I have copied info gathered by Cory Drake, Hooptypilot, from his posting on the FB version of the SOC. It does go on for a bit ...
An interesting back-and-forth with Seth Gortenburg about the Starke Speedster’s return to the marketplace. I asked a few questions about how the company has changed in the years since its 2017 debut, and asked if he'd mind if I shared his answers. He was happy to have that opportunity..
The prior owners of the brand were not able to satisfy their promised demand, and Mr. Gortenburg has hopes that doing the hard work of careful engineering and a sustainable business model are about to pay off.
Although there is not yet a production car to show for the all-new Kansas City, Missouri-based company’s efforts, it looks like the process of producing cars on the 2017-current Porsche Boxster platform is off to a promising restart.
Comments are welcome! -- Cory
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Starke Speedsters is under new ownership, promising an exciting Gen 2 car
Q&A with Seth Gortenburg, Starke Speedsters (Oct. 10, 2023)
Q: I understand your firm recently changed ownership. Can you give me a little history on the company?
A: Starke is the brainchild of Wade Morrison and his son who are huge fans of the 356 but wanted the drivability, performance and conveniences of a late model car. They spent several years planning production of the car and began building in 2017. The original Starke Speedster was based on a 2012 and below Boxster. The body was produced by cutting up a replica (I don’t know which one), making it fit the Boxster, and building molds (from) that.
The owners became frustrated since they had many orders -- but because they subcontracted all the work, could not produce the cars fast enough.
We purchased the company last year because we loved the concept -- and being car builders, were confident we could produce a top-notch car. Our first task was to retool to use a later model Boxster; 2017 and up. We purchased a car, disassembled it, 3D scanned the entire car and contracted an engineer with vintage Porsche design background to CAD design the car. We are now in the process of using a 5-axis machine (a multi-axis, subtractive manufacturing process in which the machine shapes the workpiece material and moves in 5 directions or vertically) to build molds and will begin producing panels soon.
Q: It sounds like Starke is now a subsidiary of an established, reputable company. What company is that?
A. Starke is its own company but part of the custom car family we have built. Bratt Brothers builds and upgrades resto-mods, muscle cars, hot rods, street rods and classics. Defco Trucks converts new F250-F450 trucks as well as Ram 4500’s. We have our own panels for those vehicles that replace the front fenders, bed sides, hood and grill. This process is very similar to what we are doing at Starke.
Q: What has happened with regard to prior orders taken under past ownership?
A. My understanding is all deposits were returned for any unfulfilled orders.
Q: When the company changed hands, were there any incomplete or finished cars sold with it?
A: No, there were no finished or unfinished cars available when we purchased the company.
Q: Where is your facility?
A: We are located in Grandview, MO, a suburb of Kansas City.
Q: Is your process all going to be under one roof?
A: Disassembly, panel fitting, and final assembly will all be under one roof. Paint and body will go to one of our partners that we currently use for our Hot Rod side of our business.
Q: Have you ever been in the manufacturing business before now? If so, what did you make?
A: I have extensive experience in manufacturing from being a partner in a company that manufactures conversions for new Ford and Ram trucks. We use a similar process as the Speedster will use to manufacture new body panels. I started a chain of truck and off-road centers that I owned for 28 years before selling to 4WP in 2019. My truck experience gave me a network or people to lean on for troubleshooting, vendor referrals and parts sourcing. During my time in the truck and off-road business, we built custom cars at one of the shops. Our partners that we use for body and paint work have been building custom cars for over 30 years. These are not collision centers. Strictly custom work. Our investment partners are real estate people but huge car enthusiasts and are as excited about this car as we are.
Q: How many people do you employ? May I assume this is a small company looking to grow?
A: We are less than 10 but are not looking to mass produce this car. We want it to remain somewhat exclusive.
Q: Are you hiring, and who are you looking for?
A: We are always looking for skilled techs as well as partners that can assist us in getting our cars in front of potential buyers.
Q: What, if anything, will you be subcontracting to other companies?
Q: Your images appear to use most of the donor car’s interior contours, if not materials. It comes across as elegant and refined. What will you be offering in terms of customization?
A. The new Boxster interior is really nice but as an option, we would bring some nostalgia into the car. German square weave carpet, seat inserts, matching door panels inserts, our own emblems and painted trim.
Q: It sounds like you’ll be able to use most of the existing Boxster’s wiring harness. How will you be tailoring that for elective options – maybe dead-ending circuits (tire-pressure management or fog lights, for example) not in use on the finished vehicle?
A. We have contracted an electrical engineer to design an interface for any aftermarket items that may cause a problem. For example, the Boxster OE headlights are unique but we will be using 7” round LED lights similar to the 356 headlights. If not addressed, this would send a code that would cause a light on the dash.
