Shop Visitor Observations
September 13, 2003 -
Specialty Autoworks, Inc. debuted its new
water-cooled Speedster replica to the demanding fans of the famous Grand Run
Auto Show in Pigeon Forge, TN. As could be expected everyone recognized
the famous Speedster shape, but there were many a dropped jaw when the engine
was reviewed. We had a good time and enjoyed "tricking" some of
the sharpest car guys around.
I think we will have a worthy addition to the Speedster replica family."
recently visited Specialty Autoworks for the purpose of test driving their new
Subaru-powered Speedster replica. I
can assure you that the experience was worth the effort."
"Unlike VW-powered replicas, you do not want for power and acceleration at
any speed. The prototype that I
drove has automatic shift and a manual version is nearing completion.
This mid-engine version is quiet with an appropriate throaty exhaust
sound upon acceleration. The
ergonomics of the cockpit are good and a bit more foot-room has been achieved.
The gas and brake pedal alignment have been improved over other Speedster
replicas I have driven. While much
of the area behind the seats is lost because of the mid-engine configuration,
there is shallow tray area and a nice trunk behind the engine."
"Planned improvements now
underway include: improved brakes and suspension, larger gas tank, temporary
spare, more insulation around the engine, more seat adjustment for taller
people, power windows, and air conditioning.
The look is authentic and the dimensions remain true to the original
specs. I will be interested to see
the actual production numbers once SAW agrees to accept orders.
Move over Vintage, JPS and Intermeccanica, there is a new kid on the
block. Overall, I think we will
have a worthy addition to the Speedster replica family.”
Peachtree City, GA
effort has been put into getting the Speedster look right as evidenced by
his attention to details."
Comments from John H. about his visit to
"The car looks good, considering it
is a pre-production vehicle without all systems working. I had an opportunity to
ride in the car and it is indeed relatively quiet and quite quick. The car has
the 165bhp 2.5 Subaru engine which had a somewhat lopey idle and made its
presence known only during fairly brisk acceleration and when backing off. The
seats were comfortable and I sensed that I was sitting somewhat higher than in
my VS. I liked it. Would I buy one? Too early to tell."
"It is difficult to tell by
evaluating the test bed vehicle alone how the final product will be, but based
upon the quality of the street rods this company turns out, it will most likely
be very nice. The fit and finish was good in my estimation."
"The weight distribution
projections indicate to me it should handle great. It was rather quiet and it
was interesting how slowly the engine was turning at road speed, reading the
"I would have to say that I am
definitely considering a SAW Speedster in the future. I intend to keep in touch
with Steve as the project unfolds. He has been in business for over twenty
years, and unless he has read the market wrong, he will ultimately
more about John's trip
Powered" Speedster featured in the
December 2003 issue
of Kit Car Builder magazine
Visit the "The Voice of the
National Kit Car Club" which can be found at
Jim Youngs and Steve Temple have put
together a truly unbiased forum for the kit car enthusiasts. Their
combined background and experience with the replica industry and former industry
publications make them by far the premier resource of knowledge and the
pulse of the industry. Finally a publication and organization for the
benefit of the deserving enthusiast and supporters of the industry.
April 16, 2004 -
Specialty Autoworks, Inc.
made a big splash at the annual Grand Run Spring Auto Show in Pigeon Forge,
Tennessee by introducing its exclusive 356A Cabriolet replica. Aside from
dazzling the spectators with the sophisticated mid-engine water cooled fuel
injected driveline and the modern suspension and braking systems many were
overwhelmed by the practicality of the Cabriolet's sophisticated convertible
top, power rollup windows, greater visibility, and ergonomic features. A
good time was had by all and we were very gratified by the overwhelming positive
Now when combined with
our Speedster version you can "have your cake and eat it too".
Performance, comfort, reliability, safety, and good looks......
April 24, 2005
west coast finally gets to see Specialty Autowork's Suby Tub"
John, One of our
bold east coast 356A Cabriolet owners, ventured his car on a 4500 mile cross
country adventure to visit his 356A replica comrades at the Knott's Berry Farm replica show
in Buena Park, CA. While there he captured one of the top awards
(best 356A Roadster "D"/Cabriolet) presented
by the Speedsterowners.com members and proudly displayed his reliable
more about John's trip
February 6, 2006
1993 CMC, 2110cc, mild "Outlaw"
Chairman of "Speedsters Meet Spyders at Carlisle, 2006"
Kathy and I spent
a few days this past week visiting the “Hacienda de Hoss”, way up in the
Tellico Hills of East Tennessee. What a beautiful area!!!! Any of you folks
interested in a terrific place to retire should look into the Knoxville area.
