Fall is a great time of year for some top down cruising. When it comes to rag tops, you have plenty of choices. I'm not a huge fan of convertibles, but I love the classics. So on the right car, a drop top is the only way to go. I used to have a 1969 MGB that was a blast to drive. It was a simple car and for the most part brought on a smile or two. But since it was a British car, when it came to keep it running, it also brought on a frown or two.
The one issue with small, fun cars is practicality. I'm not even sure you should use practicality and fun in the same sentence when it comes to cars. So it comes as no surprise the Vintage Porsche 550 Spyder I got the chance to tool around in was a whole lot of fun and perhaps the most impractical car I've ever driven.
To be fair, the car was never meant to be a grocery getter, Porsche built the car to be a race car, period. The most famous 550 belonged to James Dean. This was the car he was driving when he was killed at the intersection of Highways 46 and 41 September 30, 1955.
An original 550 will set you back somewhere between 3 to 5 million dollars. Not to mention with only 139 1955-56 550's ever made, finding one may be a bit of a challenge.
But you have options if you want a car with no options, recreation. The Vintage version I drove is much more reasonable. Vintage has been building 550 replicas since 1995. The cost savings is huge. Your starter kit comes in at 14 grand, but you still need the chassis, engine, wheels and many, many other things to get on the road. 30 grand will get you a more complete car, but you still need to buy and install the engine. But that can be fun as you have a number of options depending on how original or how fast you want to go.
There is another issue, according to the Porschephile who was kind and or crazy enough to let me drive his, there is a year and a half waiting list to get your hands on a new one.
The car is really something to look at. Classic lines, very simple, and absolutely beautiful in the metallic silver with the black stripes on the rear fenders. From a functionality standpoint, cars don't get much more basic than this. You have two seats, seat belts, three pedals, banjo steering wheel, Porsche horn button, a few gauges and a push button start. That's it. No radio, no heat, no A.C…nothing. But in this car you don't need anything. Remember, this is a race car for the street that screams good times. If you know of a long twisty road, or anyplace with a lot of corners and bends, this car needs to spend some time there.
Getting into the car to experience that good time does require you to study with Crique du Soleil. The doors, which you open by reaching inside the car, are very small. With no top, you have plenty of headroom to step up over the door sill and slide down into the black leather Speedster seats.
A simple push fires up the 2276 factory-built CB Performance engine. It quickly settles into a nice idle with just enough chop you know the car is ready to go and go fast. And it does. It's not supercar fast, but it's got more than enough zip to put a big smile on your face. With the competition windshield, it'll keep the bugs out of your teeth. But with no top, your hair is another story, and that brings us back to the practicality issue.
The car is an absolute blast to drive, but outside of some fun sprints here and there, the car show (where you'll win some sort of award), and running in to grab a gallon of milk, it's one that will more than likely see more time in the garage than it will on the road.
So yes, it really is nothing more than a big, fast expensive toy. Like the old saying goes, the difference between men and boys is the price of their toys. It was great being a man during my brief time with the car, but now that the keys are sadly back in the owners hand, its back to being a boy.
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