The Steel Deal - Getting Real Metal Body Parts
When Glass Just Wont Do
From the February, 2009 issue of Rod & Custom
By Drew Hardin
Photography by Drew Hardin
By the time you read this,...
By the time you read this, Hot Rods & Horsepower will be producing its version of the 32 Ford three-window coupe in steel, dubbed Dearborn Deuce. Some alterations have been made, including the 2-1/2-inch chop and filled roof and cowl. No wood is used in its construction; all bracing is done in steel.
In addition to the main body,...
In addition to the main body, Hot Rods & Horsepower will also be offering fenders. To create the dies, a laser-scanning CAD-CAM system was used. The fenders are said to be absolutely true to the originals and should be available soon. The Dearborn Deuce will be entirely produced right here in the U.S.
Since we showed several Brookville...
Since we showed several Brookville 32 roadster bodies in the Body Mounting Tips story (on page 40), we thought another body style should get some play. This is Brookvilles 30 Model A roadster highboy, as offered in the companys Model A start-er kits.
This is another variation...
This is another variation on the Model A theme from Brookville: a phantom extended-cab roadster pickup.
The first Muroc roadster from...
The first Muroc roadster from Kugel was fenderless, and not quite as radically styled as the Muroc 2. All 10 of these cars have been sold.
Talk about exclusive: Only...
Talk about exclusive: Only 10 of these handformed Muroc 2 roadsters will be offered for sale by Kugel Komponents. Asking price: $110,000.
The Reprosteel 32 roadster...
The Reprosteel 32 roadster is being stamped in Sweden, assembled in the U.S., and will be sold through the Web site Roadsters.com.
Reprosteels body parts...
Reprosteels body parts are dimensionally identical to original Deuce panels but have been reinforced structurally.
After showing you a lot of...
After showing you a lot of bare metal, we thought youd like to see a finished car using a repro body. This Rod Bods based roadster belongs to Andy Brizio.
This rear 3/4 view of the...
This rear 3/4 view of the Rod Bods Deuce illustrates the extensive tube bracing in the trunk, seat, and cowl areas. Also note the shaved and filled cowl.
This is a 1/5-scale model...
This is a 1/5-scale model of the Double Dozen, SARs limited-edition 33 roadster. Only 12 fendered and 12 fenderless versions will be made.
SARs 33-34 roadster is shipped with the doors, trunk lid, floor, dash, and firewall in place.
No as-original reproduction...
No as-original reproduction parts here. Bitchin Products, including its firewalls and dashboards, are made in modified form for street rods.
Bitchin floors are made from...
Bitchin floors are made from heavy-gauge steel and are designed to accept late-model seat tracks.
Deuce Steels 32...
Deuce Steels 32 firewall was reproduced from the genuine article. Its made from five pieces of 14-gauge steel that are riveted just as the originals were.
Repro gas tanks are Deuce...
Repro gas tanks are Deuce Steels newest products. Two versions are being developed, in 12- and 15-gallon capacities.
By adding an 18-gauge reinforcement...
By adding an 18-gauge reinforcement strip to the front and rear, Hagans steel hoods are stronger and more attractive.
Hagan offers hood sides in...
Hagan offers hood sides in three variations: smooth, with dual scoops, or with three rows of louvers as shown here.
Pros Pick manufactures...
Pros Pick manufactures beds for popular vintage pickups from the 30s all the way up to the 70s. All beds are constructed from 16-gauge steel.
Also among the offerings from...
Also among the offerings from Pros Pick are smooth running boards for popular mid-30s to mid-50s Chevys and Fords. All running boards are stamped at Pros Canadian facility from 12-gauge steel.
Rootlieb offers more than...
Rootlieb offers more than 30 variations on the Deuce hood, including this three-piece version with a plain top and four rows of louvers.
One of Rootliebs newest...
One of Rootliebs newest products is this cowl-induction hood for 33 Fords.
In the early days of street rodding, rodders and customizers could manipulate genuine steel to realize their dreams of speed and beauty, as the now-beloved makes of the 30s and 40s were little more than used cars back then. Over time, the number of gennie bodies dwindled, but interest in rodding did not, so resourceful entrepreneurs recreated the most popular body styles in fiberglass. Glass was inexpensive, easy to work with, and an ideal medium for ultra-smooth billet rods. But for some, only real steel will do. Couple that with the current trend toward traditional cars (fiberglass cant have patina), and metal-crafting is making a strong comeback. The problem is that genuine steel bodies are even more scarce than they were 20 or 30 years ago.
