Author: Ray Marchica
Roadster Salon Increases Production Capabilities for 2023
Roadster Salon’s pandemic rebound continues into 2023. After two years of snail-paced productivity hampered by parts shortages, vendor closures and staffing challenges, Roadster is poised for a significant rebound this year. Roadster Salon is implementing number of major changes including staff additions, sub-contracted engineering, and more.
“Prior to the pandemic, Roadster Salon’s business model allowed for steady progress on multiple projects simultaneously. But it has been more than two years since we’ve seen that level of productivity,” said Rob Baird Director of Operations. “The number of projects under Roadster Salon management has literally tripled since 2019, and we have been unable to keep up with demand.” According to Baird, to enhance overall efficiency without compromising quality, major changes were necessary. “We are now directly importing a number of parts rather then relying solely on Domestic suppliers. Roadster is securing our own body shop facility to do our projects exclusively. Body/Paint work has been a huge impediment to our overall ability to finish cars. Our volume has allowed us some influence on timelines, but it isn’t the same as having 100% control,” said Baird.
Roadster Salon is also making changes to their supervisory structure at the shop, integrating additional technicians and fashioning more efficient workspace. “We are creating an environment with more emphasis on team building and cooperation. Roles will now be more interchangeable. Previously we focused on performing tasks that were tailored to individual skill sets. It made everything take longer than necessary. One person off work made projects grind to a halt. This is going to return big dividends in the future”, said Baird.
Spider Engineering Leaps into the Digital Age
As our loyal followers are aware, aftermarket development of the Fiat Spider has been moribund since the 1990’s. Roadster Salon has been the leading creative source for engineering improvements of the original spider design. We’ve stood alone, championing upgrades intended to enhance the Spider’s driving experience and overall safety.
For years, our engineers took an old school approach to design and development. This involved literally “drawing up changes on a napkin” and countless hours of trial and error during fabrication. It would take months or even years to bring concepts to a prototype stage. It was a well-meaning effort, but a costly way to make even minor improvements in performance, road manners and reliability.
Roadster Salon has now fully advanced into the digital age. Director Rob Baird said, “While we still originate our own design concepts in house, we are contracting with an outside engineering firm to computerize them so we can work exclusively in the digital domain. This Fall, our engineering firm spent several days doing complete digital scans of the spider chassis and major components. They used sophisticated laser interpolation and tens of thousands of dollars in modeling software to create a full digital picture of the Spider,” said Baird.
“We now have precise measurements of every critical part of the original car. Modeling of newly designed components can now be tested within a computerized environment for precise fitment. Changes and updates are made easily. Strength and durability of new components can be measured and tested theoretically without ever installing them in a Spider. Specifications for new parts can be quickly finalized and put into production. It’s a game changer.”
The coming year looks to be the most creative period in Roadster Salon’s history. New designs include high performance crate engines/transmissions, next generation chassis upgrades, an improved turbo system and our latest EV design. Watch this space as these new products come to market.
Has Roadster Salon become the Duetto King?
Roadster Salon has built a worldwide reputation as being the premier restoration and modernization facility for Fiat Spiders. But a lesser-known fondness and expertise for the Alfa Romeo Duetto has recently come to light. The lovely “boat tail” Pininfarina masterpiece know as the Duetto gained exposure and popularity when prominently featured in the 1967 Dustin Hoffman classic film, The Graduate.
The Duetto was officially imported to the US from 1967-1969 before adopting the less popular “cam-tail” design change in 1970. Collectors and Aficionados are very specific about which model year of the Duetto they prefer. Director Rob Baird has become quite knowledgeable in this regard. “Many of the original Duettos have been lost to deterioration and rust. Of those remaining, the 67-68 version with the carbureted 1600cc engine is much more desirable than the later version.”
According to NADA Classic Car Guide, the best examples of the earlier Duetto can bring well into the six-figure range–whereas the more plentiful 1969 version (with mechanical fuel injection) is worth about 50% less for a comparable car. “Be careful here, because the restoration costs for a 1967-68 version is about the same as a 1969 Duetto. Although the model years look very similar, the end value is quite different,” Baird said. Still for those on a tighter budget with a fondness for the Duetto style, the 1969 can be a much more affordable alternative.
According to Senior Technician Roberto D’Avola, restoring a Duetto is a long and painstaking process. “Alfa Romeo used two different braking system designs and had other minor parts differences during the production run. They are bellissimo, but you must have molto pazienzo (a lot of patience) to restore a Duetto properly”.