While the ladies were out on their own, John took me over to see Steve and
Lisa at SAW in Knoxville. http://www.specialtyauto.com/PORSCHE.htm
and I thought I would give you all some impartial thoughts on what I saw, both
at SAW and when I took a ride in John’s “Tubaru”, so fasten your seat
belts, here goes:
Steve has been successfully building Street and Hot Rods for many years now,
and only in the past few years has he developed a modern platform on which to
place a Speedster or Spyder body that will meet his expectations. John bought
the first, and it is still, in many ways, a prototype (actually, more like a
“Pre-Production Mule”, for those of you in high tech hardware). Steve has
since built a few more (and who hasn’t heard about Steve O’Brien’s
beautiful example??), but each one ordered has been a bit different in what
the customer has asked for to make them “special”, so he has been
continuing to refine the design while managing to get all the customer
requirements included. All this twiddling has taken extra time to complete and
deliver each of his latest versions (they are, essentially, all ‘custom’
cars), and has delayed, in my opinion, his start of a “full production”
version as he worked out any minor kinks that have arisen. With the latest
versions of his gorgeous, triangulated frame and body molds, we both believe
that he’s just about there. As we always said when I was introducing new
computers; “There comes a time in every product development, when you have
to shoot the engineer and go into production!!” THAT’s almost where SAW
is, now, with their Subaru-powered Speedster project. Now that his design is
stabilized, he’ll be moving into more of a “production” process that
will be a bit different than how his cars have been built in the past.
He was just about finishing up the running gear and mounting a beautiful,
Metallic British Racing Green body on a Cabriolet that has a Subaru, dual OHC
WRX Turbo motor installed (227+ hp in stock trim, much more if it’s “Hot
Rodded”!!). The engine and turbo installation is very clean and simply done
using stock WRX parts. The suspension uses unequal “A” arms and adjustable
coil-over shocks at the front, and adjustable MacPherson struts in the rear,
with Panhard rods linking the rear to keep it straight. With the engine
mounted mid-ships, it is essentially mounted as if it were in the front of the
WRX. Both ends have adjustable anti-sway bars. That makes just about everything
in the suspension adjustable, including height, caster, camber and toe-in at
both ends. The steering is rack and pinion (non-power, but it doesn’t need
it) and the shift linkage is driven by HD cables, the same as the better 550
Spyders (and a lot of dune buggies).
So how does one of his cars really
perform compared to an air-cooled, pan-based Speedster? Well, John let me
drive his “Tubaru” 5-speed on one of those really twisty, mountain access
roads in a State Park near his home. If I remember right, his is a 2.2 litre
at about 140 hp, with the usual EFI , dual in-line cat converters and no
muffler (just the dual cat converters). It’s not super-loud at any speed –
there is almost no engine noise in the sound-proofed cockpit, just exhaust
noise, and THAT is about the same as my 2,110 with a Berg extractor system. My
engine, expectedly, makes a lot more valve train and fan noise than the Subaru
engine. Overall, I thought the straight-line performance between our cars is
about the same, but the Subaru may have more acceleration in the upper half of
the RPM range. Either that, or it just sounds
better as it rises past 4,000 rpm and really starts to breath and the power really
comes on. Nothing sounds like a Boxer engine at higher revs and the Subaru
with that exhaust sounds really nice.
So much for straight-line performance. Where his car is unbelievable is when
you hit the first corner. With an air-cooled, rear-engine VW Speedster (with
ANY type of frame), the weight of the engine back there causes the rear weight
of the car to shift as you enter the turn, and you feel it push out and begin
to oversteer til the suspension and tires “set” and you feel the car
“lock” into the turn. Then, you can steer the car tighter or looser in the
turn just by applying more or less power. This is a common trait of rear-engined
John’s mid-engined “Tubaru” is about the most neutral-cornering car
I’ve ever driven. It handles almost exactly like a well-set-up 550 Spyder,
only it rides a hell of a lot better. I’ll be honest: I don’t drive
someone else’s car to the limit when the owner is riding with me (usually
for fear of them staining their seat) and I didn’t push his car too much,
but taking some really tight, mountain hair-pins pretty briskly this car turns
absolutely neutral, meaning; you point it somewhere, and that’s where it
goes, no questions asked and no fooling around….Period.
