Fabricator honors his father with the Marcel Roadster

Photography by J.A. Ackley

What is this?

That’s the kind of reaction the Marcel Roadster receives from the public. Then, they marvel at its sleek lines and beautiful craftsmanship. Luc De Ley crafted the car in his shop, Marcel’s Custom Metal in Norco, California.

My dad passed five years ago, and I built this car in his honor,” Luc explains. “This is the era of car he loved–’56, ’57, ’58, ’59. I built this not to copy any of them, but to make it my own. I named it the Marcel Roadster so people would not forget who he was.”

Luc grew up learning metal fabrication under the watchful eyes of his father, Marcel. “I started working with him when I was 15 years old,” Luc says. “It was a temporary job you get when you’re 15. Forty-eight years later, I’m still doing the same work.”

Luc De Ley at the Classic Motorsports Monterey Kickoff.

When creating the Marcel Roadster, Luc says he went through books covering cars from the era. Ferraris. Maseratis. Aston Martins. Jaguars. Scarabs.

[I picked] the favorite areas of each car,” Luc explains. “I didn’t want to copy any certain car, because the experts will always try to pick it apart. I wanted it to be a car where if you’re a Ferrari fan, from 50 yards away you’re going to say, ‘Let’s go look at that Ferrari.’ As you get closer, you’re going to realize it’s not.”

Luc walked us through how the iconic sports cars of the late 1950s inspired his build.

To me, the grille is very Ferrari, the hood scoop is very Ferrari,” he continues. “The front fender is a little more Scarab. The side vent, a little more Mercedes. The back corners, a little more Aston Martin than Jag. I leaned the windshield way down to give it a modern flair.”

Under the hood, a more modern engine powers the classically influenced creation. “It’s got an LS3, with a Borla intake,” he says. “Mike Curtis made the valve covers to hide the coil packs. I wanted the motor to look like it came from the late 1950s, early 1960s.”

Luc handcrafted the body from 3003 aluminum sheet that’s 0.063 inch thick. “It’s hand-formed using an English wheel, a tree stump, hammer and dolly,” Luc says. “It’s TIG- and gas-welded all throughout. I made the seats, and Chip Foose came up with the idea to make the inserts so you can still see outside edges of the seats.”

Can you find the seam between the two pieces of aluminum sheet metal? This exemplifies the quality of fabrication within this build.

Chip Foose, the TV presenter and automotive designer, helped Luc with a lot of the details to help make Luc’s vision a working reality.

There’s a lot of influence [from Chip],” Luc explains. “I’m a sheet metal guy. I did everything on this car, but I had a lot of help from a lot friends. Squeak White helped me on the metal finishing. Brad Body helped me on the wiring. It takes a team to do something like this.”

The body sits on a chromoly tube-frame chassis that features an independent suspension with coil-overs, a Winters quick-change rear end, and inboard rear brakes like a Jaguar.

As good as the car looks, Luc says it goes even better. “It’s a joy to drive,” he says. “It’s 480 horsepower and weighs 2360 pounds. It’s meant to be driven. It’s not a trailer queen.”

The Marcel Roadster looks great, sounds great and drives great. Certainly, it’s a beautiful tribute to the man who trained Luc De Ley in the trade he spent most of his life doing.

I think he’d be really proud of it,” Luc says. “I wish he could have seen it. I’m extremely proud of it. It’s some of the cleanest, finest metal work that has ever come out of my shop.”


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Geno1 New Reader
9/25/23 11:19 a.m.

Incredible doesn't say enough!

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