By the '80s fiberglass bodies were being produced to cover the Ford, Chevy, Willys, and Mopar lines of cars and even "phantom" bodies were being produced, cars that never existed but resembled cars of the '30s. We'll be kind here and say there was a vast range of design talent in the phantom body world and one need only attend a rod run to realize many of them were not particularly successful. But the fiberglass bodies of established cars like the '32-34 Ford three-window, roadster, and Victoria were a huge hit and most of them remain on the road today. Outlaw Performance had the Chevy market covered with their '34 three-window coupe and sedan. They also produce a very nice '40-41 Willys. The fiberglass bodies proved to be so popular that many owners of original bodies would affix decals or badges to their cars with the slogan, "Steel is Real," which at the time seemed reasonable enough since they wanted the world to know they had started their project with an original, 50-something-year-old body.

Around this same time, rumors spread of reproduction steel bodies and frankly it seemed unbelievable at the time. It began slowly with the Model A roadster body in 1982, followed by the Model A roadster pickup, both from Brookville Roadsters. Then a company called Experi-Metal produced a reproduction '32 Chevrolet roadster complete with fenders, running boards, and a hood and grille shell. These cars were not cheap, but they were brand-new metal and the argument was a simple one. By the time you find an original '32 Chevy and pay to have it repaired, it will cost you the same or more as simply buying a new steel body. Of course this same argument applied to the reproduction fiberglass body as well, only the savings were more dramatic due to the lower cost of the fiberglass body.

The steel reproduction floodgates really opened when the steel Deuce roadster body was introduced. Some of the most popular steel reproduction cars, like the Dearborn Deuce, are not faithful to the original car (which technically would put them in the "phantom" category) but the liberties taken on the body were so discreet it is difficult to tell the differences between this car and the original Deuce. Then Brookville introduced their steel Deuce roadster and three-window coupe bodies that have some structural differences and improvements, but the body panels are all faithful reproductions of the original Ford cars. Steve's Auto Restorations offers '33-34 coupes and roadsters and Kelvin Waddington's Australian Ute company builds beautiful '33-34 Ford phaetons and '28-29 Ford closed cab pickups, all in steel. And finally this year Bob Drake introduced the all-new, all-steel '40 coupe; a mammoth undertaking that has produced yet another great steel body. (At the time of this writing United Pacific Industries is preparing for the introduction of a '32 five-window.)

Remember that little badge on the dashboard of that steel Deuce roadster in 1982, "Steel is Real"? Well, that same moniker is now attached to hundreds of steel cars that, well, are not actually "real." While we applaud the advent of the steel body and feel that it has contributed to the street rodding and restoration hobby in much the same way as the fiberglass body, the fact remains that both the new steel and the fiberglass cars are reproduction bodies, the only thing that differs is the material. The "Steel is Real" battle cry is a bit of a stretch for repro-bodies but there is no denying that reproduction steel has become the body of choice for those who can afford the initial buy-in price.