Beck (Porsche) 550 Spyder – Please note: I no longer own this car, but will leave this page up for general interest.

Some basic info for those who don’t know. The Beck 550 is a “replica” of the Porsche 550 racecar of the 50’s. It is unusual in that it is a mid-engine design from Porsche, who of course are and were at the time known for their rear-engine deisgn, the 356 and now the 911. It used the same type of flat-four, boxer engine as the 356 in 1500cc’s, only spun 180 degrees with the transmission mounted behind the motor.

Incidentally, this is a really excellent book, if you’d like more information about the Porsche 550, with many rarely seen photos of the cars from their racing heyday.

Most Becks (which is really the generic name these days for 550 replicas, Beck doesn’t make cars themselves anymore) use larger motors, of course, and it’s possible to fit the flat six from the 911 into the car, though that will have a negative impact on the balance of the car.

The major manufacturers are Thunder Ranch, which licensed the rights to build “Becks” from Chuck Beck, and Vintage, which I don’t know much about.

My Impressions of the Beck

First of all, to respond to an often-heard comment that a Beck as a “cooler version of a Miata” track car…it is definitely cooler, but it’s not a Miata replacement; it’s a hell of a lot more work! I should point out here that my car is not a typical Beck. I have a “Z-bar” in the rear which in theory helps control camber changes under cornering, I have rear disc brakes, which is not a standard item, and I have a healthy though not maxxed-out 1914 balanced motor. I also have a vintage cage and race harnesses in the car, so my impressions are not those of a “standard” car.

The Beck is 1200lbs or so, handles very well on smooth surfaces, and with a typical 130+hp motor, accelerates very well. They also, as you might expect, brake well (with reservations). One important thing to remember is that most of the components of the Beck are 60’s VW Bug parts, and therefore not exactly high-precision race pieces. The engine, no matter what you do, will always leak some oil. The shifter will always be vauge due to the long linkages to get back to the rear of the transmission. The steering is less than confidence inspiring. In short, the car drives probably a lot like the original cars, and nothing like the paragon of the cheap reliable track car; the Miata.


The brakes, for instance, though 4 wheel disc, are oddly mushy for some reason I haven’t yet figured out. While the car has extremely short braking distances, there is a lot of pedal takeup before you actually start slowing down. I don’t know if this is endemic to the VW calipers or what. I do have an AP master cylinder and braided lines throughout, so it’s not the hoses. That said, the car still brakes far shorter than a production car, and you’ve got to adjust your braking points to compensate.


The car transitions very quickly, and is very sharp. This is inspite of the VW steering racks, which seem to have widely variable amounts of slop in them. Some owners say their steering is very tight; mine has 10* of slop constantly, so you start turning the wheel…waiting…then the car turns quick as a slap. Once you’re used to it, it’s no issue, but it’s very unmiata-like behavior.

It’s also a relatively ill-behaved car, and takes a lot of attention to drive. The steering is heavy and you’ve got to keep a white-knuckle grip the wheel in turns to keep the car going where you want. The wheel wants to kick back straight with every bump in the road. It’s actually quite a bit of work in long sweepers, and it’ll wear you out in a track day. Again, probably a lot like the originals. On the road it’s no effort at all to drive, but on the track is a whole other story.

The mechanical grip is all you’d expect it to be in a 1200lb car; immense.


Acceleration depends on the engine you choose, but in my car is quite good. The biggest problem with the drive train is definitely the 4 speed transmission. You can get a retrofit to make it a 5 speed, I hear, and it would be a great idea. I’ve had this car at Willow Springs, and it was about the most boring track day I’ve ever driven. The car would acclerate to about 120mph long before turn 8, and I’d more or less be stuck at redline in 4th gear all through 8, brake a bit in 9, and be back stuck at redline down most of the straight. The car definitely needs another gear.


All the reliablility you’d expect from a 1968 VW Bug.


Great car, but definitely a spartan, no-luxury race car the way things used to be. Fantastic fiberglass work, very good fit and finish. Very simple car. It may break down more often than a Miata, but you can fix just about anything on it with a hammer and a paperclip.


You can buy a used Beck for about $20k, but not with the track-specific stuff and development time that’s been put into the WMS 550. There’s probably $40k in this car all told, just trying different things, etc. That’s initial cost.

Once you get over the purchase, these are the cheapest cars on the face of the earth, mechanically, as they’re all VW. Need new valve cover gaskets? $3. Bent a wheel? $40. I don’t think I’ve bought a part for this car that cost me more than about $20…well, aside from the new motor I just built…that was more like $4k.

Car has been sold.

This car has been sold and shipped off to France, but for posterity’s sake, I’m leaving this page up.

More pictures can be seen here.

One Response to “Beck (Porsche) 550 Spyder – Please note: I no longer own this car, but will leave this page up for general interest.”

  1. David Bettridge says:

    Thanks for this, I just bought one for my Mom.
    We’re going to drive it home from CO and I’m doing a little research on what to expect…
    Packing my tool bag now!

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