WE PULL INTO THE ROADSIDE RESTAURANT AND IMMEDIATELY PEOPLE GATHER, absorbing the silver Porsche’s silhouette. The questions come quickly, often basic ones. “What kind of car is this?” “What year is it?” Owner David Howard has a simple answer: “It’s a 2003 Boxster S that’s been rebodied as a 1955 550 Spyder.” Patiently, he repeats that answer several times before going into a more detailed description.
Howard’s odyssey with the car began in August 2003, when he and a few Michigan gearheads entered a deep discussion over several bottles of good wine. The conversation swirled around a 550 Spyder they saw that day. Collectively, they lamented its rarity, with only 101 examples built. Given the going price for a real 550 — one just traded hands at Amelia Island for a whopping $3,685,000 — the group agreed there was little hope of bringing a 550 home.
Howard, however, can be pretty determined, and this was no ordinary group of car guys. One man present that night, Darin Irvine, can seemingly fabricate anything automotive. For another — JP van Raalte — the bigger a mechanical challenge is, the more he likes it. More wine was poured and the dangerous game of “What if?” began.
There were several high-quality reproduction 550 Spyders on the market, and the group agreed that some were done to a high standard. There was only one problem: Howard didn’t want a fiberglass reproduction of an aluminum car. When Irvine suggested building an all-new aluminum body, the “What ifs?” intensified. Before long, the group agreed that an alloy body wrapped around a modern Boxster S chassis was the way to go.
The fact that they would be removing body panels inspired by the very car they wanted to recreate wasn’t lost on the group. While the original, 1997-2004 Boxster drew heavily from the 550 Spyder’s basic lines, theirs would go one step further.
HOWARD IS NO STRANGER TO PORSCHES. His first was a 356C that he drove in college, and his garage has never been without a Porsche since then. Today, he’s got an outlaw 356 Cabriolet, a 356 race car, a 968, a 964 RS America, and a Cayman. He drives all of them regularly so long as the Michigan weather allows him to, and a Cayenne when it doesn’t.
Some say it takes a village to accomplish great things. In this case, it would take two. Leland and Northport are quaint towns on the shore of Lake Michigan. Between them, and the occasional brown truck, Howard would find everything required for what is, by any standard, an ambitious project.