The early sports cars of the 1950s were lots of fun to drive, but provided little in terms of creature comforts. Frills were minimal. For example, if it started to rain, the basically open-air cars had to make due with a flimsy fabric top that was far less than watertight.
Porsche decided that some of it customers might be interested in a little of that classic sports car feel (to a point) and came up with the Boxster Spyder. It offers additional performance but does away with some things in order to save weight.
Compared to the regular Boxster and the higher-performance Boxster S, the Spyder enjoys an advantage in horsepower over the S model (320 vs. 310), and is lighter by 176 pounds. It also sits on a special sports suspension that lowers the car by 20mm. For the purist, these slight changes make for a better performer, especially for those on-track sessions that an increasing number of enthusiasts participate in.
To shed pounds, Porsche did away with the power folding top and lightened some other things. The most obvious example of that (and a tribute to their very early cars) are webbed nylon pulls for the interior door latches. Air conditioning and a radio are left off the standard equipment list too.
Styling-wise, you can spot the Boxster Spyder right off the bat, as it wears a dual-cowl deck lid that runs right up against the twin roll hoops at the rear of the passenger compartment. The interior is basic Boxster, but the Spyder gets some racing-type seats with very high solid bolsters to keep the driver and passenger in place during hard cornering. (Those of “generous” posterior may have to pass on this car.)
Everything has paid off handsomely in terms of driving dynamics. The mid-engine Boxster is one of Porsche’s best handlers in general, and this Spyder version is a no-compromise performance car. Turn-in at the beginning of a corner is direct and linear, and you’d have to try really hard to get it out of balance.
I happened to have this car during one of our periods of autumn rain, and as such had to familiarize myself pretty quickly with how to remove and install the top. (Actually Porsche doesn’t even call it a top, referring instead to the two pieces as the “sun shield” and “weather protector” individually.)
The Boxster Spyder was my ride for the Steve McQueen Tribute Parade (see last week’s Tolucan Times), since this is definitely a car the late actor would have loved. The weather was generally sunny, so the day started out with the top down. But a subsequent drive to Malibu and Camarillo saw increasingly cloudy skies and threats of rain.
No problem, as I had become adept at installing the top thanks to an instructional video that Porsche had produced to show the technique. First, you have to snap a main section into place against the windshield frame. Then, the middle pops into the roll hoops. Finally, the rear portion with its clear plastic window is snapped into place. It all takes about five minutes, and would best be rehearsed by an owner in advance of any downpours.
So you have to “rough it” a little with this car, but that’s all part of the charm. Oh, you also have to pay more than you would for a Boxster S. Yes, less car for more money. Base price is $61,200 (versus $58,000 for the S), and my test car was fitted with the optional air conditioning and radio to the tune of $67,000 dollars.
Sometimes the better, purer sports car is more expensive… even if it’s not as plush.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net.