About the 1959 Porsche 718 RSK

The display car is distinguished by the company it kept. Wolfgang von Trips, Jo Bonnier, Edgar Barth, Umberto Maglioli and Paul Frère were among the drivers who raced it. Given the number of his events in the car, von Trips seems to have particularly liked 718-007. During a busy season in 1959, the car competed at Spa, the Targa Florio, Nürburgring, Le Mans, the Rheims Formula II race, the Gaisberg Hillclimb and Goodwood. At the Targa, 718-007 established the fastest lap and led consistently until a last lap suspension failure snatched away victory.

Laid down by Porsche in early 1959, 718-007 was one of the third series of RSKs distinguished by wishbone rear suspension and a simplified rear chassis to ease in-car gear set changes. As well it was one of two factory cars converted to center steering to allow participation in Formula II races. The display car is also uniquely fitted with a “dog leg” addition to the air scoop on the side mounted auxiliary oil cooler. Engines larger than the 1500 cc originally intended overheated badly with the surface cooling bonnet alone. Indeed, 718-007 ran with both 1600 and 1700 units during a season prompted by the factory’s determination to try once more for the world sports car championship. Porsche RSKs had almost won it over Ferrari in 1958 and would again in 1959.

Once the RSKs were put into competition in 1958, there naturally arose a craving among amateur sportsmen for Porsche’s latest racing weapon. For 1959, 37 customer cars were built differing mainly in a 550A style oil cooler to simplify maintenance and retention of the 1958 RSK’s 550A-based low pivot rear swing axle. Customers could also purchase the center-steering hardware, and four of them are known to have done so.

Its work for the factory finished, 718-007 was sold in October 1959 to John von Neumann in California where it was driven by Tim O’Reilly for the remainder of that season. In 1961 Steve Herrick was the owner/driver, in 1962 Ralph Woods was owner, Steve Froiner driver. Active in SCCA competition on the West Coast for several more years, 718-007 concluded its eclectic career as an autocross car.


Photos – Peter Harholdt