Typically, when a person goes to Barry Lobeck, they do so for only one reason: to have a car built. But it isn't just because of his shop's talent. That high aptitude level is backed up by an equally high artistic level, which is sort of like comparing an interior designer to an average-yet-skilled handyman when weighing Lobeck's against a run-of-the-mill rod shop. I wouldn't go so far as calling Lobeck the Carson Kressley of hot rods, but he does have that "eye" for concept, color, and complete overall design of a project.

Chris Conly wasn't one of those "typical" customers-at least not from the start. A few years back, he'd approached Barry to see if he'd whip out a chassis and rough in some of the bodywork for a '34 Ford cabriolet that he'd dreamt up in his head. Lobeck obliged, doing just what he was asked to do as well as dropping a '56 Chrysler 354 Hemi between the 'rails. Inspired by Jake Jacobs' truck-nosed coupe, Chris also presented the idea of doing the same with his convertible, which Barry agreed with, but under the condition that unlike Jacobs', this one had to be narrower-and when you look at the '34, you'll probably see why. It was probably about at this point that Chris had become one of the typical customers, as Lobeck convinced him to let his shop finish up the rest of the project.

The '37 commercial grille is indeed a focal point, but it's also a starting point-glancing at it, you begin to notice little (and some not-so little) nuisances, like the hood top bead carried past its original termination point and the leaned back and chopped windshield. Those are the kind of things that differentiate a nice car from a very nice one, especially when it's hard to tell just what's been done in the first place.

With the exception of the Carson-style top and hood side blisters that Chris did himself, Lobeck's handled all the bodywork, from the extended grille chin straight back to the radiused rear wheel openings. And when it came time to douse it in paint, the customer succumbed to the builder, though it wasn't easy convincing at first. With just a test panel as a reference and no support from the "silent" shop crew, Chris had to trust Lobeck more than ever on the outcome. Instead of black, as originally requested, Lobeck said he was going with '54 Chevy Pueblo Tan-about as far from a traditional tan as you can get. Any non-color-blind person can attest to the fact that it's Butterscotch, plain and simple. But it works. And so do the cream steelies and the "real" tan-colored top. It all works, just as it should.

Not only does Chris' cabrio have form, it's equally packed with function-from the way it handles and performs to the way it accommodates spaciously and ergonomically in the cockpit. That's the way a hot rod should be-at least the ones that are actually driven, which is just what Chris intends to do with the '34. Now that he's able to, it'll give him the opportunity to move forward with the chopped '34 Tudor he's been driving for the past 26 years. He says this time however, he's going to carry out his dream himself and only rely on Lobeck's for the chassis. But only time will tell if that's all Lobeck ends up contributing!

Rod & Custom Feature Car
Chris Conly
Milan, Michigan
1934 Ford Cabriolet

Chassis
Lobeck's Hot Rod Shop built the foundation using a mixture of '32 and '34 framerails with raised crossmembers and Model A-inspired front horns. Suspension consists of a Super Bell 5-inch dropped axle and chrome shocks, four-links fore and aft, and Bilstein coilovers in the rear. So-Cal Speed Shop's finned/drum-look disc brakes are used up front, with stock 11-inch Ford drums out back.

Drivetrain
Shoehorned between the 'rails is epitome's younger brother of horsepower, a 354 Chrysler Hemi equipped with an Edelbrock four-barrel atop a Hot Heads intake, MSD ignition, and Sanderson headers. Backing up the '56 engine is a Turbo 350 automatic followed by a Currie 9-inch rearend with a freeway-friendly 3.25 limited-slip gearing.

Body & Paint
A Downs 'glass '34 cabriolet body was the starting point. Lobeck's restyled and finished it-'37 Ford truck grille narrowed with extended chin, Rootlieb three-piece hood with hand-formed blisters and extended beltline reveal, chopped/leaned windshield, re-radiused rear wheel openings, rolled rear pan with cutouts for '36 Ford taillights, and a hand-formed aluminum top. PPG Pueblo Tan paint was also by Lobeck's.

Wheels & Tires
Cream-colored Wheel Vintiques Gennie steel wheels (15x6 and 15x8) feature '42 Ford caps and pinstriping by Guy Shively. Tires are Firestone 165R15 fronts and 245/75R15 rear.

Interior
Inside, Lobeck's retrofitted the interior with a '32 Ford three-window dash featuring a '50 Olds gauge cluster (redone with modern gauge components by Classic Instruments) and a second glovebox. Below is a Juliano's '40 Ford-style column and matching shrunk-down wheel. The rest of the interior was all handled by Portage Trim: custom seating, paneling, and flooring all covered in brown leather and a '60s Impala fabric (with '58 Impala door trim). Vintage Air and a Custom AutoSound stereo system were also used.