Wednesday, March 04, 2009

"Simply Red" By Our Guy Bob

Bob is our brother-in-law, and I thought this was a pretty cool story about him. He completely customized the 1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II you see above, and he's brilliant with customizing Harley's, too. I'll take some more pictures when we visit Karyn's sister Kimberly, and Bob, in April. 

And if you want to know about the six degrees of separation between Karyn and me, there's another story here, too. When I was in my just barely legal twenties, I was a reporter for The Daily Review, the same newspaper that published the article below. My "beat" was "The Women's Page" (that's how long ago it was---now it's called Lifestyle or Your World or Whatevah!) 

I spent my day writing engagement and wedding announcements. Anyway, the Daily Review owned a small weekly paper in the Newark/Fremont called The Argus. Karyn's family subscribed to The Argus (and still do). At that paper, they actually made me the Women's Editor. I'm sure Karyn would have read the paper, but she was probably still in kindergarten! Decades later, we meet, and the rest as they say, is history. Who would ever in a million years think I'd learn to write articles for the Weddings & Engagements section in the same town where the girl I would later marry lived?!? (OK, let's be honest, who on earth would have thought two girls could ever marry!)

But back to Bob. (Sorry, Bob, but hey--we have a love of girls and cars in common!) Bob is a very cool guy---No he's the epitome of cool, and his 10-car garage with nearly as many bikes and cars in various stages of ready are testaments to his talent. There's this one vintage '56 Mercedes....heh. 

OK, now for the story published this week.

By Eric Kurhi
The Daily Review

Bob Cecchini manipulates vintage Detroit steel the way a sculptor molds a lump of clay, working deftly to turn raw material into a work of art. This artist's tools are a bit different: a cutting torch and welder, a garage full of machinery and a full-size auto lift. It's in this workshop that old cars begin their metamorphosis and rejuvenation.

Tops are chopped. Frames are cut. Fenders and fins are tweaked and stretched, and the process usually involves an injection of youth serum in the form of a high-powered engine and state-of-the-art gauges, suspension and electronics.

Cecchini doesn't draw out elaborate plans. "You have to change things as you go along," he said.

Behold his latest creation: "Simply Red," a 1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II that first rolled off the production line when Cecchini, now 69, was a teenager.

A Mark II was always a dream machine. Only 3,000 were built, and the $10,000 coupe was the epitome of luxury, competing with top-of-the-line Cadillacs and even Rolls-Royces. It was far from an Everyman's car, unless that man was Elvis Presley or Frank Sinatra, both of whom owned a Mark II.

But with Cecchini's modifications, it's truly one of a kind. The low and long brandywine-red coupe has a classic yet modern look, but vintage car aficionados will instantly realize there's something missing: the signature spare-tire trunk hump that
has always been mandatory on a Lincoln Continental.

"Everyone said you can't take that off," said Cecchini, a Fairview resident. "I said that's the first thing that's got to go." That's the rebel in Bob. That's what got him into modifying cars in the first place.

He's been a hot rodder since his teen years, and participated in his first car show in 1962 with a supercharged convertible Chevy. He was doing a lot of work customizing motorcycles in the 1970s, even building a wild-looking ride for soul legend Isaac Hayes.

In 1979, one of his choppers was named the second-best custom vehicle in the nation. That designation included cars, which didn't sit so well with some of the four-wheel customizers.

"The guys were mad at me for winning with a motorcycle," he said. "One of them told me, 'Anyone can build a motorcycle.' I thought, well, what's the difference?

"I was fine building motorcycles until (car customizers) got funny with me," he said. "That made me think, 'Alright, I'll show you how to build a car!'"

He literally went for the gold with the "Golden Nugget," a '57 Chevy that was the reigning champ of the auto show circuit for years, winning 57 best-in-show titles and International Grand Champion honors across the nation.

He eventually sold the Nugget, which he estimates would be worth about $800,000 today.

Simply Red is more subdued, but since he finished it in July it has already won two awards — at last summer's Good Guys meet, in the "Coolest Custom" and "Slick and Smooth" categories. Cecchini is hoping for more wins at the San Francisco Rod, Custom and Motorcycle show at the Cow Palace in Daly City this weekend. But unlike the Nugget, which never put rubber on the road, he's been taking Simply Red out for trips near his house in Fairview, as well as his former San Leandro stomping grounds.

"It handles fantastic, like a sports car," he said. "I took it to my 50th class reunion. Everyone else was driving a Toyota."

See? I told you Bob was cool. Kudos to our brother-in-law!


azteclady said...

Wow, that is cool indeed! Go, Bob!

Thank you for sharing, TT!

Occasional Guest Blogger said...

More fun for you car enthusiasts, via one of David's friends.

kuhnryan18 said...

thats my grandpa, he kicks ass.

Jeff said...

My Cadillac buddy bought Bob's chopped/purple 49 Cadillac fastback custom in 2002, first shown at the Goodguys meet in Pleasanton. After a nerve racking drive up to Washington with bum/pulling brakes etc, he got it sorted out. Moral to the story! No matter how good these guys are proclaimed to be, test drive it first before laying out the big bucks.

Ian said...

I am a member of the Mark II forum. We are updating our Registry with every known Mark IIs. It would be great if we could get Bob's VIN of his lovely customized Mark II. or email me please: ian "at"

Ian said...

If you feel you have to remove this comment by all means go ahead ... however could you do me the courtesy of an email to ian "at" My 1956 Continental Mark II can be seen here: Thanks. Ian