Chip Foose-Designed Luc De Lay-Built Roadster was the Best Car at SEMA

The open-topped two-seater combines everything cool about 1950s European sports cars.

foose de lay roadster from sema

Hiding in a far corner of the North Hall at the SEMA show was what may turn out to be the coolest car of the year: the Chip Foose-designed, Luc De Lay-built MarCel Roadster.

“It’s just my rendition of a late-‘50s Ferrari, Maserati, Aston Martin, Scarab, whatever you like,” said renowned metal shaper Luc De Lay. “I wanted to show off the metal shape.”

De Lay is the son of Marcel De Lay, founder of Marcel’s Custom Metal now in Norco, California. Marcel was famous among hot rodders and custom car kings for his work. He could take any drawing, any shape, any idea, and make it into a vision of rolling art. All those cool cars you’ve admired over the last several decades—think of Rick Dore’s customs for Metallica frontman James Hetfield—were hammered and wheeled into shape at Marcel’s. The founding father passed away in 2018 at the age of 89, but he had been teaching his sons, Luc and Marc, all the tricks of the trade.

“I wish I knew what he forgot,” Luc De Ley told Hemmings after his father passed away four years ago. “I feel I have metal shaping skills, but he was an artist. He had a vision in his head and he would build it.”

foose de lay roadster from sema
The MarCel Roadster is all hand-formed.

Luc has those skills, too, as you can see here. There’s no other way to make something like this.

“I start with nothing,” Luc told SENtertainment Digital Media at the SEMA show, where this beautiful MarCel Roadster was revealed. “I take a sheet of metal off the rack and I make everything. This was built exactly like it would have been built in 1930.”

And in 1930 there was no CAD, no CAM, no computer-aided anything.

“I have three main tools: I have an English wheel, I have a hammer, and I got a couple of tree stumps. And those tree stumps, I use them every day. There is no technology in what I do.”

How does he get the shape right? Symmetrical?

“I make a buck, and that keeps left and right close, but don’t take a tape measure to it. It might be off, maybe within a half inch, maybe within a quarter inch—there is no computers.”

foose de lay roadster from sema
The project took three and a half years, done in De Lay’s spare time away from his "day job."

But he does need some help in the design.

“I’m not an artist. I could make the sculpture if Chip draws it. But I am not an artist.”

“Chip” in this case is, of course, Chip Foose, the modern-day metal shaping Michelangelo.

“Luc De Lay is a metal shaper I’ve been working with since the early ‘90s,” Foose told K.C. Mathieu from ‘Fast N’ Loud!’ “He and his (late) father and his brother (Marc) they own Marcel’s Custom Metal. Luc always wanted to build a car for himself. I did a few sketches with him, worked with him, built the buck, covered it with duct tape. Located the holes for the hood, the side scoops. He, of course, did 99% of all the work, and it was just a pleasure to be able to work with Luc and create this car.”

“There’s nothing new on this,” said Luc. “I look at this corner and I like this corner-look from a Jaguar, and that hood scoop—I have a model from a 250 Testarossa Ferrari and I’m gonna make mine look as close to that as I can. Everything on it is… nothing is new but the way I put it all together, it’s an original.”

foose de lay roadster from sema
Looks like it’ll be fun to drive, too.

And it’s not going to be a garage queen, either. The hand-fabricated one-off body sports a General Motors small-block LS3 V8 with BORLA Intake mated to a Tremec 6-speed manual routed to a Winters Quick Change rear end. It rides on a 4-wheel independent suspension with 4-wheel disc brakes and cast-aluminum knock off wheels.

“It’s got 27 miles on it but I only got my license plate Friday. I haven’t had it finished very long. But it’s not a show car—it’s a driver.”

So look for it on the roads of SoCal, and try to pick out all the influences you can see in it.

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