Q: Whose VIN will Starke cars carry?
A: Our cars carry the original Boxster VIN.
Q: In the replica business, there are legal hurdles to overcome. Have you talked to Stuttgart?
A: We do have a legal agreement with Porsche that we take very seriously.
Q: Is the USDoT aware of your brand? Have you been asked to submit crash data?
A: No, they have not. We are not structurally changing the car.
Q: Understanding past production cars are not your responsibility — have any Starke cars been wrecked? If so, how did they fare?
A: I’m not aware of any crashes. We do not alter the OE safety in any way. All the original structural-safety pieces remain intact.
Q: How will the cars be marketed -- as an alternative to the traditional 356 replica, or as a Boxster alternative?
A: Both, I would say. It’s a car for the person that loves the iconic looks of the 356 but wants the drivability of a late model car.
Q: There are a few companies actively trying to improve the replica car experience. What’s special about the Starke Speedster?
A: I’m not sure our car falls into the replica category. There are a handful of cars out there labeled as “rebodied”. They went through the same process of using a late model car and building their own body panels.
Q: What is an example of a similarly rebodied car you would point at on the street?
A: Trans Am Worldwide is a great example. They use 6th-generation Camaro’s to build their Trans Ams and Chevelles.
Q: Where do you see yourself in the marketplace? Meaning, if I was looking to buy your car, who am I likely to be?
A: You love the looks of the car and the fact that you can drive it anywhere in comfort. You want something unique (that) you can take for a Sunday drive or use it as your everyday car. Wherever you live, it’s unlikely you will see another one like yours.
Q: Do you have a traditional buck you’re laying composites over? May we see how you’re doing that?
A: No bucks. Our car is built leveraging technology. By 3D scanning, we essentially created the car on a computer.
Q: The Boxster is a unibody; essentially a mid-engined tub. How are you re-bodying that?
A: Each body panel is removed and replaced with our panels using factory mounting points and hardware. All original hinges, weatherstrips, seals, etc. remain intact.
Q: How did you integrate existing safety systems?
A: The OE Boxster panels are a combination of aluminum and composite. The safety is underneath. Our panels retain all the safety. Our body, in essence, attaches just like the original panels. Bolts attach the front end, door skins are bonded, as are quarters. This is the same as the OE panels. We will not be modifying the chassis. We have engineered our body to fit, just as it was attached when it was new.
Q: Could you describe the bonding process within the context of panel subassemblies? Are you talking about fiberglass, carbon fiber, aircraft composites, or something new? Many of the replica owners reading this are familiar with fiberglass, but have probably not put bodies together.
A. We use foam insulation to fill gaps and then 3M body panel adhesive to bond the new panel to the sub structure. We offer fiberglass or optional carbon fiber. Fiberglass today is much different than polyester resin fiberglass of the past. We will be using the latest fiberglass technology, epoxy infused. It doesn’t bleed or move as polyester did.
Q: Could you describe your facility’s capacity — or what your facility will be capable of?
A: There are hundreds of hours that go into each car. They will be low production. We anticipate building six to 10 cars per year.
Q: How does the new consolidated weight affect ABS, power-assisted steering, crash sensors, braking algorithms, and so on?
A: Although the final weight likely will not be exactly the same, it will be very, very close. Currently, the design is going through simulated air-flow testing to be sure we are getting adequate air flow for cooling.
Q: Where do you plan to put the radiator(s)?
A. The radiators remain in their stock location at the front of the car. We are going through simulated wind tunnel testing to verify we have enough air flow.
Q: In a Boxster, in-car engine access is somewhat tricky and pretty limited. Will you be enabling greater access through your Speedster’s passenger compartment?
A. They are a little cumbersome to access and we will not be making it any easier. That said, it won’t be any harder. Our deck lid uses the same hinge points as the original so access is the same.
Q: Any plans to take a completed car to SEMA, where it can be peer-reviewed?
A: We have tentative shows on our schedule next year to display the cars. Although we attend SEMA every year, we are undecided about showing there.
Q: Would you mind sharing where you plan to have exhibits, assuming your schedule goes as planned?
A. Nothing is finalized yet, but we would like to work the Detroit and LA Auto Shows, Monterey and something on the east coast. We are certainly open to suggestion.
Q: I’m curious whether you have investors, and how are you raising capital. What does a buyer need to know?
A: We do have investors and are well funded. This is an expensive and time-consuming process. We have had an overwhelming response to the car and are excited to launch the first Starke Gen 2.
Q: When do you expect to have rolling demonstrator?
