Shop Visitor Observations and Testimonials

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.

"Overall, I think we will have a worthy addition to the Speedster replica family."

“I 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.”

Charles Gardner

Peachtree City, GA

"Considerable 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 Specialty Autoworks.....

"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 tach."

"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 succeed."

Follow up...

Read more about John's trip

Our "Subie Powered" Speedster featured in the

December 2003 issue of Kit Car Builder magazine

Read The Article

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 response.

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

"The 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  members and proudly displayed his reliable steed.

Read 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. 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 cars.

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 “go!”

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 differently.

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.

‘Nuff said…..

July 2009 - Ed and his SAS Speedster

"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 us.

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 configurations.

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 Auto-sports, Inc.

Drove 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 for.

The 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.

Not 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 remarkable achievement.

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."

Please feel 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.