A Salem restorer is creating a new “golden age” of motoring for vintage and classic European car enthusiasts.
Ask Roberto Donati when he first discovered his passion for cars and he’ll take you back to his early childhood, tinkering in his father’s workshop in Modena, in the heart of Italy’s “Gran Turismo” country.
“This comes naturally to me. It’s in my blood,” he says with a smile, recalling the many happy times he spent at his father’s side learning the meticulous detail and precision craftsmanship of car restoration. Four decades later, those invaluable lessons, passed from one generation to the next, form the bedrock of Volante Classics, a burgeoning restoration, maintenance, and storage service for vintage and classic European sports and touring cars, in downtown Salem. While the company is relatively new—Donati joined forces with Swampscott-based businessman and classic car enthusiast Robert Salter only a year ago—this talented Italian transplant has never steered away from his lifelong career as a car restorer.
After moving to America in 1986, Donati honed his skills at the renowned Paul Russell and Company in Essex for 10 years before launching his own successful Scuderia Donati restoration business in Ipswich. But it was his and Salter’s passion for pedigree European cars from the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s—widely regarded as the “golden age” of motoring—that fueled their decision to launch Volante Classics. Services include full coachwork, interior and running gear renovation, restoration, and maintenance at the Salem workshop, as well as secure onsite storage in a new climate-controlled facility in North Canaan, CT.
Volante also offers an inspection, evaluation, and delivery service for customers wanting to buy vintage and classic cars from Europe, capitalizing on Donati’s deep knowledge of car authenticity, model histories, factory specifications, period-correct modifications and accessories, not to mention his extensive contacts in Europe.
Donati has made three trips to Europe this year, inspecting 50 to 60 cars, and buying only four, including a Lancia Fulvia 1970 rally car from Italy, which he sold recently to a high-profile East Coast collector. While he has restored many rare and expensive cars, including a 250 GTO— “The Holy Grail of vintage Ferraris” as he describes it—Donati says Volante will largely trade cars under $100,000.”I’m not your typical vintage car dealer because I hand pick them,” he says. “I like to know the history, ownership, and provenance—all things that come into play. I don’t buy online. I go and make sure the car is what it’s claimed to be.”
“These are cars you can buy for a reasonable amount and have the same fun as a $2 million vintage Ferrari,” he adds. “Our cars are for people who are not flashy with their cars but who want a dream drive. It’s all about enjoying your passion for driving.” volanteclassics.com.