Every time it wins another award from Goodguys or Boyd Coddington or Rod & Custom, somebody refers to this screaming little roadster as a modified. In reality, next to nothing on this car has been modified, since practically everything has been scratch-built.
There isn't a lot of history to talk about with a coachbuilt car that was all owner-created within the last four years. This rod wasn't around in the '40s, '50s, or '60s. Neither, in fact, was its 24-year-old owner and builder Brian Limberg, who goes by the nickname Tinman.
You might remember an even younger Brian, and an unfinished version of this amazing roadster, from an R&C "Young Guns" profile from a few years back. Brian has been working on hot rods since he was a teenager (in other words, about 10 years). His dad, Mike, worked at Heidt's Hot Rod Shop and did frontend installs and chassis fabrications on the side. Brian started helping out and was soon getting side jobs of his own. He bought a rust-bucket '62 Impala and quickly developed some basic sheetmetal skills. When he finished high school, he sold the Impala and headed out to Wyo Tech to learn more about chassis building and sheetmetal fabrication. When he returned to Illinois, he continued to learn by working for Kerry Hopperstad at Hopperstad Customs in Belvidere. It was there that he decided to tackle the challenge of building a hot rod from scratch.
Brian says the inspiration for building a roadster came from his father's Model T. The inspiration for the styling goes back to the cars that were running on the dry lakes back in the '40s. But instead of imitating the looks of those earliest hot rods with a right-on-the-money replica, Brian decided to interpret them, modifying the style with his own personal interpretation. If you count the design, theme, and imagination, maybe this is a modified after all.
"I kept in mind that I had very little funding, so using what was available for next to nothing or fabricating it from scratch was the way to go, because materials were fairly cheap," Brian says. "I had to make almost everything from scratch anyway because, as radical as I wanted the car to be, there was nothing available that would work."
The body was completely shop-built, using a power hammer to make the doorskins, and a pullmax with custom dies to create the body beads. He started with the cowl, modeled after a '29 roadster. The body reveal is modeled after a taller '29 sedan, which sits him lower in the cockpit. Riding with the driveshaft at rib level motivated him to add multiple custom driveshaft hoops. The three-piece hood is held on with six traditional latches and the grille shell is a repro piece, narrowed and sectioned. Brian built the frame for the lift-off top from 3/4-inch square aluminum tubing, and skinned it with aluminum.
Building the custom steering system was another feat: A '64 Ford pickup box was mounted upside down. Kenny Evans machined the new pitman arm from a single piece of steel to Brian's specs. A new steering arm was attached above the original to correct any bumpsteer. The old one was bent upward and welded to the new one to act as a gusset and provide some more eye candy. He added a support bearing and a U-joint inside the car to attain the correct and comfortable steering angle. A quick-release hub on the wheel allows easy exiting and entering.
Every inch of the roadster is packed with this kind of imagination and detail. According to Brian, his goal was for "every part of this car to appear so simple that people would forget what was missing, but with so many details that you could walk around the car three times and still miss something." He lives by the quote, "Amateurs built the ark, and professionals built the Titanic."
"The act of designing, engineering, and fabricating cars is an art to me," he tells us. "It is an extension of the hands. It's a gut instinct that comes from within. What people create is a statement of who they are."
The work done on the roadster helped Brian get his current job as fabricator at Getz's Hot Rod Innovations in Hampshire, Illinois, where he finished the fabrication and paint on his personal project. Final assembly was accomplished at home in his garage. Now that it's done, he's driving it as often as possible, showing it at as many big events as he can, and using the "modified" to try and make a name for himself. The name is Tinman.
Brian loves talking about the car and asked us to publish his e-mail so you can write to him directly. He doesn't know what he's in for, but here it is: email@example.com.
