Arts & Crafts­man­ship

The Mar­i­ani Bros.’ Moal-Built ’33 Ford

Street Rodder - - Contents - PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY MICHAEL CHRIS­TENSEN BY ROB FORTIER

The Mar­i­ani Bros.’ ’33 Ford

De­pend­ing on how you look at it, while Henry Ford may have rev­o­lu­tion­ized the man­ner in which automobiles are pro­duced, he may also have spear­headed the demise of its soul in the process. If you look back to the days just prior to the se­ries pro­duc­tion he “mass”ter­fully stream­lined, the ma­jor­ity of lux­ury ve­hi­cles were built to or­der, thus, there was more of an ar­ti­san fac­tor to suit the con­sumer’s taste, not pro­duc­tion quo­tas.

Those were the days of coach­built works of art—when high-end mo­tor cars were a con­sumer-driven col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the main chas­sis man­u­fac­turer (the mar­que) and the hand­built body mak­ers (coach­builders). That’s when the au­to­mo­bile re­ally had a soul, as not only did the in­di­vid­ual cus­tomer play a role in the ve­hi­cle’s cre­ation, the highly

skilled crafts­man who bod­ied the mas­sive chas­sis with their dis­tinc­tive sheet­metal de­signs ex­uded a pas­sion ev­i­dent in each and ev­ery one, some­thing the av­er­age as­sem­bly­line worker was never re­quired to pos­sess. Coach­build­ing was an art—it was a busi­ness (one that many would go un­der post–World War II if un­able to tran­si­tion to other av­enues of com­merce), but an art nonethe­less … some­thing that can never re­ally be said about the modern mass pro­duced.

But de­spite how the word may get thrown around and used in this day and age, has coach­build­ing be­come a lost art? In down­town Oak­land, right around the cor­ner from The New Earl Scheib (can’t imag­ine what was wrong with the old one), the an­swer is a re­sound­ing “no.” Be­hind the slid­ing metal door of the non­de­script Art Deco build­ing at 937 East 12th Street is one of the few re­main­ing crafts­man to carry on the Art of the Car­rosserie: Steve Moal of Moal Coach­builders. Now, while Steve con­sid­ers his man­ner of craft­ing bod­ies along the lines of the Ital­ian Su­per­leg­gera (lightweight, tubu­lar-framed, al­loy-skinned), his learned craft ini­tially em­i­grated from France in the early 1900s with his grand­fa­ther, car­riage maker and wheel­wright Wil­liam Moal

(who would later go on to build­ing race car bod­ies), and through his fa­ther, Ge­orge, whose body and fen­der re­pair busi­ness op­er­ated be­hind that very same slid­ing metal door in down­town Oak­land. Still, whether it’s one of Moal Coach­builders’ Road­champ lim­it­ed­pro­duc­tion road­sters or a com­pletely hand-fabbed one-off, call him a car­rozze­ria or a car­rosserie—Steve Moal con­tin­ues to do what he loves by build­ing some of the most unique mo­tor cars on the road to­day … even ones with small-block Chevys un­der their hand-ham­mered hoods, like the Mar­i­ani Bros.’ three-win­dow coupe.

By def­i­ni­tion, the Mar­i­ani ’33

Ford is not a coach­built car, so let’s get that out of the way and avoid any con­fu­sion. That said, the coupe does em­body the one el­e­ment that clearly iden­ti­fied early 20th cen­tury coach­built mo­tor cars: the ra­di­a­tor cover, or its grille and insert as we re­fer to it. Iron­i­cally,

since the ra­di­a­tor was part of the ve­hi­cle’s chas­sis con­struc­tion, the grille shells and screens were in­sti­tuted on the man­u­fac­turer’s end (ini­tially for pro­tec­tion), and as such, the bod­ies were built around them. With the coupe, the process was the ex­act op­po­si­tion, yet the re­sult­ing track-style nose has Moal writ­ten all over it (well, not lit­er­ally …). So too are the hand-formed alu­minum hood with pol­ished alu­minum lon­gi­tu­di­nal vents and the chas­sis’ belly pan with vis­i­bly fas­tened rocker cov­ers con­tour­ing the orig­i­nal Ford fram­erails that still perime­ter the coupe’s foun­da­tion. And un­like many of Mark and Dennis Mar­i­ani’s cars (both race and street-driven) that bear a dis­tinc­tive ma­roon color, Moal’s in-house painter, Dar­rell Sch­nei­der, did the coupe in PPG Bri­tish Rac­ing Green, while Rory Pen­te­cost added the hand-painted belt­line/ac­ces­sory de­tail­ing (in­clud­ing the knock­of­f­capped and Ex­cel­sior-rub­bered Stock­ton Wheel steel­ies).

As stated, there’s a Chevy small­block be­neath that hand­made four-piece hood—but not just any or­di­nary SBC, rather, one based on a Dart alu­minum block from their race car en­gine builder over in Stock­ton, Panella Rac­ing. Hil­born in­jected and all dressed-up in Moal-built ac­ces­sories, the 10.5:1 500-horse street mo­tor is backed up by a Leg­end five-speed gear­box and a Hal­i­brand V-8 quick-change (out­fit­ted with Lin­coln brakes to match the fronts). All of that has been nes­tled be­tween the Ford’s stock

’rails that are now in­ter­con­nected via tubu­lar cross­mem­bers, with tor­sion­bar sus­pen­sion front and rear.

Be­neath the 3-1/2-inch chopped top, beige and oxblood-fla­vored

leather sur­face cov­er­ings cour­tesy Sid Chavers line the cock­pit as well as a pair of Moal-fi­nessed bucket seats, with Ger­man squareweave floor­ing to each side of the raised and leather-wrapped tun­nel. No­tice the un­der­side of the roof insert, if you will, with its pol­ished alu­minum trim piece—if it hasn’t al­ready forced you to do a dou­ble-take on the ex­te­rior por­tion (and you hadn’t al­ready fig­ured it out), look again: the insert’s flush-fit, gapped so tight and clean it’s nearly in­vis­i­ble from most view­ing per­spec­tives. And speak­ing of view­points, the coupe’s nav­i­ga­tional ameni­ties as seen from the driver seat con­sist of a cus­tom three-spoked, wood-rimmed steer­ing wheel, Road­champ hang­ing pedal as­sem­bly, and a set of gauges built just for the oc­ca­sion by Clas­sic In­stru­ments.

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