Beck Hansen's first big hit was a song called "Loser." The Beck who makes Porsche Spyder replicas like today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe candidate is no loser, but will the car's price make it a big hit with you?
There are a few things of which you can be assured- death, taxes, and Ironman 3 among them. And something else that's as likely as the sun rising in the East is a used BMW's value folding faster than Superman on laundry day. Because of that, we occasionally come across some interesting roundel-badged cars like yesterday's V12 with-a-stick 850i, priced for an average Joe's pay grade. That big coupe's sex on wheels presence, plus the manly-man drivetrain, overcame rational thought for many, despite its obvious potential for wearing your credit cards thin. Though likely a money pit, the general consensus of the car was that it'd be a nice place to end up living after the cash ran out. Big bimmers have that kind of effect on people, and the 850i's 78% Nice Price win reflects the hypnotic powers it possesses.
Clocking in at precisely twice that 850i's price is today's candidate, which is a Lil Bastard-worthy Beck Spyder. It was 55 years this September that James Dean went to meet his maker. Sad as that may have been for Hollywood, equally tragic to auto enthusiasts was the fact that he took one of only 90 Porsche 550 Spyders with him. That car's rarity, plus the notoriety surrounding it in connection with Dean's death, mean that today those remaining mid-engine Porsche 550s can command half a million samolians or more.
That's where Chuck Beck comes in. Beck has made a name for himself in the building of some of the best engineered and built Spyder replicas around. Unlike a number of other 550 replica makers, who tend to use a VW pan and requisite rear-mounted engine, Beck builds his own frame out of 3" DOM tubing, and the engine (VW or Subie) is then mounted amidships, just like Dean's original. This car is claimed to have a Type 1 motor, but the seller gives no specifics other than that it breathes through a pair of Dellortos. The tranny is a VW 4-speed, flipped upside down in its bass-akwards orientation here. It's hard to gauge the horsepower without knowing more detail about the motor, however in a 2002 test of a Beck with a 125-bhp 1,915-cc engine, Motor Trend managed a 5.5-second run to sixty.
Original Porsche Spyders featured hand-beaten aluminum bodies, and here Beck veers from authenticity by using fiberglass, the bodies laid up at a shop in Brazil. Aside from that, the overall look of this car could fool James Dean himself. Badging and lights are all accurate here, and only the dubiously chromed Panasports keep it from being a rebel without faux pas.
Inside there's a diminutive pair of leather-clad buckets, the left one facing a Nardi wheel and stacked trio of VDO gauges. Everything else here is as bare-bones as you could want, making the car almost as light as Dean's resume. The original was a featherweight too, and that was what made it such a terror against many bigger bore machines.
Now, should you be temped to complain that this is a kit-car and hence potentially embodies all the foibles that epithet implies, you should know that the Beck Spyder, along with their Speedster, are some of the most carefully constructed homage vehicles ever built. The chassis is robust, the fiberglass is beautifully fashioned, and the cars are a blast to drive fast.
But would it be a blast to own? At $26,000 it's about ten-grand cheaper than a brand new turnkey car, and with just over 7,100 miles on it, it'd probably be hard to tell the difference. How does that price sit with you? Does it conjure up visions of wide open California back-roads? Or, does it hit you like a Ford Tudor with Donald Turnupseed behind the wheel?
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