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Porsche 718 RSK Spyder

Porsche 718 RSK Spyder

Racing car, 1959

Highlights

  • One of just 24 customer 718 RSK Spyders
  • Beautiful Conditions
  • Please check back for more information shortly.

1959 Porsche 718 RSK Spyder “Lucybelle III”

Delivered new to compete at Le Mans in 1959 for American racer Ed Hugus
Raced across the U.S. in SCCA and USAC throughout the early 1960s including the 1962 Pikes Peak Automobile Hill Climb
Exceptional, recent restoration by Rare Drive, Inc. to Hugus’ “Lucybelle III” Le Mans 1959 livery
Largely undisturbed chassis and Karosserie Wendler aluminum body
Engine rebuild by noted Carrera four-cam experts Karl Hloch and Peter Hofmann
One of just 24 customer 718 RSK Spyders, exceptionally well documented
2021 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance award winner and First in Class at the 2021 Audrain Concours d’Elegance
Eligible for the highest-level vintage racing and driving events including Le Mans Classic and the Colorado Grand

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The vehicle in detail

Chassis No. 718-024

The competitive lifespan of a top-flight sports racing car is a short one, typically lasting just a few years. In the 1950s this lifespan was even shorter. Yet, the Porsche 718 RSK and its derivatives were engineered to be a “jack of all trades” with a longer evolution and built-in reliability. Of course, Porsche was already world-famous for the versatility and performance of the 550 Spyder which the 718 took to another level. Over two years, 1958 and 1959, the 718 RSK with its famous Fuhrmann four-cam engine, excelled at nearly every level of international motorsport. The 718 RSK was a regular podium finisher and overall race winner in grueling long endurance races, short sprints, true road races like the Targa Florio, treacherous hill climbs, and even Formula Two events where it was configured with a center seat arrangement. The model has a deeply impressive, hard-won resume, one that speaks to Porsche’s innate engineering prowess focused on long-lived durability and evolution rather than revolution.

After producing seven “werks” 718 RSKs to be operated in-house by Porsche KG and driven by a formidable team of factory drivers throughout the 1958 season, Porsche began building customer 718 RSKs at the end of that year. With the factory reserving chassis number 718-001 through 718-010 for werks chassis, these customer RSKs first appeared in January 1959 beginning with chassis number 718-011. Porsche constructed just 24 of these splendid machines over the next seven months destined to be shipped around the world to those eager to replicate the successes of the factory race team. American Ed Hugus stepped forward as one of these individuals, better placed than most to prove his mettle in the heat of competition.

Ed Hugus

Ed Hugus is the type of driver who should need no introduction, yet even with many successes on the international stage, he remains somewhat lesser-known among a number of his contemporaries. By all accounts, this was due to his quiet and unassuming personality, yet the wins and podiums at the Le Mans 24 Hours, Sebring 12 Hours, and other events of that caliber are proof that Hugus was every bit as competitive as his peers. In fact, at the 1957 Le Mans 24 Hours, Hugus piloted his Porsche 550 Spyder nicknamed “Lucybelle I” to 8th overall and an impressive win in the 1,500 cc class – the only Porsche to finish that year. The year 1958 was nearly as successful for Hugus with a 7th place overall and fourth in class with his co-driver Ray “Ernie” Erickson piloting a Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa known as “Lucybelle II.” For 1959 Hugus returned to Porsche and, after the purchase of his brand new Porsche 718 RSK Spyder – chassis number 718-024 – he once again entered the world’s most prestigious motor race, the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Lucybelle III – 1959 Le Mans 24 Hours – Ed Hugus / Ray “Ernie” Erickson

According to factory Porsche documentation that informs the book Porsche Carrera, Hugus’ 718-024 was completed in March of 1959. A digital scan of the handwritten Porsche build sheet shows its original engine and transmission numbers, as well as gear and final drive ratios, and that it was fitted with chrome wheels with 16 inch Continental RS tires. Delivered to Hugus at Le Mans, scans of his 1959 entry form show that Hugus, once again, paired himself with Erickson, the stock car and SCCA Midwest Division regular from Chicago, Illinois. The eight-page “Carnet de Pesage” documents several technical specifications of the RSK as well as his two mechanics for the event, Schmidt and Stein. It is likely that the Porsche factory assisted with his entry, just as they had in 1957, as a portion of the Carnet de Pesage was filled out by an individual with German handwriting and the ADAC noted as the customs issuing association.