Due to intermittent parts supplies and spotty quality control, a full Duetto project can take twice as long to complete as a comparable late model Fiat Spider. It’s important to note that unlike our Fiat builds, nearly all our Duettos are restored to an original standard without modifications. To maintain peak value and preserve the classic driving experience, Duetto customers seem far more willing to accept the original car’s foibles and eccentricities than a Fiat owner.
D’Avola commented “The Duetto is a very different car to drive than an Alfa Veloce or Fiat Spider from the 1980’s. It feels very feminine, almost delicate.” Even with a fresh transmission, the car does not respond well to rough treatment. Reliability is always a concern with classics from this era. “We don’t mean to imply the Duetto was poorly built. They are actually quite solid and very pretty. But they are too valuable to toss around the way you would a later Alfa Spider, D’Avola said.
D’Avola and his right-hand man Rosario Fricano, frequently tag team our Duetto projects so they are both fresh and keep frustrations to an absolute minimum. Currently Roadster Salon has four Duetto projects in our build que, as well as some not so “pazienzo” customers anxiously awaiting their completion.
Roadster Salon has one rust-free red 1967 Duetto project now available for purchase.
Spider Icona Sets the Standard for Original Resto Value
The word “Iconic” is defined as something widely known as exceptional, and having distinctive excellence. The timeless beauty of the Fiat Spider by Pininfarina is truly “iconic” in every sense. From the curvaceous body lines, advanced engineering to its brilliant technical design—the Spider looks equally at home in the company of the most revered classic sports cars ever built, regardless of price.
For the last twenty years, Roadster Salon has been dedicated to the preservation and restoration of these vintage cars. As the number of survivors dwindle, it’s become clear the remaining examples deserve a higher level of attention to detail not possible with entry-level builds. The cost of parts, materials and labor necessary to return these lovely cars to their original splendor has become significantly more expensive today than in the past. Further, the value of the finest spiders has increased to a point where more lavish treatment is easier to justify.
Roadster Salon customers typically fall into one of two categories—Purists and Pragmatists. The Purists longs for the nostalgia of the original spider, and prefers the car restored to an original standard. The Spider Icona is intended to appeal to the Purist customer. The Pragmatists love the lines of the classic spider, but are concerned about the practical considerations of driving on today’s roads. They want an improved driving experience that rivals contemporary sports cars. For them, the Rinata awaits.
The Spider Icona maintains the original character of the Spider through the use of factory approved replacement parts. Where possible, Roadster Salon has dramatically improved the quality of the original spider’s fit and finish during re-assembly. Original vinyl is replaced by sumptuous premium leather. Your choice of real hardwood veneers replaces the factory laminated material. Luxurious carpets with added insulation are installed. The result is a walk back through time. Put on your Members Only jacket, styling mousse, aviator shades, and feed your favorite New Wave CD into the disk player. It feels just like old times—only better.
The Spider Icona is an advanced level restoration that includes all the essential mechanical elements to assure your Spider will be reliable and fun. Outstanding cosmetics include the full disassembly of the chassis prior to paint, and bare re-spray in your choice of color. The scope of mechanical work includes the removal/rebuild of the engine and transmission, as well the replacement of all wear items. The original 102 HP engine with fuel injection is retained.
If you are a purist looking for a nostalgic driving experience that will transport you back to a simpler time—the Spider Icona is your ride to get there.
STARTING $59,995 PLUS CHASSIS
Original style air conditioning $2995 with upgraded components
New Diamond Estrema Interior Adds Flair to Any Build
Inspired by current Maserati and Ferrari models, our Diamond interior is a standard feature on our new Spider Estrema, but can be added to any current build as an option. Made with the finest leather, Diamond stitching Is an elegant detail that complements other high-end interior elements already featured in Roadster Salon models. Choice contrasting or blended thread colors for a personal statement of excellence. It’s a tasteful addition that’s in perfect harmony with your car’s exterior.
First Spider Rinata Rolls Off Production Line, Lusso “Reborn”
The original Roadster Salon Lusso was the most popular single model in our history, with nearly 100 built since its inception. Harkening the look of vintage Spiders from the 1960’s, we lightly sprinkled in some Ferrari inspired DNA and created–magic. The result improved the spider’s driving experience without betraying the original car’s charm and personality.
Translated from Italian, Rinata means “Reborn.” While many will consider Roadster Salon’s Rinata to be the Lusso’s spiritual successor, it is much more. We think of its proprietary modifications as the “rebirth” of the Spider. The Rinata features key technical innovations and refinement not found in previous versions of the Lusso series. While many of the Lusso’s exclusive cosmetic elements continue, we’ve upgraded the car’s performance and added more standard equipment.