Again, resourceful entrepreneurs have stepped in with reproduction bodies and parts made from steel. Some of these products are replicas so precise that they can be used to replace worn or rusted-out gennie iron. Others have been modified to give rodders a headstart on common upgrades. These pieces can be tweaked and customized as traditionally as you want. Some must be massaged, in fact, since in the reproduction process they acquired the imperfections found on the original stampings.
Heres a roundup of some companies reproducing bodies and body parts in steel. Since so many companies work in metal these days, well deal with the firms making entire bodies, then move to those companies repopping major body components.
The Body Makers
Hot Rods & Horsepower
The latest news in the body business is the Dearborn Deuce, a chopped 32 three-window coupe that will be available this summer from Hot Rods & Horsepower. The prototype for this body has already won the Best New Product trophy at this years Street Rod Manufacturing Association show. The Dearborn Deuce is news for a number of reasons. The first is obvious: Its a closed car in a world of repro roadsters. Says Jim Inglése, the companys co-founder (yes, that Jim, formerly of Inglése Induction), We wanted to do something that hadnt been done before. Using a set of original blueprints and a thoroughly modern laser-scanning/CAD-CAM system (which creates incredibly precise dies), Hot Rods & Horsepower will produce what Inglése calls a rodder-friendly three-window body.
Rodder-friendly means certain changes have been made to the cars original design. The top was chopped 2-½ inches, and the roof is all steel. The cowl was filled, the firewall recessed, Hagan hidden hinges used, and the doors designed to accept power windows. Unlike the original bodies, theres no wood in the Dearborn Deuce; steel internal supports add stiffness to the body tub. From the outside, the lines and dimensions are virtually identical to an original 32, Inglése tells us. The Dearborn Deuce can be ordered with an original firewall and external door handles for a more traditional look. The bodies will be made from 16- and 18-gauge steel and will be delivered in bare metal. Hot Rods & Horsepower is also tooling up to manufacture front fenders and dashboards using the same computer-aided design and manufacturing processes as the bodies.
The Dearborn name isnt just a nod to Fords HQ. The Dearborn Deuce will be made entirely in the Detroit area, using many of the same vendors and suppliers that manufacture body parts for the Big Three automakers. This will give the Dearborn Deuce original-equipment levels of quality, says Inglése, but will also exact a price.
Doing it all in Detroit is expensive, he admits, and costs far more than if we tried to do this offshore. But the quality difference is [like] night and day. Those production costs translate to a price of $18,500 for the body. (By comparison, Brookvilles 32 stock roadster body retails for $10,500.) On the up side, though, Ingléses Detroit facilities will give him significant production capacity. The company says it will ramp up production to kick out 16 bodies per month and 25 sets of fenders per week.
Production isnt in full swing yet, but Hot Rods & Horsepower is already looking ahead. Its next body, a chopped 33 three-window, will be unveiled at the NSRA Nationals in Louisville, with production scheduled for a few months after the debut, Inglése says. By next spring, we will be introducing our third steel body, which will take everyone by surprise, Inglése promises. And no, he didnt give us a clue as to what it will be. Information: Hot Rods & Horsepower, N. Branford, CT; 203/623-0659; www.hotrodsand horsepower.com.
Brookville has been in the steel-body business since 1982, and its inventory includes six different all-steel 32 and Model A roadster bodies. The As are available in full-fendered or highboy versions, while the Deuce is sold as a highboy. If you want fenders for the 32, Brookville sells those, too, along with myriad other steel pieces, including hoods, dashboards, firewalls, and so on. Brookville also offers rod-project starter kits with bodies already mounted to a mild-steel chassis.
