The Porsche 550 was a sports car produced by Porsche from 1953-1956.
Inspired by the Porsche 356 which was created by Ferry Porsche, and some spyder prototypes built and raced by Walter Glöckler starting in 1951, the factory decided to build a car designed for use in auto racing. The model Porsche 550 Spyder was introduced at the 1953 Paris Auto Show. The 550 was very low to the ground, in order to be efficient for racing. In fact, former German Formula One racer Hans Herrmann drove it under closed railroad crossing gates during the 1954 Mille Miglia.
The 550 / 1500RS or Spyder became known as the "Giant Killer". The later 1956 evolution version of the model, the 550A, which had a lighter and more rigid spaceframe chassis, gave Porsche its first overall win in a major sports car racing event, the 1956 Targa Florio.
Its successor from 1957 onwards, the Porsche 718, was even more successful, scoring points in Formula One as late as 1963. A descendant of the Porsche 550 is generally considered to be the Porsche Boxster S 550 Spyder; the Spyder name was effectively resurrected with the RS Spyder Le Mans Prototype.
The Porsche 550 "Little Bastard" is best known for being the car in which James Dean was killed on September 30, 1955.
The 550 is among the most frequently reproduced classic automobiles, like the AC Cobra and Lotus Seven. Several companies have sprung up in the last 25 years, some of which build near-exact replicas from the ground up, including spaceframes built to exacting specs from Porsche blueprints. Some of the companies that make replicas are Boulder Speedster, Chuck Beck Motorsports, Automotive Legends, Chamonix do Brasil, Thunder Ranch, Holmes Motor Company, Le Mans 550 Spyder, Vintage Spyders, and Alloycars, which specializes in exact aluminum re-creations from blueprints.