Historical photography shows that, upon delivery, 718-024 was finished in Silver Metallic with a Beige upholstered interior and ran the practice sessions as such. Yet, aware of his place as an American team racing internationally, Hugus quickly gave his new RSK Spyder the appropriate racing colors for the United States, white with twin dark blue stripes, carried out overnight trackside at Le Mans. As he had for the previous two races, a hand-applied “Lucybelle III” was added to the right front fender just forward of the passenger door in tribute to Lucille Davis who was one of his business partners and wife of his other partner Parker Davis along with start number 37. No doubt the French crowd – some 150,000 strong – had become familiar with Hugus’ American racing livery and Lucybelle III certainly stood out among the other four RSKs and a lone 550 RS Spyder finished in Silver, yet they attracted attention for more than a distinctive livery. In fact, the privateer team was placed first in class and 4th overall at the 20th hour and within a whisker of leading the coveted Index of Performance when after 240 laps of the 8.38 mile Circuit de la Sarthe Hugus’ RSK Spyder suffered an engine failure. A later diagnosis revealed a valve fault as the culprit. Officially classified as a Did Not Finish (DNF), incredibly Lucybelle III’s 240 laps completed would have put them 12th overall even without racing the final four hours! With the conclusion of the 27th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Lucybelle III remained with Porsche to parade Edgar Barth during Porsche’s celebration of his 1959 European Hillclimb Championship. Interestingly, Porsche Carrera notes that Lucybelle III’s Le Mans engine was installed into a new 1959 356 1600 GS/GT Coupe and 024 must have received a replacement engine at the factory. After this work, 718-024 was likely brought to the United States by Hugus, eventually finding a home with Don Ives for the 1960 race season.

Pikes Peak / Don Ives

By early 1960, Don Ives acquired 718-024, entering it in several Mid and Mountain-West SCCA events over the next four years. The prolific Ives was based in Colorado and naturally, Continental Divide Raceway, La Junta, and Aspen Raceways were on his schedule, but he also branched out, racing his Spyder in SCCA competition at Phoenix, El Paso, and the 1961 June Sprints at Road America. For his efforts, Ives was rewarded with a number of class wins and overall podiums. Yet, perhaps its most important post-Le Mans entry may be in the USAC sanctioned 40th annual 1962 Pikes Peak Automobile Hill Climb. With Ives again at the wheel with start number 1, he finished 4th in the Sports Car under 2.0-liter class with a time of 16:45.00. It was Ives’ singular attempt at the Race to the Clouds, and for his efforts, he was awarded $200 in prize money. Ives campaigned his Porsche Spyder one more time, a race at Aspen Raceways in June of 1963 and with that, the competitive career 718-024 came to an end. It must be said that when reviewing the races entered and the subsequent results it does not appear that chassis number 024 suffered any untoward incidents or shunts during its five-year, top-level racing career, a remarkable rarity for an era that featured close, hard racing.

Monterey Historics and Vintage Racing

By the late 1970s William Franklin of Sonoita, Arizona acquired RSK 718-024. Documentation available for review contains entry forms completed by Franklin for both the 1977 and 1978 Monterey Historic Auto Races. On both forms, Franklin notes that the car entered is, indeed Hugus’s 1959 Le Mans entry and references the engine’s dropped valve while in 4th place during that race. It later attended the Monterey Historics in 1984 and 1986 as well. In 1987 718-024 was purchased by vintage racer Don Orosco and located in Monterey, California for a brief period before passing to Dr. Greg Johnson of Irvine, California in approximately 1988 who is noted to have campaigned the car in vintage events. The Spyder became part of a prestigious US-based private collection in 1994, featuring a number of incredible European and American sports and racing cars. Its sole public appearance occurred at the 1998 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, where it claimed the Road & Track trophy, while otherwise staying concealed from public view, unseen since.

Restoration – Rare Drive, Inc.

