Tonneau’s on, floor’s in, wipers work

Chipping away at the punch list. Two weeks and 17 hours later we’re down to a couple dozen tasks to finish before trailering the car to meet the state police.

I started by riv-nutting the holes for the two different windshields, to make the changeover as painless as possible. I bought a package of deep-grip 6-32 rivet nuts and a lot more shallow grip kind, to use later for the underpan in back. On the scuttle, the deep rivet-nuts went in easy and tight.

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550-style clam latches

Took a break from sanding this weekend and decided to try to make some 550-style clam latches.


Got pretty far along in the 9 or so hours I spent working from the junk pile. Why do this?

Three reasons:

  1. It’s cool. Original Spyders had these latches you turned with a long churchkey; the replicas don’t. More legit-looking detail is just better.
  2. The modern replicas use two Bug hood latches to hold the clam down—and they’re fiddly. It is reported that clams sometimes pop open on bumps, leaving just the wicked-cool leather straps to keep the clam from flying up and off and causing quite a ruckus out there on Highway 61. Adding a slot-lock as original can only make things better, from a purely practical perspective.
  3. I’m tired of sanding.

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Shifter, e-brake, fabrication, seats and compromises

Today, a short illustrated essay on replica compromise. As is known, the Brandwood cable shifter is the go-to Spyder replica shifter.* It’s reportedly easier to set up and keep in tune than the Jamar linkage shifter that used to come standard. Both are pretty different from the exacting engineering in the original 550, but the cable box’s bulk makes for noticeable changes in the replica Spyder cockpit. Here’s the car I’m trying to copy.

You can see here how small the original shifter housing is. At about two inches off the deck, it tops out about even with the top of the front bulkhead.

Whereas my cable shifter…


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Clam latches, done.

The rear latches on a fake 550 Spyder are usually just Beetle front hood latches, and this car is typical in that regard. On the Beetle they didn’t have to work so hard. The hood was a bit heavy and the shape of the nose tended to keep it down at speed. On the 550, not so much. The under-clam area is fixed to become a high-pressure system and, of course, the hinges are in the back, so if it pops up it becomes a sail.

A lot of replica owners rely on the leather hold-down straps that add such style to these cars. You hear complaints all the time that the latches “pop” when the car goes over a bump. I’m making this car not do that.