"Scrape” began in January of 1993 when Terry Cook found a nearly complete 1939 Zephyr coupe in a barn in Farmington, Maine. It had been there for twenty-two years and was covered with pigeon droppings. Cook bought the car and delivered it to Rams Rod Shop where it spent 4½ years and 4,500 hours, cloaked in total secrecy, before emerging as this stunning custom car. The frame and running gear are from a 1978 Chevy station wagon with a small block 350 Chevrolet V8 for power. The coupe body was removed from the Zephyr frame and channeled over the Chevy frame rails. Both were placed flat on the ground and welded together. The car was then built from the floor up with hydraulics controlling the ride height. Terry Cook has a passion for elegant automotive styling. His idols are the 1930’s Italian coachbuilders Giuseppi Figoni (the designer) and Ovidio Falaschi (the financial backer) of the Paris-based Carrosserrie Automobile. His influences also include Jacques Saoutchik as well as American Gordon Buehrig and his unheralded clay modeler, Vince Gardner. Several early customizers from the Sacramento area in the 1940s also had a strong impact on Cook’s future designs. All of the above had a strong influence on Cook’s decisions regarding final design of “Scrape.” In addition, the three who originally designed the Briggs-bodied Zephyr—John Tjaarda, Bob Gregorie and yes, Edsel Ford—deserve credit for providing a platform that lent itself to his design. Cook’s design for the car started with a Zephyr ad from a 1939 Life Magazine. Up front, a ’40-41 Zephyr nose section was grafted between the 1939 front fenders and the fenders were widened 2.5" per side. 1939 Ford headlights were frenched into the fenders and the pan was rolled under the grille. The long sweeping architecture of the rear roof is one of the vehicle’s most attractive design elements. The rear window area was filled with sheet metal and Cook then drew the exact opening he envisioned, one-third the size of the original. The result is that “Scrape” has become a phenomenon in its own right, having appeared in numerous major auto shows, featured on the cover of five magazines, and has been displayed at the Louis Vuitton Concours in New York City.

SCM Analysis


Years Produced:1998
Number Produced:1
Original List Price:$3,300
Tune Up Cost:$100
Distributor Caps:$10
Chassis Number Location:Whatever DMV assigns it
Engine Number Location:Chevrolet 350/on the right head
Club Info:National Street Rod Association, 4030 Park Ave, Memphis TN 38111
Alternatives:Spend $300,000 building your own design

“Scrape” was offered by RM Auctions at their August 18 and 19th event in Monterey, California and sold for $275,000, which included the premium.

Customs and hot rods are often a hard sell. They are an expression of one person’s opinion of automotive design and badly done ones provide insight as to why some people think plaid pants and a striped shirt make a good-looking outfit. On the other hand, Terry Cook, the former Editor of Hod Rod and Car Craft Magazines, has a strong background in rodding design and knows what looks right and elegant. For instance, when the top on “Scrape” was being chopped, he drove to the shop to take a look and said, “Whack it down two more inches and call me in the morning.” He was right—the lower top fits the flowing lines of the car perfectly.

The underlying car, the Lincoln Zephyr, was often considered undesirable, its redeeming quality being as a source of parts for Continentals. It was conceived in 1932 as the Briggs Body Company was looking for a way to expand its business with Ford. Edsel Ford, on the other hand, was a victim of his father’s inflexibility and Lincoln, his only sanctuary, was under financial pressure. John Tjaarda, a Dutchman working for Briggs, presented his streamlined designs for a mid-priced car to Edsel Ford and with much secrecy the Zephyr moved forward. It was introduced, with favorable response, at the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair. In the late 1930s the Zephyr evolved into a very attractive, streamlined vehicle, and in 1951 the Museum of Modern Art recognized the late ’30s Zephyrs for their advanced automotive styling.

Those who have restored a car from the ground up are quick to tell the tale of their trials and tribulations and most swear that they will never do it again. Building a car from scratch and incorporating personal design ideas intensifies the project by at least a couple of frustration levels.

There are a few significant customs and perhaps “Scrape” will become one of them. Only time will tell if that occurs. In the meantime, it has completed the show and publication circuit and has “been there, done that.” Is $275,000 an unrealistic number for this car? At shop rates of $60 per hour, plus parts, the car could not be duplicated for that amount. Perhaps even more important, the new owner, the Petersen Museum, has a piece of creative automotive art in its collection that has already basked in the national spotlight. While we may not be able to forecast how the automotive community will judge “Scrape” in fifty years, at this moment, it stands as the most recognizable, and arguably the most attractive, custom car ever built. —Carl Bomstead

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