Brookville does its own stamping at its facility in Ohio, using the same gauge of cold-rolled, draw-quality, American-made steel as used in the original bodies. The steel panels are painted with a lacquer-based primer before shipping to protect them from rust, but Brookville recommends stripping off that primer and prepping the bare metal for whatever paint youll use. You can purchase fully assembled bodies from Brookville, or you can buy a package of body panels and other parts and construct the roadster yourself. Costs for Brookville bodies vary depending on style and additional options. Base prices start at $4,900 for an assembled stock Model A roadster body and $10,500 for an assembled stock 32 roadster body.
If youre familiar with Brookville, then you may take issue with the word inventory that we used a couple of paragraphs ago. These bodies, particularly the 32s, are in high demand, and there is a wait between order and delivery. We pre-sold over 100 32s before we had even made the first body, admits Brookvilles Kenny Gollahon. Currently, Brookville produces from 10 to 12 bodies per month. Gollahon says the wait for a Deuce body is seven to eight months, while you can get your hands on a Model A in 10 to 12 weeks. Information: Brookville Roadster, Brookville, OH; 937/833-4605; www. brookvilleroadster.com.
Kugel first entered the body-building business more than a year ago when it introduced the Muroc, a limited- edition steel and aluminum highboy that was a very stylized take on the classic Deuce shape. Only 10 of the swoopy, low-slung roadsters were built, and Kugel sold every one of em. Now Kugel is coming back with the Muroc 2, which adds steel fenders and running boards to a handformed body thats even longer and lower than the original Muroc.
The car sits on a Kugel/Foose-designed frame and is equipped with polished and chromed independent-suspension systems front and back. The tilt column, stainless U-joints, and shaft are already installed, as are the brake pedal, master cylinder, and booster. The engine and trans mounts on the frame are designed to hold a small-block/ Turbo-Hydro trans combination.
The bodys dramatic lines are accentuated by a custom DuVall-style windshield with curved glass, designed by Kugel. Finishing off the front end is a custom polished stainless steel grille insert from Dan Fink. Options offered by Kugel are a radiator and fuel tank. As with the first Muroc, only 10 of the Muroc 2 cars will be built. The unfinished roller, sold without the tires, wheels, and steering wheel shown in the photo, will retail for $110,000. Information: Kugel Komponents, La Habra, CA; 562/691-7006; www.kugel komponents.com.
Another newcomer to the reproduction-body market is Reprosteel, a trans-Atlantic effort by Roadsters.coms Dave Mann and a Swedish hot rodder named Lars Lundstrom. Lundstrom has been developing his 32 roadster body since 1997, with the goal of providing the most accurate 32 Ford roadster bodies made since 1932, Mann says. Mann started selling Lundstroms body panels as unassembled body kits last summer; in August, Mann will have fully assembled Reprosteel bodies to offer through the Web site, Roadsters.com.
Lundstrom designed a roadster thats dimensionally identical to the original car, Mann says, but with structural improvements to increase the bodys strength and durability. One example of the changes Lundstrom made was replacing the cars original three-piece B-pillar with a two-piece pillar (integrated into the quarter-panel) to prevent the piece from cracking, as the originals were prone to do.
Mann told us that he and Lundstrom not only want to provide the finest-quality 32 roadster body, but they want to do so at an affordable price. Though exact pricing hadnt been set at press time, theyre aiming at a sub-$10,000 cost for an assembled body with stock door hinges, completely metal finished, and ready for paint, Mann says. Extra-cost options will include hidden hinges and a working cowl vent. Reprosteel also offers disassembled body kits, consisting of the outer body panels, for $5,100 with a firewall and $4,500 without. Firewalls are available for $600.
This fall, Lundstrom will also produce a limited run of aluminum 32 roadster bodies. Same dimensions, same design, but in an exotic and beautiful, if not practical, metal, Mann says. He figures buyers for an aluminum Reprosteel body will be those planning a drag race or Bonneville car, or it will make an excellent starting point for someone building an AMBR contender, he says. Information: Reprosteel, Portland, OR; 503/417-8671; www.roadsters.com. (Outside the U.S., contact Lars Lundstrom, Vuollerim, Sweden; +46-70-3915081; www.repro steel.com.)
Designed with the street rodder in mind is how Rod Bods describes its 32 roadster. The all-steel body is a reproduction, though not a down-to-the-rivets replica of the original Deuce. Instead, Jim McCain has made some improvements on the original design to strengthen the body, smooth its lines, and modernize some of its functions.
