Under The Hood

A three-hour tour (to Chicago)

This Sunday, Online Editor Matt Gergeni and I hit the highway and drove down to Chicago to visit the world-famous Fran Roxas in his natural habitat – his Chicago-area restoration shop. Our mission? To photograph George Albright’s Duesenberg sedan, which has appeared in more movies than any other Duesenbergs. Any Duesenberg fan will tell that Duesenbergs have appeared in a lot of movies, so this is quite a statement. Albright’s sedan has quite a story behind its resurrection in Fran Roxas’ hands not once, but twice, and I am very excited to write the story for a future issue of Old Cars Weekly.

Roxas is probably a familiar name to most car hobbyists, especially those who like prewar cars. Many Pebble Beach-winning cars have been restored under Roxas’ care. What’s more impressive is this collector is, literally, a coachbuilder, and has built many bodies for Classic car chassis from scratch in the old-world way. Think Duesenberg torpedo phaeton bodies and coachwork originally drawn by the Fleetwood studio but never ordered by a customer for a Cadillac chassis. Google his name and you’ll see some of his work. I also pictured two of the 1934 V-16 Cadillacs sporting the Fleetwood coachwork he created in my Cadillac book, “Cadillac: 100 Years of Innovation.”

Roxas doesn’t just restore Classics – he also works on postwar metal. Or, in the case of Roxas customer Joe Bortz, postwar fiberglass. The trip to photograph Albright’s Duesenberg was especially good since we were able to meet up with Joe Bortz, a famous car collector in the Chicago area who collects concept cars. Bortz met up with me and Matt while we were at Roxas’s shop to show us the progress on his 1955 Biscayne concept car. Bortz pulled this and several other GM concept cars out of Warhoops salvage yard in the 1980s and 1990s, but the Biscayne was probably in the worst shape of them all. The car was, literally, stacked in pieces, and he had to excavate many of its pieces out of the dirt. Bortz never thought the car would be put back together, but it’s in Roxas shop and it’s a three-dimensional car once again, thanks to Roxas.

Bortz’ Biscayne has been featured in Old Cars Weekly several times, but watch for more progress updates on this gem in the future, as well as a full feature on the Duesey in an upcoming issue. In the meantime, enjoy these pics from our visit and be sure to check out Matt’s video from the day of our visit.

Duesey pics courtesy of Joe Bortz.


Pic below of me in Joe Bortz’ Biscayne.

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