The Rinata is ideally suited to pragmatic buyers who remember the original, but crave more refinement. In short, a car that can be driven confidently regardless of conditions. See the model section on our website for a complete list of standard features and options.
First Spider Icona Finds New Home in Telluride Colorado
This incredible photo was taken shortly after delivery by a very happy customer in Telluride Colorado. Believe it or not, this stunning picture was not digitally enhanced! It’s our first delivery of a Spider Icona, based on a 1984 Pininfarina Spider Azzurra.
The Icona model is a comprehensive restoration that revitalizes the entire Spider with meticulous mechanical detail and vastly improved cosmetic materials. Unlike our Rinata and Estrema models, the Icona maintains the original Spider’s character without contemporary upgrades. At the customer’s request, we improved braking for mountain roads, which also required the addition of 15” wheels to clear the four piston calipers. Otherwise, it remains faithful to the original design. This Azzurra has been entered in a national show coming up in a few weeks. We plan to do a feature story, co-written by the new owner about his experience with our team and his impressions of the car!
Honey We’re Home! Roadster Salon Now Open
The long wait is over and we are now open at our new location in Wheeling, Illinois. Ideally situated near both Chicago O’hare International and Executive Airport, the near 18,000 square foot facility offers Roadster Salon tremendous flexibility for future expansion.
While still in the planning stages, the building is large enough to allow us to broaden the range of services we provide. The facility will eventually house a separate service area for local customers, a showroom for finished examples, an upscale customer lounge, conference room, and our corporate offices.
Roadster Salon is also considering expanding our services to include maintenance work on late model Fiat, Alfa and Maserati. Currently there is a dearth of support for owners of recent FCA products. This is true nationwide, and particularly in the Chicago area market. “There are some good dealers, but in general Italian brands are not well supported, said Rob Baird. Customer loyalty should be encouraged and rewarded. Even if your logo doesn’t have a prancing horse, you still deserve quality service and enthusiastic support”.
We expect the new showroom construction to begin sometime this winter, and be completed for spring 2023. We’re hiring now, so give us a call!
Roadster Salon Announces Entre Upgrade Program
Your eyes do not deceive you. Yes, that is a Porsche Boxster. As announced on line several months ago–due to the rising costs associated with comprehensive restorations, Roadster Salon will no longer be offering our “Originale” and “Avanzato” Spider models. However, the entry level market is still important to us, and we wanted to find a way to stay connected with this important segment.
Starting this month, Roadster Salon has initiated an ENTRE program. Conceptually, it is similar to our highly successful upgrade plan for customers interested in our Spider EV models.
Rob Baird, Operations Manager said “The ENTRE concept is simple. Roadster Salon is now offering entry level convertibles—some priced for as little as $10,000— which can be trade credited toward the cost of our newly minted restorations.”
The full value credit applies to any “Icona” level Spiders and above.
These offerings are fully sorted neo-classic convertibles like the Porsche Boxster, Mini-Cooper S, Nissan 350/370 Z, Fiat 500 Abarth Cabriolet, Audi TT, BMW Z4, and more. Our target price for all models is below the $25,000 threshold. Even lightly restored candidates like the Fiat X/19 and Alfa Spider are candidates for this program when available. If returned to us within 1 year in similar condition, we will apply 100% of your purchase price to the cost of one of our lovely Spider restorations.
Don’t miss your chance to become part of the Roadster Salon family. Enjoy top-down motoring for an affordable price—without giving up your dream of an Italian romance.
Roadster Salon Announces Purchase of New Facility
Yes, the sign is on the door, but we’re not moved in yet. With a lot of help from our bank and our new friends at the SBA, Roadster Salon is proud to announce the purchase of our own facility. After many years of renting and dealing with the trials and tribulations of uncooperative neighbors and demanding landlords, we finally have our own building! Our beautiful new facility is a stand-alone property located in Wheeling Illinois. It sits strategically right in the middle of our most active local markets, and is easily assessable for our out-of-town visitors. The new building is less than three minutes from Palwaukee Executive Airport, and about 25 minutes from O’hare International.
The building is a flexible space that will incorporate our offices, showroom and storage. With nearly 18,000 square feet at our disposal and plenty of parking, this building will serve as our retail hub for years to come. Operations Manager Rob Baird said, “We are also pleased to announce a three-year extension on our lease at our Palatine restoration facility. While we may eventually rent or purchase a building a bit closer to our Wheeling hub, it would have been far too disruptive to our customers and staff to move this location simultaneously.” Unfortunately, our current work load will delay a formal grand opening event at our new building until some later date in 2023. Until now we plan to keep a low profile and set up the new location over time. Formal operations at this address are planned for early Summer.