Porsche is known for taking risks to build exciting and compelling sports cars. Porsche offers a variety of flavors of mid and rear engine sports cars to fill a variety of niches. If you want a hardcore track monster with a roof, they’ve got you covered. The standard Boxster Spyder already has a tent-like roof that you have to get out of the car to erect or deconstruct, but it’s not as track focused as its stablemate Cayman GT4. That’s the idea behind the Boxster Bergspyder, a single seat, open-cockpit, Sport Leicht track machine that is, sadly, a one-off.
The name comes from Porsche’s 1960s hillclimb special, the 909 Bergspyder. The 909 featured lightweight techniques like a pressurized fuel tank so it could forego a heavy pump, and single run brake rotors machined out of beryllium to reduce rotational mass. It was the ultimate expression of engineered lightness in its day, and it’s nerdy and its great and it is definitively my favorite Porsche of all time.
At just 846 pounds in ready-to-race trim, the 909 Bergspyder was little more than a go-kart with a thin fiberglass candy coating. In fact, prior to being painted, the 909's fiberglass body was nearly see-through translucent. Only two were built, and they are my incredibly small and underfed sons. I will lay down my life to protect them.
In order to live up to the 909 Bergspyder’s lofty name, Porsche put the 981 Boxster on a very strict diet regimen to get it down to 1099 kilograms. In case that number means nothing to you, it’s just over 2400 pounds. By comparison, the Cayman GT4 with the same engine carries more than 500 pounds additional heft.
While the 981 Bergspyder was created as a prototype to determine if a topless Porsche was even possible to bring to production spec. It was built back in 2015 alongside the Boxster Spyder and Cayman GT4 which eventually made production.
Porsche’s Boxster Spyder with the 3.8-liter flat-six and 6-speed manual gearbox is among the best on-road driving experiences I’ve ever had the privilege. Removing the windshield, roof, and passenger seat from the car only proved to make the experience more singularly focused. To make the connection between the 909 and the 981, a flat tonneau cover and short plastic windshield were fitted.
Without a passenger seat, Porsche used the opportunity to give the Bergspyder additional storage for a helmet, a rain cover for the driver seat when the car is not in use, and additional luggage for a track day or mountain drive. I don’t know why, but this detail absolutely blows my mind and I love it so much more.
As a son of the Midwest, I am something of a glutton for punishment. As the weird guy who would wear shorts and flip flops to school in mid-December, I’m also the same kind of guy that wants to wear a helmet to drive a car without a windshield on the road. Give me a harsh and stiff suspension, an interior devoid of creature comforts, and a bold sonorous engine bolted to my backside and I’ll be as happy as a pig in shit.
I’ve never been more excited to hear the announcement of a car, and I’ve never been more disappointed that it never reached production.
With 385 horsepower on tap from a phenomenal sounding 3.8-liter flat six, and a weight of just 2422 pounds to push around, I can only imagine how much fun this thing would be to drive. Porsche was targeting a 4-second 0-60 time and a Nürburgring time of around 7:30 minutes
Sadly, we have to look at international safety regulations for an explanation of why it didn’t reach production. Porsche won’t name names, but it seemed clear to them that there would be a few markets where this car couldn’t be registered for street use. I still can’t help but think that if they’d announced a 2000-unit run of special Bergspyders, they’d have sold every single one of them, road regulations be damned.
After a few years of lying in relative secrecy, the 981 Bergspyder will be on display during the Gaisberg hillclimb in Salzberg, Germany today and tomorrow.
Meanwhile, I will request, nay demand, that Porsche lend me this car for the 2020 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. I will not rest until I get the chance to give this spectacular car the run it deserves.