Drilled for speed

April 11th, 2012

550 drivers, 550 history, 550 originals : , , , ,

Rarely will you find a 550 Spyder that has been in the same ownership since it left the factory or dealer’s showroom. In 1955, these cars were bought to race, not to be kept as the family car to be handed down from generation to generation. Some have only changed hands a few time while others have a list of owners as long as Charlie Sheen’s priors. I know of many 550s that have been owned by the same person since the early 70s and paid only a few thousand dollars in the day, only to keep it at the back of the shed under an old sheet. Today these cars would pay for their retirement even in the unrestored condition they are in.

Other 550s have gone through many owners until they find one willing to spend a king’s ransom on a bare metal restoration such as 550-03, which took over five years for Joe Cavaglieri to complete for owner Jerry Seinfeld. Today Joe is seen as a master and veteran of restoring 550s after first completing 550-04 for the Porsche Museum and 550-01 for the Collier Collection. In between them, Joe decided to mortgage the house himself in the late nineties to buy 550-0073 off owner of nearly 30 years, George Kade. The car was in very poor condition with many parts missing, but Joe saw it as a good project to take on. Half way through a light restoration, Microsoft executive and car collector Jon Shirley, made an offer on the car plus commissioned Joe to complete a full restoration.

Back in the late fifties, the original owner Paul Sagan drilled the entire car with lightening holes to compete in hill climb races, plus to be faster against the newer 550As on the track. Unfortunately during the car’s debut race at Lime Rock in 1957, the lighter and more nimble 550 crashed and rolled numerous times, causing extensive damage plus injury to Sagan. The car was then parted and sold on, less the quad cam engine. It was only when Joe started stripping the car back that all the damage was found. Working on a fixed restoration cost, Joe learnt a very expensive lesson based on the unknown complications restoring cars can uncover. These days with multiple restorations under his belt, Joe charges by the hour, plus parts.

In recent years, 550-0073 has once again changed hands for the sixth time and is an immaculate example of a 550 spyder, still complete with the drilled body.


  1. Trish

    George Kade was my father… rest in peace daddy!!!

  2. Bill

    Jorge Kade was my friend and a Mentor, I have several early photos of that car and was told that it was example that proved that too much lightening could make for a poor handling car. Some times you are better off trusting the factory engineers!

  3. Lynda Sagan Walz

    I was about 8 years old when my dad, Paul Sagan, was in his shop every night drilling those holes. How pleased he would have been to see his refurbished 550 and on the Internet. Dad was always calling me to look things up for him. He lived to be 93. Thank you.

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