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The Moderne Brings Back The Golden Years of Coach Building
By Dan Germain, Horizons Editor

Duesenberg had Ward and Buehrig, Rolls Royce had Mulbacher, H.J. Mulliner, and Brewster, Delahaye had Figoni et Falaschi, Bugatti had Saoutchik, Talbot-Lago had Figoni. These were coachbuilders. Indeed, in the first half of the 20th century, it was not uncommon for owners to purchase a chassis from the factory and commission a custom body from one of these classic design houses. Sometimes, owners would re-body their cars after 10 or 15 years of use to make the car more contemporary in styling, or to fit the changes in the owner’s lifestyle turning a sedan into a coupe or the other way around

Obviously, only a well-engineered car could justify this investment and such cars are rare these days. However, Porsches certainly fit this criterion, and Jeffrey Pink, owner of Spyderwerks, Inc., is bringing back the craft of coachbuilding based around the venerable Porsche 928. His entry is the Moderne utilizing the chassis, drivetrain and interior of a Porsche 928 and a new composite cabriolet style body that some liken to a Boxster on steroids.

The Moderne was originally designed for Dr. Kwok, a Porsche enthusiast and PhD. in aerodynamics in Montreal Canada. Jeffrey Pink saw an article on Dr. Kwok and his original concept car using the 928 platform. He immediately contacted Dr. Kwok, and flew up to Montreal to meet him and to ask what he planned to do with the concept. Dr. Kwok’s response was he "built cars out of love" and had no plans to market it. This prompted Jeffrey Pink to buy the original set of molds and now almost 7 years, 6 prototypes and a million dollars later, he is ready to market a spectacular automobile.

Pink is a telecommunications and Internet entrepreneur having launched several such companies. Prior to that, he designed and built ultralight airplanes. When asked what prompted him to choose the 928 as a basic car for the Moderne, Pink’s answer is one that leaves most Porsche owners smirking with an “I told you so smile”: “I have owned a fair number of "exotics " over the years, most of them Italian. I have also owned quite a few German "sports" cars. Here is the difference, the Italian cars would break down in the worst part of town at the worst possible time and leave you stranded with no notice. On the other hand, the German cars would always give you months or at least weeks of notice before something failed. And if anything unexpected did by chance happen you could usually limp home. I always thought the Porsche 928 was one of the worlds finest engineered "sports" cars with performance that qualified it as an exotic but without the styling to considered it an "exotic". When I saw the original concept vehicle done by Dr. Kwok I immediately thought the use of the 928 as a "donor" car to re-craft into an exotic was brilliant.”

Lots of work has happened over the past 6 years. Spyderwerks' designer, Greg Nelson, took that basic concept and created the complete car now known as the Moderne. Spyderwerks takes a Porsche 928 and add a new subframe (designed by Jon Omundson of Mosler racing) to maintain torsional rigidity.
Then, they totally remove the body including the doors, windshield, hood etc. and replace them with their new body, convertible top and interior.

Over the years and after six prototypes, they’ve learned that the less they alter the original German engineering the better. So with its new body weighing about 350 pounds less than a stock 928, and with a lower center of gravity and wider fenders allowing wider wheel and tire combination than stock 928s, the car is beefy to say the least. Pictures don’t do justice to its size. The side profile of the Moderne has a definite family resemblance to the Boxster (although it was designed several years earlier). However, the car is a full 4” wider than a 928, which is already one of the wider cars on the road today. Indeed, seeing the snout of a 928 come up in your rear view mirror is an awesome sight we 928 owners love to inflict onto others.

Spyderwerks will create a Moderne out of a customer-supplied car, or will supply the 928 to the customer as part of the conversion. They have a Porsche dealer inspect all donor cars and work with the owner to correct items needing attention prior to converting the car. While any model year 928 is acceptable, European grey market models, late model two valve cars and the 1987 through 1991 four valve cars provide excellent value and performance. Pre-87 models can often be found in good condition for $7,000 to $14,000 making the car an outstanding value if one can find a donor car in great mechanical condition and needing some TLC for the interior and body.

Modernes are still titled as a 928 however owners would probably be advised to look for agreed value insurance coverage as the replacement value for a standard 928 would be much less than an owner’s investment in the car.

Jeffrey Pink is very excited about the Moderne. When asked what feature he is most proud or excited about in the car, his response is “The total package!! The highest compliment I can pay a car is to call it a good car and what we have built is truly a good car. We have taken what is arguably the finest Porsche ever engineered and repackaged it into one of the most striking convertibles in the world.”
Spyderwerks is financed entirely by its founder, Jeffrey Pink. The company’s motto is “no excuses” explains Pink, and the lack of pressure from outside investors to rush a product to market has given them time to create a "no compromise" automobile, with an investment of seven years and over one million dollars in development costs.

Despite all that, a Moderne can be added to your stable for a basic conversion cost of about $25,000. Several options are offered incorporating wider wheels and tires, seat recovering and new carpeting to refresh the interior of the donor car. Spyderwerks has structured its options to reflect their experience in the 928 market. Cars can often be found with interiors in good condition and sometimes with upgraded wheels and tires, and as such they have felt that to keep the cost of the basic package down they would not automatically replace these items.

For now, the company has offered for sale three of their six prototypes and reports that each sold at a premium to asking price. They are currently establishing a dealer network as well as launching a public relations campaign. They have shown the car to Porsche owner’s groups across the country and most recently participated in the 928 Owner’s Club Convention in Wichita, Kansas where HCR member Jerry Gebhard was able to get a first hand view of the car (see side bar, page. 4). Pink reports that the car gets such a positive response wherever it goes that keeping up with demand is one current focus. For now, the easiest way to see a Moderne is to travel to Minneapolis or to contact Spyderwerks to find out when a car might be in your area.

Spyderwerks is gearing up to build a limited production run of 10 automobiles and each of these is already spoken for. Once the initial production run is complete, the company plans to build approximately 2 cars per week, ramping up to 125 per year in the US and approximately 75 per year in Europe in 2001.

Spyderwerks employs 3 people today and the company subcontracts the majority of the production work to SSZ Racing, a Wausau WI facility that produces GT 1 race cars, and other high performance products (see www.alfaheaven.com). SSZ has worked with Spyderwerks over the last 2 years in developing the final production car.

Readers with interest in the Moderne should contact Jeffrey Pink by telephone at (800) 360 5898.

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