About

This is a build blog for my replica Porsche 550 Spyder. I bought the car in March, 2017 from a man in Connecticut who had placed an ad on Craigslist. He had owned the kit for seven years but had never really started the build. The man he bought it from had ordered it from Thunder Ranch in 2007, took delivery in 2009 and sold it almost immediately, having suffered an economic reversal.

The kit is a “deluxe” roller, originally retailing for about $19,000. It comes with the body on a tube frame chassis, with all the latches, the gauges, windshield, lights, suspension pieces. The second owner added the wheels. The car has four wheel disc brakes, wide-fives and very nice 7-year-old tires—205/60s in back and 185/60s in front. They are brand new and yet past their sell-by date. I’ll probably go with narrower rubber.

The car came with a built “freeway flyer” transmission with a 3.88 ring and pinion and a .82 4th gear. That was the hot setup in the mid 2000s to get the revs down when cruising along at 70+ mph on your way to the Bug-Out show. But it makes a very wide gap between 3rd and 4th. I plan to have a professional replace the R&P with a 3.44 ratio and the 4th gear with a .92 from a late Beetle. This gives the same final drive but makes the gear spacing much better.

Originally I had planned to build a 2110 engine with CB Performance “Panchitos” heads and their 2250 cam. That would make about 150 horsepower at about 6,000 RPM and keep spinning to about 6,500. But I got a deal on a Jake Raby-built 1915 with about 1,200 miles on it. The engine, one of a batch that Beck Special Edition commissioned for its turn-key Spyders and Speedsters, makes about 120 horses at about 5,500, I am told. Carey Hines from Beck sold it to me and then rebuilt the carbs before delivery.

So, at this point, I’m only missing a few sundries: the starter, the windshield wiper setup, one clamshell latch…probably a few other things I’ll discover as I try to put the pieces together.

My plan is to “over-build” the kit. By that I mean I will strive to get the details correct as far as possible, given that this is a simplified fiberglass copy and not the original, $5 million item. I will clad the visible parts in aluminum sheet, riveting where appropriate. I will make a tall, skinny shifter and try to source an oversized 8,000 rpm tachometer to replace the 6,000 rpm unit that came with the kit. I will install the correct-looking horns in the correct places under the front valence, and weld in jacking points at all four corners. I’m going to try to make a 550 jack, because the available replica piece, at $550, looks too expensive. I will endeavor to make the inside of the rear clamshell look appropriately 550-ish, and I plan to make a tubular spare tire mount that looks like the original.

And I’m going to install heated seats, because we all have to live with the car.

This car did not come with any weather gear. I expect I’ll try to make a folding top as well.

In all, I hope to build a car that is very hard to distinguish, at any distance, from 550 0051, a car that reportedly finished 5th overall and 2nd in its class (behind the other 550) in the 1955 LeMans 24 hour race. {It’s interesting that a different car, #16, is also said to have been raced in the same event by the same driver with the same finish. Such is the state of records, I guess}.

Anyway, I’m going to try to match 0051 as far as possible, and finish in blue with white darts and meatballs. And maybe #65.

Then we’ll see if anyone likes it besides me.

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