behalf of Porsche, so their credentials for carrying out this job were excellent. My research indicates that it was based on a 1956 550 (#076) which does not appear to have had much of a competition career, although it did take part in the 1957 Mille Miglia without finishing. I should point out that a standard 550 with this chassis number exists today, but there could be many reasons for this, legitimate or otherwise!
The colour pictures in this sequence are believed to have all been taken by the latterly UK-based but now deceased American dealer Paul Kunkel. At one time Ted had some contact with him and believes that he purchased the car while stationed in Germany with the US forces. If anyone can fill in any more of its background it would be interesting to know if it was speculatively built or was commissioned and also if it was used in competition. Details of the accident which caused its remodelling pictured here would be helpful too, as would details of its ownership and how it came to cross and recross the Atlantic.
Remarkable the car still exists and can be found in the Prototyp Museum in Hamburg, having been restored only a few years ago. Pictures also exist of the car at the coachbuilder when new and perhaps there may even have been more than one example. The appearance of the two racing 718 Coupes that Porsche commissioned from Wendler late in 1960 certain appear to have taken their cue from the styling of this model. It is wearing those (specially-made?) rear lamps again now that it has been restored to its original state, along with the single grille and exhaust shown in some of the shots below.
The gleaming appearance of the car, including the blacked tyres, in the black and white picture above the preceding paragraph imply that it might have been taken just after the repairs (note the later rear lamps) or when prepared for sale, although I feel that the location is in the US. As with all of these shots the dates and situations are unknown, but let’s take a walk through as much of the life of this car as we can piece together. Above we see it in the paddock of a (probably German) race or hill climb. It is next to a competing 356, but it is not clear if it has also been taking part. The car looks to be in excellent condition with even the tyre lettering highlighted and the 904 on the trailer dates the view as being from the 1964 season at the earliest.
We next see the car after it has suffered considerable front and rear damage. It has by now acquired a red stripe and lost its chrome wheels or trims and while this might imply competition use it is road registered. The stripped VW in the background points to the location being a body repairer.
The frontal damage may have been related to the rear impact…
…and looking at that we can see the considerable distortion that has taken place. The rear lights appear to be of unusual design (but were perhaps borrowed from another car), the grille is like a bigger version of those on a 550 and the 550-style exhaust looks to be quite old and rusty. The badly damaged 356 (that looks to be in need of a new shell) in the background seems to confirm the location as a bodyshop…
…and the next view shows the coachwork undergoing repair. Note, however, that some changes are being incorporated into the rectification, with apertures for 356 tail lights and two completely different grille shapes plus a four outlet exhaust.
Our next picture shows the finished article -and very good it looks too- but presumably in America, as it is wearing a 1966 Arizona licence plate, notwithstanding its West German identity disc. Another picture shows it with a 1969 Arizona plate and later still it acquired one of those 356-type underlined block letter Porsche badges above the grilles.
Looking to have been taken at the same location as the previous photo, here we get a chance to see the engine bay and this all looks pretty much 550, with a few additions for road use.
In this shot (perhaps taken at the same time as the preceding two) we can see that unlike the repairs to the rear, the front of the car appears to have been reinstated to its pre-accident -and pretty much standard 550- condition. However, there is some damage to the windscreen and the OS window sill trim visible, perhaps caused by trespassers that the sign in the garage was meant to deter?
356 instruments and switches look to have been used and are arranged in a similar way to that model. Note how much of the screen remains untouched by the single wiper, surely a disadvantage when in road use.
A final view of the complete car, showing its slightly odd (and rather American-looking) offset roll bar incorporated into the engine bay and again looking to be pictured in the States. It would be great to hear from anyone who can fill in any of the gaps in the history of this interesting car.
Photos: Ted Walker Archive
August 31, 2018 at 10:02 pm #5353
Some further information on this car is gradually coming to light. Here are a few more details, along with some additional pictures from the 1960’s.
Simon Braker from the Prototyp Museum in Hamburg has been in touch, surprised to see so many pictures of it that they had never seen before. The museum acquired the car in 2013 and its restoration was completed in 2015. It is finished in its original Reseda green, not an especially Porsche-like colour but very suitable for its lines. From their published information a few more of the cars’ secrets are also revealed: Those original tail lights are from a 1959 Mercedes 220B but mounted at a different angle and the front indicators are from an Auto Union 1000S.
In addition to this car the museum has much more of Porsche interest to offer, including a special display relating to Otto Mathè.
Most interestingly, Norbert Schwandner has also been in touch from Germany to say that his father was a designer at Wendler for over 40 years and that the car was converted from a normal 550 to its TÜV standard coupe form over the course of a month. He also reveals that it was built for the well-known Porsche enthusiast and international orchestral conductor Herbert von Karajan and that his father handed over the finished vehicle to him upon its completion.
Photos: Ted Walker Archive
September 24, 2018 at 2:49 pm #5392
Here are the Wendler photos showing the car in its original condition:
December 30, 2018 at 9:55 pm #5588
December 31, 2018 at 6:38 am #5591
That’s an interesting suggestion as at that meeting there was a 904 entered as number 115, just like the one on the trailer in the background. It is variously recorded as having not turned up or not having been classified and as another view shows it having muddy tyres and damaged exhausts the latter could be the case.
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