Sold publicly for the first time in 2018, the new owner of chassis number 718-024 put the historic racer on the path to returning it to its very first race livery, the American colors of Hugus’s Lucybelle III as worn at the 1959 Le Mans 24 Hours. Mark Allin and his specialists at Rare Drive Inc. of East Kingston, New Hampshire were enlisted to perform the restoration and with it the likely expectation of an attractive layer of paint concealing poor, older repairs and body filler from its time as a vintage racer. Amazingly, what was uncovered in March of 2019, however, was an extremely clean, original Wendler aluminum body retaining Ed Hugus’s hallmarks from the 1959 Le Mans 24 Hours. Upon disassembly, the car exhibited such strong originality that Allin and his team elected not to remove the aluminum body from the frame in order to preserve the integrity of what Porsche themselves had hand-assembled in 1959!

Extensive analysis of historical race photography and a thorough review of historical documentation were undertaken to ensure an accurate, holistic restoration of every intricate element. Most importantly, Allin and his team recognized the need not to over-restore the car. They focused on replicating the finishes as applied by Hugus at Le Mans in 1959 and this required restoring the car to its original Silver Metallic finish, assembling the car, then applying the white quick-dry lacquer finish with twin blue racing stripes. Critical minute details were not overlooked. The precise replication of the hand-lettered Lucybelle III script, a faithful recreation of Automobile Racing Club of Florida (ARCF) decals, an exacting duplication of its 1959 Le Mans scrutineering stamp, and a small heart in red located above the Sebring exhaust were all just as important. Throughout this restoration journey, exhaustive efforts were invested in locating scarce original components, including the seldom-seen tan soft top, fender-mounted aerodynamic Spyder mirror, Marchal driving lights, the accurate tool roll, jack, and 16-inch date coded (12/58) alloy-rimmed wheels with period correct Continental Typ Nürburg Rennen tires, all in the pursuit of maintaining authenticity. In addition, the car is currently set up with all-steel wheels with Avon tires for touring.

While the frame, body, suspension, and ancillary components of 024 were under restoration an unstamped correct type 547/3 Carrera four-cam engine was sourced by Allin in 2019 from Peter Hofmann and sent to Karl Hloch of Schorndorf, Germany to be rebuilt as part of the exacting restoration. The acquisition, rebuild, and testing of the highly complicated engine by Hofmann and Hloch, one of the world’s foremost four-cam experts, totaled $400,000. All told, the exceptional restoration cost just over $850,000, plus the cost of the correct type 547/3 engine and its rebuild. Over 250 pages of detailed invoices created by Rare Drive account for the restoration and are available for review upon request.

Post restoration

The 30-month restoration was completed in August 2021, just before Lucybelle III’s debut at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. As in 1959 at Le Mans, the competition for this RSK was formidable, yet it emerged with third place in the 0-1 Postwar Racing Class. Since Pebble Beach, 718-024 emerged victorious with a class win at the 2021 Audrain Concours d’Elegance and attended the 2023 Colorado Grand. After the four-day, 1,000 mile drive that returned Lucybelle III to the Mountain West, it arrived back at Rare Drive, Inc. for a post-event inspection and check-up service. Invoices for this post-restoration work are available for review in the comprehensive history file in addition to hundreds of period photos showing Lucybelle III at Le Mans and U.S. events through the following decades.

In period, the 718 RSK was noted by Porsche Race Director Richard von Frankenberg to be “more difficult to drive than the 550 A” and that “you can no longer drive it so unconcerned, precisely because it has such high roadholding.” Yet today, with a clear view of the context in which it was created, the Porsche 718 RSK Spyder may have been the ultimate customer race car of its day. As an evolution of the 550 A Spyder, it had a technically mature character and raced in a period where privateers could compete with the world’s best at the highest levels. Lucybelle III’s performances are proof positive of this. The opportunity to acquire an example of Porsche’s most elegant Spyder with its original frame and Wendler aluminum body is exceedingly rare, especially one with Le Mans history, exceptional documentation, and intriguing American ownership from new. A restoration executed to an outstanding standard by one of the top firms in the field to return it to its condition as raced at Le Mans on 20 June 1959 is only befitting of this exceptional automobile.

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Specifications

Year of construction: 1959
Model: 718 RSK Spyder
VIN: 718-024
Body: Rennwagen
Series: 718
Power: 160 HP
Cylinder capacity: 1,6 Liter
Steering: left
Transmission: Manual
Drive: Rear drive
Fuel: Gasoline
Interior color: Brown
Interior material: Leather
Exterior color: Silver
Condition: Fully restored
New / used: Used car
Car location: USUnited States

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