Sunday, July 14, 2024

Need for Speed

It’s anyone’s guess why Mike Rolleri was banned by Florida Atlantic University police from ever again setting foot on FAU property. Maybe it was the screeching of tires, the billowing of burnout smoke, or perhaps it was the deafening roar of engines from the crew of his custom fabrication shop, Salvage to Savage, pushing one of their builds to the absolute limit in the vacant lot of FAU’s Research Park. But as the old adage goes, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and the flashing lights of FAU PD surrounding a souped-up Nissan 350Z made for one hell of a promo video.

“We’ve never really built anything that was slow and quiet,” says Rolleri, whose Boca shop has amassed an impressive 188,000 (as of writing) YouTube subscribers since it started the channel in October 2020. While “slow” and “quiet” definitely can’t be used to describe any of the custom builds at Salvage to Savage, neither can “boring.” Each creation manages to be utterly unique, while also still carrying a signature, rugged style and an emphasis on speed. From a Chevy C10 pickup truck that Rolleri rescued from being scrapped and fitted with an electric motor to a DeLorean with twin engines that even Doc Brown would think twice about joyriding in, each build has its own “wow” factor that sets Salvage to Savage apart. While Rolleri’s brand is moving up fast in the world of custom builds, he says the entire enterprise started with a single truck.

Before Rolleri opened his shop three years ago, he had already been burned by two shops that took deposits but wouldn’t commit to working on his 1965 Chevy C10 truck. Tired of being taken advantage of, he decided to put his background in metal fabrication to good use and went to work. The finished product was an incredible monster of a truck, with twin engines and flames spewing from the exhaust. “Cha-Ching,” as he named it, started getting recognition and was featured in several truck magazines—including one that named it one of the seven most influential trucks of 2021.

Rolleri says that Cha-Ching is the favorite build they’ve ever done, which is why it was so bittersweet when he had to sell it to start his business. Though parting with Cha-Ching wasn’t easy, doing so is what helped him to achieve the creative freedom and exclusivity he enjoys today.

“If a customer calls me, and they want to do [something simple], we don’t really take those kinds of jobs,” says Rolleri. “We try to stick to jobs that customers seek us out to do our thing and who don’t have a budget.”

And Rolleri has no shortage of customers seeking him out. One client shipped his truck all the way from Washington State after watching one of Salvage to Savage’s build videos on YouTube. Between vehicles coming in from customers and the builds his team creates from vehicles found on social media, Rolleri is booked through 2024. The wheels are constantly turning, with no signs of slowing.

“I don’t sleep,” Rolleri says. “These builds constantly run through my mind; I’m always coming up with new ideas.”

The fruits of Rolleri’s restlessness can be seen at any number of the local events he participates in as well. A lifetime Boca resident and active member of the community, Rolleri has participated in toy drives at Mizner Park, showing up in one of his custom creations with a truckbed full of toys. Last year, Salvage to Savage hosted its own toy drive at its shop, partnering with Children’s Harbor (a Florida-based child welfare organization) to help make sure kids had something under the Christmas tree. Rolleri says it was the biggest toy donation the organization had ever seen: “The guy had to come here three times to fill up his pickup truck with toys.”

Rolleri says the next step for Salvage to Savage is to focus on marketing and linking up with the biggest names in the industry to put Boca on the map as a leader in custom builds by staying true to what sets his brand apart.

“At the end of the day, it has to be something that I’m proud of, that I’m gonna stamp my name on and say ‘we built that.’”

This article is from the February 2023 issue of Boca magazine. For more like this, click here to subscribe to the magazine.

Tyler Childress
Tyler Childress
Tyler is the Web Editor and a contributing writer for Boca Raton magazine. He writes about food, entertainment and issues affecting South Florida. Send story tips to tyler@bocamag.com.

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