Brian "Tinman" LimbergGenoa, Illinois '29 Scratch-Built RoadsterChassisThe 'rails were one of the first things Brian built for the car, using 2x4, 1/8-inch mild steel tubing, with a horseshoe contour in the rear to hug the body. He added 1 1/4-inch tubing to strengthen the 'rails and support the transmission. The front axle, split 'bones, and spindles are stock '40 Ford pieces. Rebuilt '46 Ford shocks were used for the front. Brian sprung the roadster with quarter-elliptics front and rear, and hid the rear QA1 adjustable shocks on the trailing arms inside the body's sheetmetal to keep the look traditional and to clean up the look of the rear end. The rear axle is also stock '40 Ford with 3.78:1 gears; rear wishbones are '34s grafted into the front of '40s. The brakes have '48 backing plates combined with '68-72 Buick finned drums. The steering system and shift linkage were both reworked for more comfortable driving. The battery and coil were installed out of the way under the dash. Saddle-style gas tanks straddle the driveshaft, and are connected by a fuel line to maintain the same gas level on both sides.
DrivetrainAs you'd expect, the engine compartment is clean and simple. Brian didn't make elaborate changes to the powerplant, using the 283 small-block and a Hurst-shifted Borg-Warner three-speed out of a donor '61 Chevy. Mike Vierke helped with assembly work after the engine underwent some machining at P.A.D. Machine. Three Stromberg 94s with SO-CAL scoops were added to an Edelbrock Tri-power intake and "work like a Swiss watch." The swap meet special finned valve covers are UVM (unknown vintage make). Block-hugger headers were a necessity in this tight area. The straight pipes were built from megaphone tubing, and the turnout is bolted in place in case law enforcement disapproval necessitates further revisions.
Wheels & TiresThe wheels are the oldest part of the whole car-front and rear 16-inch steelies from a '48 Ford dressed up with DeLuxe caps and rings. The bias-ply tires are 6.00-16 and 6.50-16 Firestone blackwalls. The back-to-basics choices don't detract from the overall look of the car and are consistent with Brian's goal of keeping it looking simple.
Body & PaintYou won't find this brand-new roadster body in anybody's aftermarket parts catalog. Brian built practically every piece of sheetmetal. One exception is the grille shell, which he sectioned and narrowed for the proper proportions. The body is fabricated from 18-gauge steel. The crown and bead on the doorskins were created with a power hammer, with a top reveal styled after a '29 sedan. The homebuilt aluminum hood includes blisters to bulge around the headers. A frame built from aluminum square tubing supports the aluminum lift-off roof, and Wayne Young machined custom hinges for the seams. A '37 International pickup cowl vent was added to the custom cowl, styled after a '29 roadster. Brian's dad, Mike, found the jumbo headlights at a swap meet, and they look to be from a late-'20s Chevy commercial vehicle, and are now mounted on stands built from split tubing. Adam "Plastic Surgeon" Bauchens, Lee Getzelman, and Dan Bacon at Getz's Hot Rod Innovations handled the final bodywork. The choice of color was not arbitrary. Brian came up with the idea of reversing the typical black body/chrome suspension color scheme of so many traditional rods. Joe Filek achieved the effect using a DuPont silver (a DaimlerChrysler wheel color) for the body and black for the suspension parts, glossing over the whole job with plenty of clear. A 'striper by the name of Bendi added some accent 'stripes to the body, axle, and backing plates, and created the wicked smiling Tinman to the grille shell and headliner.
InteriorBrian's blend of '40s styling and individual design really pops in the interior, where Dave Schober at Schober's Trim and Upholstery in Montgomery, Illinois, did a great job creating a modern look with a traditional feel. The wraparound dash is influenced by '32 Fords and filled with Stewart Warner instruments. Fabricated aluminum door panels hide the rear inboard shocks and are covered with black and perforated silver vinyl. The seat backs and bottoms were constructed from plywood and cushioned with foam cut and shaped to provide the best ergonomic support for the ultra-low seating position. The brake and clutch pedal were staggered to accommodate the tight clearances. The floor has been fillet welded and butt welded to give the appearance of a single stamped piece. Access panels were added to reach the transmission and the brake pedal assembly. The three-spoke racing wheel, vintage-style map pocket, and custom Tinman shifter knob add varying elements of character to the car, wouldn't you say?