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Reichenbacher Roadster

Reichenbacher Roadster


Bill Hebal of Sturgeon Bay, Wis. is the third owner of a car that's a cross between an early hot rod and a post World War II sports car. Built by midget race car builders Elmer and Max Reichenbach, who had a racecar shop in Chicago, the car was featured in the November 1960 issue of Hot Rod.

Carl Hawks of Albuquerque, NM owned the car from 1949 until he sold it to Hebal. Hawk, who first discovered the roadster in Chicago in 1948, liked it because of its design similarity to old Indy cars.

The car has an all-aluminum body, a steel tube frame and a Frod flathead power plant. It's a really fun car to drive and sure turns a lot of heads," Hebal said. "I showed it at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegenace in 2005. It's also been to the Milwaukee Masterpiece of Style & Speed and to the vintage races at Road America, in Elkhart Lake, Wis."

The front end of teh car resembles a British-built Allard sports car, but the front axle and suspension pirated from a 1941 Ford put the roadster in the hot rod category. Hawk built the brackets that support the front shocks and the headlights, which came from a vintage motorcycle.

The car still has its original sparkling red paint and brown leather upholstery, Hot Rod magazine noted that Hawk's roadster was "well preserved, considering it towed a trailer across the country."

The engine is familiar to flathead Ford fans. It is a 221-cid 85-hp "flattie" that's completely stock, except for the addition of headers. Hawk always felt that the stock engine gave the aluminum-bodied roadster "ample push". Hebal agrees. Hawk did add a hydraulic clutch, that's energized by a Ford master cylinder.

Looking into the car's racing-style cockpit gives a good indication of its frame structure. The original 2-1/2 inch tube skeleton was changed by Hawk to include double outer members. The additional frame stiffness greatly improved the handling. The gearbox is a '36 Ford with a shortened '41 Ford drive shaft.

So Bill Hebal says the car represents a time so early in postwar America when the shape, style, power, and design of postwar production cars were being influenced by hot rodding ideas. "The Reichenbach brothers were dead center in the middle interpreting what was happening and showing what was possible at the highest level of build quality for cars of their day," Hebal declared.