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.
Young 128 project enters the “Piranha Phase”
The first stage of a quality restoration begins with what we at Roadster Salon jokingly refer to as the “piranha phase”. Arguably, it’s one of the most fun parts of the project. Just like the ravenous flesh-eating fish, (albeit much more carefully) we strip the existing chassis down to the bones. During this segment, we completely disassemble the car and catalogue all the parts that are being kept for the future. Even in an original style restoration, only a portion of them can be refurbished and reused. In modified builds, even fewer make their way back into the car.
This part of the restoration process is critical, because our technicians must be able to see all parts of the body shell, from the inside out. This way any problem areas with the body structure can be revealed and then properly repaired.
Once the interior components and insulation are removed, the tub is taken down to bare metal and cleaned with anti-bacterial solution. This rids the subject of that “old car” musty smell.
The engine and transmission are next to be removed along with wiring and other components. Color changes will be detectable unless all the existing painted metal areas are exposed.
Finally, our “Piranha team” attacks the car’s exterior removing all trim and glass. Once completed, the car is ready for media blasting where all surfaces are taken back to bare metal and sealed with epoxy to prevent pinhole rust from forming.
And Now for Something Completely Different…Young 128 project
Fiat 128 models are like the old girlfriend from college you just can’t forget.
A few months ago, we got a phone call from an enthusiastic customer, hoping that we had a 128 Rally available for sale. He had one in his early twenties that he wrecked while racing a Datsun 240Z on a twisty, tree lined road. Unscathed, he was determined to own another someday. When we told him that we focus on Italian convertibles, there was a noted sigh of disappointment and plea for assistance in finding one to restore.
Mr. Young had a very specific vision of what he wanted his passion project to look like—and how he wanted it to drive. I explained that rust free 128 models of any version had become almost impossible to find. Undeterred and unwilling to compromise, we were given our marching orders and set out on our mission to find a Unicorn.
I was shocked to find several available on Ebay. Unfortunately, their history was sketchy and lipstick makeovers unappealing. Good from far, but far from good. What we were looking for was a dry, unmolested car at a reasonable price. This way we could build the dream 128 to his specifications without paying a premium for someone’s clouded vision and questionable work.
After calling our usual sources and scouring the internet we came up empty. We had almost given up the chase, when my son suggested I try Facebook Marketplace. Lo and behold was the perfect example—a nearly rust free, running and driving, original 1973 Fiat 128 coupe in Florida. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. After some spirited back and forth negotiating, we closed the deal and arranged for the car to be shipped up to our facility near Chicago.
A few weeks later the car arrived, and our team was impressed. The undercarriage and shock towers—always an area of concern, were pristine. Cosmetics needed attention, but were better than we expected. While unlikely to win a stop light Grand Prix, the car was tight and ran smoothly. We were ready for Mr. Young to fly in and inspect his car.
I picked him up at the airport, and he was barely able to contain his excitement. I can honestly say I was a little worried his memory of that sexy College girlfriend may have become a little exaggerated over the years. You see her again at the reunion, and realize she had an overbite and one leg slightly shorter than the other.
I could not have been more wrong. It was love at first sight—again.
The car started right up (truth be told the guys had it warm and ready prior to his arrival). A few minutes behind the wheel and it was clear that Roadster Salon had hit a home run. Mr. Young felt exactly like his name implies, once more.
We’ll be chronically this build in our blog moving forward over the next year. Follow the journey as Mr. Young has some very cool plans for this little car, including a bare metal respray to Ferrari red, fuel injected 1500 cc performance engine swap, five speed and suspension upgrades and much more!
Spider Rinata and Estrema to Debut in 2022
The original Roadster Salon Spider 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.
While many of the exclusive cosmetic elements were retained, we’ve upgraded the car’s performance and added more standard equipment. The hand built and signed “D’Avola” engine is the centerpiece of the Rinata, with nearly 100 man-hours of artisan craftsmanship. Options include Ferrari inspired Diamond interior stitching, and first ever Alkaline tank bath and rust preventative. Full specifications are available on request. Prices start at $79,995 plus chassis.
To suit the taste of both luxury and performance-oriented customers, two different versions of the Estrema are available–Touring and Sport. Each model has its own unique personality. Think of the new Estrema series as more “extreme” versions of the Rinata. Both T and S models feature higher levels of customization, opulence, power and handling than the Tributo.
The new Estrema Touring offers two dash designs options, custom LED back lit gauges with a GPS tracked odometer and speedo, plus artisan crafted wood and chrome details. Top grain Italian leather with custom stitching throughout the cabin is standard. All Estrema models feature our Generation II rack and pinion steering system, second generation structural chassis bracing, and upgraded multi-piston braking systems. The T version features our best performing, normally aspirated Fiat based engine, with nearly 140HP. Both manual and automatic transmissions are available.
Our Estrema Sport places even greater emphasis on performance. It is designed for those seeking a spider with sharper reflexes and better acceleration. The heart of the S is our new exclusive turbocharged and inter-cooled Fiat 2.0 engine, which boosts horsepower to near 170. Also featured is stiffer suspension, unique dash with boost gauge and a custom hood with functional intake from the Spider America. Each car is finished exclusively in a custom premium color from Maserati’s or Ferrari’s factory color chart. Prices for the Estrema models start at $99,995 respectively, plus chassis.
