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Panel Craft LLC

Shop Talk

The Essence of Handmade

Recently there has been a resurgence of interest in "handmade" cars. The reason for this growing awareness can be attributed to the many shows seen on television highlighting shops and individuals building custom cars and motorcycles. Traditionally, when I think of handmade cars, my mind conjures up the image of the great Carrozzerias of mid 20th century Europe. These companies and the artisan-craftsman they employed produced some of the most stunningly beautiful automobiles ever to roll on four wheels, using nothing more than rudimentary hand tools. Today, this is not often the case. What we are seeing now is often times vehicles which I would call "hand fitted". You could define hand fitted by saying that a person accumulates all the pieces necessary to do a build and then modifies them, sometimes quite heavily, and assembles them to form a completed car.

To best illustrate my point I will draw on the example of Lance Reventlow. In the mid 50's Lance was a young man in his twenty's who, just by chance, was heir to the Revlon fortune. Because of his circumstances, he found himself with unlimited time and resources to pursue his interests, one of which was motor racing. Lance, being a California boy thru and thru, knew there was only one choice when it came to American racecar builders, and that was Troutmann-Barnes racing. Armed with the design expertise of Ken Miles, the team of Lance Reventlow, Dick Troutmann, and Tom Barnes were able to develop and build a chassis for his new American Special, which would come to be called the Scarab. Once the final design for the chassis was approved and work began, Dick Troutman walked down the road to see his old pals at California Metal Shaping. With nothing more than sketches and rudimentary dimensions Emil Deidt and crew cranked out one of the most outrageously beautiful racecar bodies ever built, the rest is history.

In my mind all the individuals involved in the construction of the Scarab were artisans of the highest order. They were able to build one of the most successful competition cars of its generation using very basic hand tools and machinery. In their hands, the tools and equipment were brought to life and an Icon was born.

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