Upgrades Improve Safety Too

Recently an article published in AARP Magazine raised the notion that classic cars designed in the 1960’s and 1970’s are unsafe by today’s standards. There were six areas pointed out by veteran collector Gordon McCall as suspect in classics built prior to the wave of safety requirements mandated in the early 90’s. Inadequate seat belts, poor braking systems, out dated tire design, worm/roller steering systems, sub-standard head lights and the lack of back-up cameras were all sited by McCall as potential safety hazards. While certainly concerning, it should be noted that Fiat/Pininfarina Spiders were ahead of their time compared to other classic sports cars from the same era.

Interestingly, proprietary safety and performance upgrades have been the focus of Roadster Salon’s engineering and development team for nearly a decade. While my Dad was fiercely loyal to keeping his restorations as original as possible, he grudgingly admitted that the Spider had not aged well in certain areas. I remember having spirited debates with him in years past about the necessity to upgrade the Spider to be more in tune with today’s roads and driving conditions. The Spider was already lagging in performance and technology by the mid 1980’s. Unlike fine wine, it has not gotten better with age. Frankly, it never made sense to me that as a company Roadster’s goal should only be to make the car as good as it was when new in 1984.

The Spider deserved more.

Following my Dad’s passing in 2012, our efforts to re-engineer the Spider intensified. We took out a clean sheet of paper and outlined the car’s biggest weaknesses. Aside from fit and finish–braking, steering, structural integrity, electrical reliability, handling, and comfort were all areas where marked improvement was necessary. Today, each of the items noted by Gordon McCall in the AARP article can be addressed in every Spider restoration. It’s simply a matter of priorities and budget.

Our Lusso S2 and Tributo models are brimming with new technology. Both come standard with Generation II rack and pinion steering, revised electrical systems, structural chassis bracing, advanced suspension upgrades, dramatically improved braking with contemporary wheels and tires, better seat belts, HID lighting, and yes—even optional back up cameras. The Tributo also features a revised instrument panel that is not only beautiful, but easier to read, more accurate and details more information. Any of these items can be added to basic Spider restorations as a package or on an individual basis.
While there are no plans to incorporate air bags or anti-lock brakes into Roadster Salon Spiders, improving safety by building a car with more contemporary reflexes and road manners is a huge step in the right direction. On today’s roads traffic is faster, and things happen much more quickly. Upgraded Roadster Salon Spiders can stop, turn and accelerate in a manner that’s closer to the average car around them. This makes for a safer and more pleasant driving experience—which is as much as you can expect from a classic car.