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If Only Henry Had Built a Roadster in 1940


Picture of Gerry Burger

Gerry Burger

Photography: Tom Fedrigo Photography

To build a great car you must first have a concept. Now, Webster tells us a concept is both an abstract notion and an impression of an object, and it is also defined as the beginning of something. No single definition could better suit this entire project. It’s a car that came from an initial vision to a series of sketches and finally to reality through a host of incredibly talented craftsmen. The original concept came from the fertile mind of journeyman artist Thom Taylor. Like so many of his designs, the ’40 roadster design was clean and simple and combined classic lines with a touch of contemporary interpretation, and if that sounds like an art review, so be it.

It was a sketch published in another street rod title, and while it brought many interesting comments, to our knowledge no one acted on the sketch to convert it to a real roadster. Enter Sam Magarino of Sussex, New Jersey. Now, Magarino likes hot rods, and lately he has enjoyed building some pretty outrageous hot rods with the help of Barry Lobeck and his crew at Lobeck’s. This would be a project of great magnitude, and that was the name aptly applied to this car for the show season.

While the sketch defines the lines of the car, it is the chassis that supports the body and provides the mechanicals for the project. To that end, team Lobeck fabricated an intricate space-tube frame that is independently suspended on all four corners. The side rails on the roadster make an interesting break at the A-pillar that adds a pleasant angle to the chassis and makes it become a visual part of the body. A small reveal was added to the bottom on the side rails as yet another great detail on the chassis. Polished stainless steel and aluminum abound on the car, and in typical Lobeck fashion, the exhaust system blends beautifully among the chassis tubes before finally exiting through a pair of custom-formed ports in the rolled rear pan. Jon Wright’s Custom Chrome Plating in Grafton, Ohio, handled all the flawless chrome plating.

Power for the roadster comes from a Street & Performance-prepared LT4 that is simply dazzling in detail, from the Lobeck-built twin-snorkel breather tubes to the completely polished block and custom covers. Due to the confines of the frontal area of the car, multiple radiators were engineered to keep the small block cool. We applaud this type of design effort, since it leads us to believe this car may actually be driven, something many show cars never accomplish.

The chassis was detailed well beyond what any sane person would deem reasonable before being covered in brilliant custom gold paint from PPG. The exhaust system was polished, while the brake lines and fuel lines were plumbed and hidden in the body, keeping things super clean on the chassis.

When it came time to build the body for this phantom roadster, it was decided this was a task of significant magnitude, and for that reason the job was contracted out to Marcel’s Custom Metal, Inc. Armed with the Taylor sketches, Marcel and sons hammered out a beautiful metal body that seems to bridge the considerable gap between a ’34 Ford roadster and a ’40 Ford effortlessly. This is a tribute not only to the original concept drawing but also to the metal masters who managed to convert a concept into a reality. After all, it is one thing to pen a rendering mixing these parts and quite another to make that happen from sheets of steel and aluminum. When the hammers were finally quiet and the sparks ceased to fly, a perfectly proportioned roadster body was mounted to a crate and sent back to Cleveland, where the craftsmen at Lobeck’s would take the body to its final finish.

What makes the body so interesting is that the top of the doors and the cowl area have a familiar ’40 feeling about them, and of course the hood and grille are pure ’40 flavor, although anyone who knows a ’40 hood could tell at a glance that this is a complete fabrication. However, having said that, the nose of the hood is so close to an actual ’40 hood profile that the stock hood trim would fit. The hood sides with the ’40 Deluxe-style louvers were all fabricated at the Lobeck shop, as was the beautiful DuVall-style windshield. The windshield is laid back on a severe angle and there is no top for the car.

The rear rolled pan tucks neatly under the car where the gas tanks resides and conforms perfectly to floor. Inside twin pockets in the pan you’ll find four taillights, while up front the considerable chore of mounting a set of modified Greening headlights was undertaken. While the Taylor renderings handled the profile and frontal treatment well, there were no headlights showing. Taking the slippery style of the front end and incorporating headlights was a difficult job. In the end, the independent headlights mount in traditional highboy style, while a chin bar fabricated from polished stainless steel wraps very neatly under the front sheetmetal and attaches to either side of the chassis on the front suspension crossmember.

Inside the body, a custom-fabricated dashboard holds Classic Instruments gauges in a special design that was a collaboration of ideas from Lobeck and the good folks at Classic Instruments. Machined-aluminum bezels hold the cream-colored gauges in place, and art deco stainless steel strips fill the dash insert. The pedals and associated arms are all hand-fabricated pieces, and the bold door recesses are painted body color and hold the armrests and stereo speakers.

When all the fabrication was completed inside the cockpit, the roadster was rolled into Paul Atkins’ shop for some of his famous stitchwork in rich, creamy leather. The pattern was kept simple and clean, and by covering the transmission tunnel in leather, the fabric visually connects the inner firewall the seats and then encircles the entire interior. A center console divides the seat, giving the bench seat the suggestion of bucket seats. Small stainless medallions add a bit of sparkle to the leather seating areas.

And, it appears Barry Lobeck and his skilled team of craftsmen, which include Dan Tesar, Henry Roethel, Jim Phoenix, Chris Campbell, Mark Mindozora, Jack Taunt, Mike Hamilton, Steve Estrin and Anne Burke, have done it again. They’ve managed to put together a fabulous hot rod for Sam and Patty Magarino. The gorgeous roadster was completed in time to roll into Cobo Center for the Detroit Autorama, and while the car came up just shy of winning the Ridler, it did take a Great 8 award and several others, including the Yosemite Sam Sculptor Award, the Alexander Brothers Styling Award, the George Busti Memorial Award, Outstanding Paint, Outstanding Interior, Outstanding Custom Rod and First in Class—now that’s what we call hauling in the gold.

But beyond hauling in the gold, we’re hoping Sam and Patty Magarino will actually haul in the gold—as in jumping in this fine roadster and hauling down the highway—because ultimately the greatest view on any hot rod is at speed. 


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