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1959 Hagemann Sutton Special Roadster

  • Chassis Number: 1
Jack Hagemann is a well-known California body designer and car builder whose metal-working skills were self-taught. His career began when he built his own midget racecar in the late 1930s. Racing was his passion and to support that, he built bodies for other midgets and later sprint cars as well. After he got married, he stopped racing at the request of his wife, but his love of racing did not end. Jack was always a fan of midgets and enjoyed building cars and working on cars for his many friends. During this time, he met George Bignotti who later recruited him to work on his Indianapolis racecars.

After WWII, with his stint at Mare Island ended, Jack went into business building racecars and bodies in a shop behind his home in Castro Valley and later at a separate shop in San Leandro. When he moved to Alamo he built another shop behind his house where he continued building and repairing aluminum bodies until a few years ago.

During the many years he spent bending and forming aluminum into automotive works of art, his magic touched many different types of racing: Midgets, Sprint Cars, Indy Cars, Bonneville Streamliners, Hot Rods, and Sportscars all received the Hagemann touch. Hot rod airplanes are not to be left off that list, many P51 Mustangs had their wings bobbed and cowls reworked by Jack Hagemann.

Among his many accomplishments were some beautiful sportscar bodies for racecars of the 1950s and 1960s. In the early 1950s he built the Leson Simca and in 1951 built the David MGTD, followed by the Gillespie MGTD in 1952. Chuck Tatum was building his Tatum Special in 1953 and asked jack to build the body. Tatum and a friend came up with a design that caused Jack to change his decal to read 'Built by Jack Hagemann' instead of 'Designed and Built by Jack Hagemann.'

In 1954 he built the Barneson-Hagemann Chrysler; in 1955 he was commissioned to build a special similar to a Jaguar C-Type, but using a GMC engine....that Hagemann GMC is now run with a Jag engine in Vintage events. In 1958 he built a Scarab-type chassis for Wally Taylor that was never bodied. He also built beautiful polished aluminum bodies for the Webster USRRC cars in 1963. His favorite of all the cars he built is a handcrafted RSK-Type roadster with a tube frame, aluminum body, and Porsche running gear that he built for himself in 1985 and still owns.

In 1958 Wally Taylor traveled to Southern California to visit the Reventlow team shops anxiously awaiting the promised customer Scarabs. After racing Austin-Healeys in Northern California for several years, he wanted to step up to a faster car and decided that a Scarab was what he wanted. But when Reventlow's Formula 1 effort started, it canceled plans to build customers' cars.

So, Wally commissioned his friend Jack Hagemann to build a car based on the Scarab design. The chassis was built using the same style DeDion rear suspension and Halibrand quick-change differential with Troutman and Barnes side covers, Jaguar XK150 brake rotors with Girling calipers were used on the front, specially made disc brakes with Girling calipers purchased from Bill Devin, the same as used on his Devin SS, were fitted inboard on the rear. Monroe shocks and springs finished off the chassis. In 1958 new Halibrand knock-off wheels were bought for the car. A Chevy 283 fitted with Hilborn injection was mated to an early Corvette 4-speed transmission.

The chassis was never completed to a 100-percent ready level and before Hagemann finished the chassis and started on the planned aluminum body, Wally suffered a financial setback and the project was stalled.

Butch Gilbert likes to think about his restoration projects for a little while before undertaking them. In this case, about 23 years!

The Sutton body had never been fitted to the Hagemann chassis, so the first task was to determine exactly what had to be done and exactly how to do it so as to retain the unique character of each. The body had to be shortened by 8 inches to fit the chassis, and the rear fin was retained but now provides an air inlet for the inboard disc brakes. Sections of the chassis were reinforced and fittings for attaching the body had to be designed and fabricated.

As completed, the car is just about what Wally Taylor had envisioned nearly 50 years ago, a special that is very similar to the Scarabs and Chaparrals of the late 1950s. It is truly a shame that Wally passed on before he could see the car he had envisioned in 1959.

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Chassis #: 1