For example, McCain added tube bracing under the cowl and in the rear seat and trunk areas to give the body far more support than the original wood ever had. A recessed firewall (designed to accommodate a small-block) is welded in place to improve strength there, too. The trunk lid has been fitted with weatherstripping, a contemporary latch mechanism, and a gas strut to make it easier to use and watertight. Modern latches were added to the doors, which come standard with hidden hinges but are available with traditional exposed hinges. Appearance mods include filling and shaving the cowl area and shaving the wood tack-strip area behind the seats (though, as with the hinges, you can have a traditional-looking cowl, with beads and a vent as an option).
In fact, Rod Bods options list is almost as long as its standard-features list. The company can install a number of different firewalls and windshields, and floor mods can be made to suit a variety of engine/trans combinations. Hoods, tops, rumble seats, and steering columns can be added, and Rod Bods will even louver a hood for you.
If youre looking to start your project Deuce a little farther along than just a bare body, Rod Bods now offers Stage III chassis as well, with boxed American Stamping rails, a tubular K-member, and several suspension options to choose from.
The basic Rod Bods Deuce body retails for $8,995. Average shipping charges from the companys Sparks, Nevada, headquarters (near Reno) is about $600. Information: Rod Bods, Sparks, NV; 775/358-1930.
Steves Auto Restorations
While most of the reproduction body world is busy making 32s, Steves Auto Restorations (SAR) has carved itself a nice niche by repopping 33-34 Ford roadsters. The bodies are dimensionally the same as the original and are made from 19-gauge stamped steel, as the original cars were. The panels are even stamped in Detroit. Assembly, however, is performed at the SAR shop in Portland, Oregon, on a specially constructed jig.
The body comes off the jig pretty complete, with doors hinged and latched, the trunk hinged, a full floor in place, and the firewall and dash panel in place. Theres no wood in these bodies. Instead, SAR builds several 16-gauge bracing structures into the bodyin the quarter-panels, behind the seats, and inside the cowlto strengthen the assembly. Bodies leave the shop in bare metal unless the customer asks otherwise, and the bodies are shipped either in a crate or on a car transporter.
The basic body (without a cowl vent) retails for $14,950. (If you want a vent, thatll cost an additional $450.) Figure on an eight-week wait between ordering and delivery.
SAR also offers a wide range of 33-34 steel body parts, from quarter-panels and cowl parts to doors and skins, fenders and tops. Plus, the shop can build you a Brookville roadster, too, and it offers a number of steel 32 parts.
As if that werent enough, SAR is branching out into the rolling sculpture arena with a limited-edition 33 roadster called the Double Dozen. Designed by SARs Steve Frisbie and Chris Ito (who paired previously in the design of the NewMad Nomad), the car will be offered in a run of 24 vehicles: 12 highboys and 12 fendered cars. Each will be consecutively numbered and sold as a bare steel rolling art form, says Frisbie. The cars design features an extended wheelbase, a sectioned body, additional width added to the shoulder area, and a custom DuVall-style windshield. It will roll on a custom-fabricated frame thats fitted with a quick-change rearend and either Boyd- or Budnik-designed wheels. While Frisbie hasnt figured the actual price of these cars yet (hes still finishing his R&D), he has offered the first two units at $125,000 per. Information: Steves Auto Rest-orations, Portland, OR; 503/665-2222; www.stevesautorestorations.com.
The Parts Makers
Probably best known for its firewalls, Bitchin Products makes all sorts of steel products for street rods, like floors, running boards, dashboards, and more. These are for rods; Bitchin doesnt make reproduction pieces. The companys floors, for example, are upgraded with thicker metal and are designed to receive late-model seats. Firewalls, too, are upgraded to 16-gauge steel. All of Bitchins products are handmade in the companys own facility, and all pieces are shipped in bare metal.
By the time you read this, the company will be moving from its Southern California location to Prescott, Arizona. No worries about getting in touch, though; the toll-free phone number will remain the same, as will the Web address. Information: Bitchin Products, Prescott, AZ; 800/422-3993; www.bitchinproductsinc.com.
When we first heard of this division of Hot Rods & Custom Stuff, we thought the brand was called Do Steel. Works either way for us.
