Every restoration receives a contemporary sound systems and improved interior materials.
Roadster showroom is all business. Examples of current projects are on display prior to delivery for customer inspection. Interior and some mechanical work are done on premises.
company with the help of his lovely wife Christina, and long time production manager Rob. Each of them is an intensely passionate Fiat enthusiast, interested in their customer’s needs, and seemingly relentless in improving their product. Since the passing of Ray’s father several years ago, he decided to take the company from a hobbyist pursuit to something higher. We chatted at length about their philosophy, new direction and more focused approach. Ray has quite the gift of gab, and if you let him, he’ll wax rhapsodically for hours sharing stories about his family business. “Dad was a great guy. He had two passions in life – my Mom and Italian Cars. I remember having a conversation with him a few years ago over dinner. I told him we had outgrown our old business model and needed to make changes,” Ray said. “When I said we were now the largest restorer of Fiat Spiders in the country, he responded with his typical dead-pan humor saying, ‘If that is true, then it is like being the world’s tallest midget.’” While there may be an element of truth to that, the demand for Roadster Salon Fiats seems very high. About 3040 buildable Fiat and Pininfarina Spider chassis’ are on hand year round, and they complete about three per month. They’re obviously very serious about their craft and in it for the long haul, points succinctly driven home upon learning Roadster Salon uses Ferrari-certified technicians to work on their Spiders. Their customer approach is truly elegant. Roadster Salon assists clients in choosing the best car for their needs and budget; and once all the details are settled, a formal build
Garage Style Magazine Winter 2013
sheet is comprised spelling out everything prior to starting the project. Options, approximate delivery date, deposit schedule, and warranty are all illustrated. There are no supplemental invoices or additional fees once the build sheet is finalized, the price is the price, and the restoration process takes about 12-14 weeks. According to Ray, the economic downturn actually worked in their favor. “Boys still love their toys. When the economy was booming, guys were borrowing money to buy $90,000 used Ferraris. Now they want to pay cash, and are looking to spend much less,” he said. “The idea of having a hand-built, relatively rare Italian convertible with the Pininfarina heritage for less than half the money they used to spend is very appealing. Our cars have a high level of fit, finish, and exclusivity for the dollar. They are easy to drive, and ladies love them too.” Ray also said that many of his customers have owned Fiats in the past, and remember the car fondly from their youth; but Ray is careful to set realistic expectations with his clientele. “We are re-creating a memory. Our cars are built to a customer’s exact specifications, and frankly, our paint, body and interior work is done to a higher standard than originally offered,” he said. “Roadster Salon Spiders still have great quality and can be driven daily. But we still need to remind our clients that no two restorations are alike, and occasional glitches are to be expected.” Ray said they’re not building trailer queens for shows, but making more reliable cars compared to other classics. Re-
engineering them to a contemporary standard isn’t in the game plan. “To make a Spider completely new would cost well into six figures,” he said. “While that kind of project is within our capabilities, it misses the mark for what our customers are looking for, a fun car to be enjoyed for a reasonable price. The upgraded materials and options are a bonus.” Rob echoed those sentiments; “Trying to make it brand
new would be impractical, but we make it as nice as possible. The devil is in the details. Ray and I spend extended time behind the wheel of every restoration before releasing it to a customer. Sometimes the shake down period can last several weeks.” Roadster Salon offers multiple price points for different budgets, with both classic and high-end Spider versions available. Updated creature comforts like contemporary air conditioning, premium sound, power windows, and heated seats are available upgrades. There’s also a stunning Lusso limited edition incorporating cosmetic elements from late 1960’s Spiders combined with the reliability of later fuel injected models. “We have toyed with the idea of doing an entrylevel model, and even offered one briefly but there were no takers,” he said. “Our customers usually look for a thorough, well-appointed, more fully-sorted car.” Showing my friend their website, he was impressed by their facility and abilities. The website alone speaks highly volumes for Roadster Salon. The possibilities are incredible. Once in touch with Ray, things moved along nicely, and my friend was eager to begin building his own 124 with their help. He bought the most valuable version of the 124, the limited production 1985.5 Pininfarina Spider. Less than 50 of these cars are estimated to remain in existence, and the fact that Roadster Salon actually had a couple on hand was mind blowing to a 124 aficionado. Stay tuned for when we do a profile on his completed car. Meanwhile, check out www. RoadsterSalon.com or call Ray directly on 847.769.7880 and find out what’s new with Fiat’s old 124. GSM
Roadster Salon customers can choose from a variety of standard and custom interior options. Production Manager Rob Baird (seated right) with customer are pictured discussing leather samples.
Garage Style Magazine Winter 2013