986-550

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Computer-aided design drawings of the doors followed and, through the magic of CNC machining, male and female hammer forms were made in wood by Thomas & Milliken Millwork in Northport. One of the more interesting aspects of the project is the fact that the original Boxster door openings remain. Irvine formed new doors to fit just the opening rather than having the door skin extend over the A- and B-pillars like a modern car. The result is a smal­ler door that goes a long way to making the 550 proportions believable. A single Jaguar E-type hinge swings each door.

Before the actual body panels could be formed, one critical piece of the performance and looks puzzle had to be completed: the road wheels. After designing a wheel center with a vintage mechanical flavor, Irvine had Alan Meredith reverse-engineer the mounting surfaces of the Box­ster’s 18-inch Sport Design wheels and then CNC-machine four custom wheel centers. The wheels were shod with Miche­lin Pilot Sports in a non-stock size (235/50ZR18) to add the crucial taller sidewalls that fill the large wheel housings of the 550 body.

With the finished wheel combination in place, body fabrication continued, beginning with the door sills and “B-pillars.” The deep, rolled rocker panels were another key element that give the doors their appropriately short look on the vertical plane. Moving rearward, the braces and roll bars behind the seats were removed and lowered. Since these pieces incorporate structural suspension points, special attention was paid to ensure structural integrity.

By this point, it was apparent that the Boxster’s original rear struts were too large to work with the taller tires and the lower body profile. Working with Racer’s Edge, van Raalte sourced a set of Leda coil-over shock absorbers for all four corners of the car. With that problem solved, Irvine began the work of forming the rear body panels.

The great part about building a tribute car — rather than an exacting replica — is that liberties can be taken. When it came time to form the rear quarter panels and decklid, Irvine and Howard decided there was no need to duplicate the 550’s flip-up tail section. This would eliminate the seam in front of each rear wheel, and the Box­ster’s engine could still be accessed through the passenger compartment and from below the car. Likewise, they decided the 550’s license plate light was a distraction from the simple body lines. It too was excluded.

When it came time to fabricate the engine grille, the pair wrestled with the problem for weeks. This car is larger than a 550 and, without the engine cover seam or the twin air scoops, the rear deck looked too long. Twin short grilles seemed to exaggerate this feature while twin long grilles simply crowded the flowing lines. After a lot of trial and error, a single, long grille was hand-formed and latched using the original 986 trunk latch. It covers the dipstick and filler caps for vital fluids.

After cutting ten inches off the front of the 986 platform, the forward aluminum panels were formed. A key 550 design feature is the headlights. The original 550 is so small that its headlights look huge, a design proportion that Irvine knew must be carried over into this larger interpretation.

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