Owning a reproduction 550 spyder has pretty much been a life dream of mine. Before I even purchased one, I knew exactly how I wanted it to look and the original detail that I wanted to capture. My spyder was built by Graeme McRae in New Zealand – a legend in motor racing as a Formula One driver himself. Graeme decided to build a limited number of 550 spyders along with some 356 speedsters. From what I understand, he was the first to import a LHD Beck spyder in as a donor car, where he fabricated his own chassis and created his own moulds to make a RHD version. When reproducing the moulds, he took particular attention to the original shape of the 550, and as you can see the rear has the correct rounded shape, which is not found on any of the other replica spyders around. McRae only built 38 spyders before he became ill and closed his workshop. My spyder is date marked as 1990 and build no 3 – one of his original prototypes.
I purchased the spyder which had been imported into Australia in 2007. The shape was right, but the finish was nothing I had imagined. I was fortunate enough to have an original spyder – 550-0056 owned by trucking magnate Lindsay Fox as a reference on display, to ensure what I did looked and fitted like the original. I imported all the parts and accessories needed from Fibersteel in the US to start the complete restoration project. It was a build from the ground up – seats, wide five wheels, disc brakes, plexi windscreen and full instruments, plus a full spray job and detail to finish it off. By the time I got it on the road, it was close to 18 months worth of work and very deep pockets needed.
There are still many things that need to be finished on the car such as choosing a more period engine to replace the single carbie currently installed. I have recently installed a pair of autopulse fuel pumps and other touches that only a true spyder aficionado would see and appreciate. All of this takes time, which is one thing I do have and it also maintains my passion. From the outside, the car looks and sound like an original and is admired by many. It is regularly driven and shown at car displays, which to me is really ‘living the dream’.