Spider Icona, our New Original Standard
As teased in our Mid-December posting, three new models have been finalized for our fresh line-up of 2022 spider re-creations.
For customers who long for the nostalgia of the original spider, and prefer the car restored to an original standard—we announce the Spider Icona. It’s the first release from our new line-up.
The word “Iconic” is defined as something widely viewed as exceptional, with 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 at home in the company of the most revered classic sports cars ever built, regardless of price.
The Spider Icona is intended to appeal to the Purist customer, and replaces the Spider “Avanzato”. Roadster Salon retains the original character of the spider through the use of factory approved replacement parts. Where possible, we’ve improved the quality of the original spider’s fit and finish during re-assembly. The result is a car that 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. It’s even more comprehensive than the Avanzato, and faithful to the original. 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 standards are high, but the car can still be enjoyed daily as a driver. Burled walnut and original style air conditioning are the only options.
If you are a purist looking for a nostalgic driving experience to take you back to a simpler time–the Spider Icona is your ticket to get there. Get out your Members Only jacket, styling mousse and New Wave CD. It’s time to party like its 1985. Prices start at $54,995 plus chassis.
Roadster Salon to debut 3 new models in 2022
One might assume when dealing with the constraints of a single chassis platform, the potential for innovation and refinement would be limited. Since 2016, Roadster’s line-up has been essentially unchanged. The “Orignale”, “Avanzato”, “Lusso S2, and Tributo series have been the staple of our line-up. It’s been six years without any increase in pricing, or significant revisions.
The pandemic has created many challenges for Roadster Salon. In the past two years we have struggled to maintain quality in the face of dramatically rising costs for parts, labor, paint, body, and fabrication. The cost of rebuildable spider chassis’ have also spiked. “The days of finding restorable rust free, fuel injected Spiders under $10,000 are all but over. If we base a project upon a $10-15K starting point it, becomes virtually impossible to do a proper job addressing cosmetic and mechanical details at an entry level price”, said Rob Baird Director of Operations.
We realized a few months ago we were doing our customers a disservice by trying to make our process more scalable and compromising details to stabilize pricing. The core of Roadster Salon’s build philosophy is “it takes as long as it takes to make it right”. We strive to make every spider build better than the one that came before it. But the pandemic made achieving that goal increasingly difficult.
Prior to announcing our models, we considered simply dropping the base “Originale” from our line-up and continuing with the other models with adjusted pricing. Instead, we saw an opportunity to revitalize our product mix creatively while offering more value and performance. We informally polled our existing customers and asked them if upgraded versions of their builds were available at the time of their original purchase—would they pay more for something better? Their resounding answer was “yes”.
For 2022, Roadster will continue its development of our two EV models, which have undergone many revisions prior to the launch of our production ready version. Our “ICE” line-up will now consist of three models. The Spider Icona, Spider Rinata, and Spider Estrema. Watch this space for more information about each of these exciting new Roadster Salon products.
Roadster Salon to Discontinue “Originale” for 2022
Roadster Salon has announced that their entry level “Originale” model is being discontinued in its present form and price structure for 2022, according to Director of Operations Rob Baird. “The Originale restoration was intended to be a way for entry level customers to become part of the Roadster Salon family. We created a category for these customers to select a chassis or provide their own—where we could restore the cars by priorities set in advance. Unfortunately, we found this to be impractical in the real-world applications. Cars provided by customers often needed far too much work to fit into this budget sub-$20K category. Further, tight supplies have forced Roadster to exclude our own vetted chassis from being eligible for these entry level projects.”
The far bigger concern has been meeting typical customer expectations. Many see the quality of our more comprehensive work on-line, and make assumptions. They expect similar levels of quality for half, or one-third the price of our Avanzato and Lusso S2 models. “The truth of the matter is this is a reputation- based business. Roadster Salon loses literally thousands of dollars on every “Originale” project we build”, Baird said. “Our craftsman will not do things half way. Since the budget is simply not there to attend to all concerns, compromises become necessary. In many cases, the compromises are just not acceptable to us. Consequently, we end up doing a significant amount of work at no charge to the customer.”
Roadster Salon will continue to do a-la-carte restorations for customers who supply their own cars, with the clear understanding of their expectations in advance. “The math is really simple on these projects. To inspect and mechanically refurbish a spider from end to end, plan on a minimum of $10-$15,000 in labor– depending on condition and previously performed maintenance. That estimate is with no contemporary upgrades or re-engineering,” Baird said. “We warranty all our work, so the approach must be comprehensive and include all wear items. It’s not a question of priority—it’s one of safety.”
Cosmetics are a wild card. Many customer submissions have significant rust concerns that need to be addressed prior to paint. It is not unusual to spend upwards of $10,000 on metal repair and body work alone. “Interior restoration is a bit easier to ballpark, but there are still variables there too. What type of materials are being used? How is the tub being prepared? Other issues like sound deadening, door supports and seat frames should also be addressed.”
Pictured below: 1979 2.0 FI upgrade, replacing carburetor for better performance and improved reliability
Watch this space for further updates in Roadster Salon’s 2022 model line-up. Rob Baird said, “Ray has some exciting things planned for next year as we hopefully put the pandemic in our rear-view mirrors for good. We are doing our best to address the enormous back-log of orders currently in our “Q”, and are committed to make our production facility/build process more efficient without sacrificing quality.
We are up to the challenge!”