Retro Rumblings – The Ohio Look
Credit Barry Lobeck as the father of hot rodding’s Ohio Look. What is the Ohio Look? Boiled down to its essentials, it’s an age-old recipe which includes an aggressive rake, bigs and littles, solid body colors, and a healthy motor. Sounds easy, right?
Easy or not, the late Barry Lobeck mastered this certain hot rod aesthetic, which has prevailed for over 50 years throughout the Midwest. Before him, the Choppers Hot Rod Club of Cleveland established the Ohio River Valley’s early hot rod legacy, and it was a strong one. Though the Buckeye State had plenty of rodders already established when Lobeck came along in the early-’70s, he had the drive, the style, the brash-yet-hilarious personality, and the connections to really make inroads into the national scene. He was not shy
Known to many as the “Lord of Low,” Lobeck had his coming out party in 1974 when his bitchin’ black ’40 coupe pulled into event gates that summer and subsequently onto magazine covers. It generated substantial buzz. Black lacquer with hot orange and red flames with polished American wheels tends to stand out in your mind no matter what era you’re in. That car not only put Lobeck in the spotlight, it further validated the Midwest’s place in the hot rod landscape.
When the resto rod scene was thriving in the late-’70s and early-’80s, Lobeck didn’t follow. He stuck to what he knew. Lobeck proved he could stance a Deuce roadster to perfection. The maroon ’32 Ford highboy roadster he built after the ’40 coupe carried the region and ‘The Look’ into the ’80s and beyond. It was such an influential hot rod, SoCal kingpins Pete Chapouris and Jim Jacobs posted up at an event in the late-’70s to snap pics of Jim’s coupe, Pete’s “California Kid” and Barry’s deuce roadster all together. Elite company to say the least.
The maroon highboy had a huge impact on Steve Coonan of The Rodder’s Journal, who purchased the car from Barry in 1980. “I drove to Columbus with Pete and Jake one year for an event and we stopped at Barry’s house in Springfield,” Coonan recalled. “The car floored me. Barry told me it was for sale. That roadster brilliantly captured the combination of a traditional look along with elements of the current scene at that time. The 10-inch ET III wheels in back and skinny Halibrands in front, Firestone dirt track tires, a Model A rear spring, and the Halibrand quick change rearend was a killer combination.
“When the opportunity came that day at Barry’s, I bought it,” Coonan continued. “I flew home to California to get all my money then flew back to Springfield and drove it home to Southern California. Over the years, I put 80,000 miles on that car. I wrenched on it quite a bit over the years and it taught me how to work on hot rods. But I never messed with ‘The Look’. I kept it as Barry had it. Being in my 20s and having that car in SoCal driving on the coast highway was so bitchin’. I loved cruising the PCH from Huntington Beach up to Long Beach then back.” Coonan also drove it to Bonneville three times as well as trips to the dry lakes.
When the street rod scene turned to fat fenders and Easter egg colors as the ’80s progressed, Lobeck wasn’t having any of it. Barry continued building early Fords stanced to perfection with strong V8 power. Interiors were well done but it was the rake that mattered most. Lobeck kept the colors simple and traditional: black, red, yellow, blue, white, brown, and green. Take it or leave it.
‘The Look’ was the hallmark of Barry and wife Ginny’s two hot rod enterprises, which operated until Barry’s death in 2011. Lobeck’s V8 Shop built turn-key Ohio Look hot rods and later, Just a Hobby turned out ground-hugging chassis.
Dan Tesar and Mark Mindzora worked for Barry and Ginny for many years. “With Barry, it was always about wheels and tires” Tesar remembers. “That was his biggest deal. How he sat in the car was a really important to him, too. Looking back, Barry was an awesome boss. He was always good to me,” Tesar said. “If you got into an argument with him, he was the best at letting it go. He never held a grudge after a heated conversation. I really liked working for him.”
Lobeck’s impact on other speed demons in the region was palpable. A tight-knit group of Ohio hot rodders happily carry on ‘The Look’s legacy. Leading the charge is former Lobeck employee Dan Tesar and partner Larry Brunkala, who opened Precision Hot Rods and Fabrication outside Cleveland to carry on what Barry started. Mark Mindzora came along, too. They’re busy building traditional hot rods and pumping out chassis under Tesar’s watchful eye in the shop while Brunkala handles the business operations. The shop serves as a gathering point for the Ohio Look faithful. Bob Oney, Chris Staneck, Kevin Roberts and his father Garey, Fred Warren, and legions of others stay close and carry the torch.
Barry’s son Derek is flattered by the region’s diligence to carry on his father’s look and legacy. “Dad always told me when I was growing up if a hot rod wasn’t going 100mph sitting still, it doesn’t count. It’s all about the stance,” Derek said. “When someone mentions my dad, the ’40 coupe and the maroon Deuce roadster stand out. As he got into professionally building hot rods with his crew, he made everyone’s dream come true when it came to a ’32 Ford, that’s for sure.”
Each year at the Goodguys PPG Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, Derek selects the Barry Lobeck Memorial Award in honor of his father. As you might imagine, he looks for a car going 100mph sitting still.