Spyder Creations builds replicas of the Porsche 550. Inch perfect, 100 percent accurate, all-aluminum replicas they sell for $320,000 or $470,000, depending on the engine. That sounds like a lot, but a real 550 is about $4 million. This is the 550 replica that real 550 owners buy so they have a car they can drive.
(Full Disclosure: Spyder Creations wanted me to drive their 550 replica so bad that they invited me up to their Connecticut workshop to take a drive. I only ran it out of gas once.)
If you see a 550 replica on the road, normally it's a fiberglass car that has been stretched. It looks like a Porsche 550, but it isn't close in the truest sense.
That's where Ben and Rob Edwards come in. Ben owned a beautiful original Porsche 550, but he sold it years ago when it was worth $1 million. He thought the market had peaked.
It wasn't close. 550s now trade for nearly four times that price. If you didn't guess, that pissed Ben off, especially when he wanted his car back. So, as a little father-son project, the duo set out to make the best, most exact Porsche 550 replica in the world. And how you do that is you make it out of aluminum and you scan an original car.
In this case, the car they scanned belongs to Vijay Mallya, an Indian billionaire and owner of the Force India F1 Team. His 550 is a gorgeous original example, a great place to start if you want to build the most exact 550 replica in the world.
Unlike Singer, Spyder Creations isn't setting out to create a 550 Spyder that is better than the original. They are creating a 550 Spyder down to the bolts.
I've never met two people that know as much about a particular car as Rob and Ben. They know the serial numbers of all the 550s. Ok, that's not that impressive, but then they know all the particular details on each 550, like the slight variances in the bodies and mechanical differences. If you need encyclopedic knowledge of the 550, give these guys a call.
I am not a Porsche expert nor do I claim to be one, but to my untrained eye this replica looks exactly like a real, brand new 550. And that's the point.
But it's still not good enough for Rob and Ben. When talking to them before setting out, and mentioning how everything looked absolutely perfect on the car, they noted that the first one had some slight imperfections, like a crease that was slightly too sharp or an angle on the fender flare that wasn't quite right. I didn't notice, but people who own a 550 would notice. And that's the market that they want. These guys are perfectionists, and that's who you want building your $320,000 car.
Under the hood of the $320,000 version is a 1600 cc Porsche pushrod engine that has about 110 horsepower to move the 1,100 pound car. For $470,000, you get a legit Porsche four cam, one of the most famous race engines of the era. And yes, the $150,000 delta is exactly the price of the engine. Their second car will have a four cam once it's completed, and it should be a screamer.
The car I drove had pushrod power, which I'm told is around 110 horsepower, which is plenty for the super lightweight roadster. Now, I'm six feet tall. Most race car drivers are far shorter than I am. When the 550 first came out, it was built for people who were around 5'5" tall.
That means I don't really fit in the car at all, my head is a good two feet above the wind screen and I have to get really close to whoever is sitting next to me. The powerband of the engine is also pretty tough to get used to.
Steering is direct, which I guess makes sense since there is no power assist. As you'd expect, it's a great handling car. I didn't have it on track, but was told that it has been on track and people loved it. The gearbox is purposely vague, since that's what it felt like in the original 550. That means there are missed shifts and a certain level of patience and finesse required. I also cannot get close to heel-toeing in here, but that's probably because I'm just too tall for the car. The engine, well, it feels very Beetle-ey to me. At times it feels like it's making a lot of noise, but it isn't converting that noise into forward motion.
If they wanted to build a modern version of a 550 that was rocket fast and looked original, they could have done that. But that wasn't the idea. This is exactly the same as the car Porsche built way back when. But at an affordable price, relatively, for original 550 owners.
Spyder Creations has created a car that is not something everyone wants. For the vast majority of people, a fiberglass replica is all they'll need. But then there are the Porsche obsessives. People who know all the serial numbers. Know who owns each car. Can rattle off specs like they're reading a cereal box. For those people that already have a 550 or want something as close as they can get, this is the only choice.
Photo Credit: Roger Garbow