A. We are in the mold creation stage which should last 60-90 days. If all goes as planned, we should be assembling first of 2024 and have cars ready to go by March.
Q: What does a customer need to expect in terms of time, experimental technology, and patience? How long before I can have my car?
A: The cars should take approximately 90 days to build, start to finish, depending on options chosen. Actual time frame will depend on how many cars are in front of you. There is no experimental technology. Everything we are doing has been done before with different cars.
Q: What quality-assurance affirmations can you offer customers?
A: We are custom car builders and have built several “magazine” cars. Quality is our top priority and the reason we have invested in this process. Building them the way we are, the process is repeatable.
Q: Would you mind pointing us toward those published cars? In the absence of a Starke Speedster to look at, finished work is a great indicator of where you’re likely to take them in terms of quality.
A. Those cars were photographed for a magazine called Super Rod which no longer exists. Below is one of them.
A silver convertible car parked on a road
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Q: How many of your cars would you think will be prototypes?
A. Our plan is to build two cars at once on the first go around. We’ll perfect a process on one, then move to the other.
Q: It will probably take several prototypes to work out inconsistencies -- which I think this hobby has come to expect -- and there will doubtless be a line of people looking to accept those risks in order to be first, or wanting to catch a break on cost in exchange for being guinea pigs. Any thoughts on those possibilities?
A. All custom cars have things you have to work through no matter how well you planned. We’ll be putting a lot of miles on our first cars before they go anywhere. We won’t ship any cars until we’re confident we’ve worked out the bugs. The great thing about this is we aren’t starting from scratch. We’re starting with a fully functioning Boxster.
Q: An aesthetic question: Who makes your wheels? They look like Coddingtons.
A: The original owner used several vendors for wheels. Coddington may have been one of them.
Q: Have you changed the windshield angle? Why or why not?
A: No, windshield remains intact. If we change it, the car no longer seals up as well and causes issues with the power top.
Q. Your website has images with both a chrome-edged windscreen and a painted one. Both look good on your car. Will that be an optional feature, or will that depend on what the donor car came with?
A. The Boxster has body a body color windshield frame. Some of the original Starke cars had the frames “wrapped” in chrome vinyl which is an option. We could also try spray chrome which has gotten much better in recent years. We’re going to wait until we have a close to finished car to decide if body color or chrome is better.
Q: What would a soft top look like? Can you offer me some details?
A: The soft top is the original Boxster top. Still functions just as it did.
Q: Will there be a hard-top in the works?
A. I think if the demand is there, we would probably just build a coupe based on a Cayman.
Q: Are salvage-titled cars candidates? How would it be insured or registered?
A: Salvage cars would work -- as long as the damage is limited to cosmetic. Since our panels use factory mounting points, we need the base structure of the car to be solid.
Q: Do you think you’ll be doing any engine modifications?
A: We offer exhaust and tuner upgrades. No internal mods.
Q: If I was to spend $250K on a rebody of a Boxster, I would expect supercar treatment on the details. Would you do a valuation letter to go with the car?
A: We are all about the details. Besides the body panels, there are many things to be addressed. Lighting, badges, trim, air flow, inner fenders, etc. We are even going to make the rear wing functional. We are happy to provide a valuation letter. Many times, carriers use the invoice for valuation. Our cars start at 135k plus the car.
Q: What is the payment structure like? How does someone go about actually spreading structured payments out?
A: We are taking slot deposits which guarantees your place in line. Once work starts on your car, we require ⅓ down. When paint/body is complete, we require ⅓. Last installment is when car is complete.
Q: Do you have any unaltered images of a car in progress, and how will the finished cars stack up to those images? In the past, everything has been Photo Shopped and glossy.
A: Since we are waiting on our first set of redesigned panels, the only images we have are of a naked Boxster. (Finished cars will be) similar, but not exact. Those are actual cars by the way. They did Photoshop to change the colors. We have made subtle changes to better mirror the 356. Our hood will be a little taller, side vents gone, a little rounder in the front. Additionally, we will be using more authentic mirrors and door handles.
We post daily on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube shorts, and Tik Tok. Our content is a mix of vintage 356 and Starke material. As we begin to build cars, it will move mostly to Starke content.
We have been on this project right at a year. It took months of research to find the best possible process, the best designer, the best engineer and the best manufacturer. We’re incredibly excited to actually start assembling cars. For the guys here in the building, the idea of driving what appears to be the iconic 356, the cars from movies like ‘Top Gun’ and ‘48 Hours,’ but a car that handles like a go kart, has a/c, power top, navigation, paddle shifters, leather interior (and more) is what drives us. It will be one of a kind, unique and beautiful -- and it’s almost ready.