Deuce Steels firewall, which will fit 32 roadsters, sedans, or pickups, is as original as the company could possibly make it. We bought a complete car to get the perfect firewall to reproduce, explains Hot Rods & Custom Stuffs Randy Clark. The firewall is made from five pieces of 14-gauge steel that are stamped, spot-welded, and riveted exactly as the originals were. No holes are drilled, which makes customization easy and eliminates the need for end-users to fill unneeded holes. The firewalls are electronic-deposition paint (EPD) coated to prevent corrosion before theyre shipped, and they retail for $799. A second Deuce Steel product is currently under development: a reproduction of the 32 12-gallon gas tank. Plus, the company has developed a 15-gallon version that looks exactly like an original 32, says Clark, without sacrificing ground clearance or appearance. Information: Deuce Steel, Escondido, CA; 760/745-1170; www .deucesteel.com.
Hagan Street Rod Necessities
If youve struggled to get a hood that fits your Model A or 32, you understand why Pete Hagan put the necessities part in his business name. Hagan makes stock-size, three-piece hoods that will fit either a Model A or Deuce grille shell. He can also make hoods that are up to 4 inches longer than stock to accommodate custom rod designs.
Hagans hoods are made from 18-gauge steel and feature an 18-gauge reinforcement strip at the front and back. This 0.100-inch metal addition not only strengthens the hoods, but it gives the edges a nice, finished look. Three different hood-side options are available: smooth steel, hot rod louvers (in three rows), or dual stamped scoops. Hagan can also punch custom louvers to fit your particular pattern.
While were on the subject of patterns, Hagan offers a template kit that allows customers to draft their own hood design, based on the shape and location of their cars particular cowl, grille, and so on. Once Hagan receives the template, he builds the hood to the customers specs. Delivery time on a custom hood is about a week; stock-dimension hoods ship the same day the order is placed.
Have questions about hoods or hood mounting? Hagan has a detailed video with all sorts of installation tips thatll save you lots of scratching- your-head time. Information: Hagans Street Rod Accessories, Carson City, NV; 775/885-1969; www.haganstreetrods.com.
We realize not everyone is building a Deuce or Model A, so heres some info for the truck builders out there. Pros Pick manufactures reproduction truck-bed kits for just about every Ford and Chevy pickup built from the mid-30s into the 70s (and even mid-80s). The company also man-ufactures smooth running boards for mid-30s to mid-50s Fords and Chevys.
The beds are made from 16-gauge steel and the boards are 12-gauge, all stamped in-house at the Pros Pick Ontario, Canada, facility. All of the steel is plated, so that areas you cant reach with paint wont rust. Parts are also coated in primer before being shipped.
Beds are shipped disassembled, since the Pros Pick folks figure their customers would rather spend four hours building the bed than pay the expensive shipping charges for the assembled piece (though assembly is an option). Plan on about two weeks between order placement and parts delivery, and more time if youre requesting a custom bed. Information: Pros Pick, Fergus, Ontario, Canada; 800/865-7366; www.pros-pick.com.
Rootlieb has been in the reproduction steel parts business since 1973, when it began producing new parts for Model T Fords. Not long after, the companys founder, Henry Rootlieb, saw sales potential in the burgeoning street rod market and set about designing hoods for modified cars. Though the company still makes restoration-oriented steel pieces, a greater percentage of Rootliebs hoods are destined for hot rods.
Open the Rootlieb catalog and its easy to see why. There are almost four pages devoted to 32 hoods alone, with a staggering array of designs. (Who knew there were so many ways to punch louvers?) In addition to the Deuce hoods, Rootlieb makes hoods for virtually any Ford car built from the T to the 35 model, plus 33-37 Ford pickup hoods, 31-38 Chevrolet hoods, and 32-36 Plymouth and Dodge hoods. Custom hoods are also available.
Rootlieb manufactures its hoods in central California, using either 18- or 20-gauge steel (depending on the application). Before shipping, the hoods are covered with Rust Ban, a waxy coating that keeps contaminants at bay. Prices vary depending on the hoods design and construction, but, as an example, the Deuce hoods in the catalog were listed from $360 to $600, with most in the $400 range. Information: Rootlieb, Turlock, CA; 209/632-2203; www.rootlieb.com.