Windblown Witness, August 1999

Reprinted with author’s permission

550 left front

And Tom McBurnie’s cars are beautiful! You know the shape the 550 Spyder defines the look of a classic sports car. The construction and finish of Tom McBurnie’s creations are flawless. These cars are gorgeous specimens of the genre. One of these cars would look great in your garage. And, of course, you would look mha-va-lous driving one of these cars!  But they are not just for show; they really perform.

You can toss them around with confidence, with their responsive performance and mid-engine poise.  You can play with the throttle and make this car dance. You can launch this car and drive it sideways for the first half a block, and then straighten out and fly right, when the screeching and blue smoke get to be a bit much!

Depending upon how much adrenaline you like, Tom will have his engine builder, Steve Johnson, put together a motor of from 120 hp (standard model) to 150 hp, or even up to 200 hp, if you really want to smoke. Since these cars weigh in at only 1150 to 1175 lbs (less than the aluminum Spyders of the 50’s) they really rocket. Zero to 60 times are in the mid 5 second range. Even lower times are achievable with the right engine (less than 5 sec!) The car can produce 0.96 Gs on the skid pad.

550 interior

The primary engine used is the VW (with appropriate souping), but Tom has also shoe-horned Porsche 911 engines into about a half a dozen of the approximately 40 Spyders he has built. He has also produced about 100 kits for aficionados to assemble themselves. Tom has his engines and transaxles built locally, but he procures some parts for these cars worldwide, including the retro-looking gauges from VDO Brazil.

His cars use special wall thickness tubing for the frames, so he has to order a partial mill run to get what he needs. Right now he has enough frame material on hand for a couple of dozen cars, so go ahead and tell Santa what you need! It typically takes around 3 or 4 months for him to build a car after the order is received. The basic price for one of these beauties is around $TBA with 120hp. A more fancy car (upgraded brakes and engine) would add around $TBA. Go look at them. You’ll enjoy it.  They are works of art. Take your checkbook. Life is short! This is not a rehearsal.

Witness page three

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