No oversteer (I was always expecting the rear to swing out and it never even
started to), no understeer or “plowing”, no nothing. Just lots of
The other thing that always surprises me in John’s car is the width of the
power band – it comes on seemingly below 2,000 rpm and never lets up to the
6,200 rev limiter. That means that you often find yourself at relatively low
rpm’s in a higher gear, and it seems to like it just fine. With my 2,110, I never
go below 2,500 rpm, where it’s at the bottom of the power curve, it really
likes it above 3,000, while BIG power comes on at 4,150 and stays strong up
past 6,500 (no rev limiter here!). I found myself driving the two cars a lot
Lastly, the Tubaru rides like a nicely set up Miata; smooth on the highways
and back roads with no perceptible corner lean and no straight-line
“porpoising” as felt on many Speedster types. There is very little wind
noise in the cockpit, and no air leaks (or water leaks!) of any kind. I was
especially impressed with the power windows, actuated with a normal-looking
manual window crank that, given a gentle touch, actuates the power mechanism
– way cool… It has very civilized heat and A/C and acts very much the same
as just about any late model convertible out there (and better than most!),
with similar fit and finish to the better “sports cars” like BMW, Porsche,
Mercedes and Mazda. As I mentioned earlier, John’s exhaust note is about as
loud as my Berg exhaust, but Steve built one with a very quiet exhaust,
although he thought it didn’t seem “right” on a Speedster. Just shows
that they can be quiet and, with the turbo WRX engine, can go like hell, too!
This is an impressive operation, building impressive, although to this point,
custom, 356 Cabriolet replicas. They’re just about to go into a production
mode, and should be interesting to watch. Especially interesting was the Coupe
molds sitting out back. We’ll all be waiting to see that take shape.
Lastly, I know I have a Speedster and I also know I made my convertible top
low to look “cool”, and it is, but I only have about an inch of head
clearance. John has a Cabriolet, and has enough head room to wear the infamous
“Hoss Hat” with his top up…….oh, and he has a locking glove box.
July 2009 - Ed and his SAS
"This past week end the NE 356 club went on their
annual Spring Tour.
This year they went to the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe,
VT. I was able to participate in the fantastic car that you built for
The car was one of two reproductions at the event. (The
other was a emerald green Intermecannica Speedster, a very pretty car.
There were a total of 40, 356 Porsches all of different vintages and
Beautiful machines. That said, the one that stole the
show was our car Stephen!!!!! Everyone of the spectators just loved
the car. (As expected some of the purist club members did not like
the it for the obvious reasons, but the president of the club came
over and personally expressed how awesome the car was and that he
loved it; and he is a diehard Porsche guy!) There was even a couple
from South Africa that came and drove a 1954 yellow, hardtop
Speedster, and they loved the car.
I owe this all to you. Thank you!!!!!!!!
The car performed flawlessly and my wife Gloria loved
the way it rode.
Oh, the description that one young man gave of our car
was, "It has all of the elements if a classic car, combined with the
modern amenities of a modern car while exhibiting a streak of hotrod."
I liked that very much for it truly represents what this wonderful
work of art this car is."
If that were not enough Ed decided to go to another event:
This was at the Endicott Estate Car Show last Sunday. Over 600 cars!
The 356 took 3rd
place and the 550 took 1st"
April 23, 2011
Comments from Doug Adcox after his visit to Specialty
up from Chattanooga to visit Steve's shop in Knoxville, TN this past
Saturday. We dropped in unannounced, but Steve took time out of his busy
work schedule to thoroughly explain his operations and the on-going
development of his cars. He even took time to not only take me for a ride,
but to my surprise, allowed me to drive a car as well. Wow. Impressive
performance and handling. Blew away all my old preconceived notions about
what driving a 356 replica would be like. I was very impressed with the
build quality and attention to detail. Steve has succeeded in retaining the
classic exterior 356 styling while hiding underneath a thoroughly modern
high-performance sports car with every utopian convenience one could ask
emotional feel of driving any vehicle is subjective, but having owned six
356s over the years, I can honestly say Steve's cars have not lost that
unique 356 driving sensation. You know what I'm talking about. To the
contrary, the sensation is heightened due to the improved mid-engine
handling, ergos, and the extraordinary performance provided by the Subi
engine and drive train. Even the damned exhaust note sounded authentic! The
cars aren't cheap but considering all you get for the price, they represent
a REAL bargain in today's replica marketplace.
sure I'd call Steve's cars "replicas". They are literally hand-built on a
modern tube-frame platform completely unique and vastly improved over early
replicas. Aesthetically the cars are stunning with superb build quality and
period correct authenticity. Steve's "outside the box" thinking offers the
timeless 356 beauty while simultaneously embracing modern technology,
safety, reliablity, comfort, fuel efficiency, and high performance. A
Steve's a great guy to talk to, open, accessible, and willing to share his
vast knowledge and experience with you. I'd seriously consider one his cars,
but be prepared to wait. The order list is long and Steve literally
hand-builds every car. How refreshing in today's society to see someone who
refuses to sacrifice quality for quantity."
free to use any of my posted SAS comments verbatum as you see fit. I think
as a past 356 owner (I've owned six from1970 to 2000) I feel knowledgeable
enough to critique the authenticity of 356 cars, and to say you have
replicated with a high degree of accuracy the period correct 356 look.
Again, it was a pleasure visiting SAS,
and we appreciated your taking time to "talk cars" with us.