Today's top customs and street rods arguably wear more scratch-built parts than ever. From custom frames to hand-hammered bodies, many go beyond the realm of mere "customs" or "rods" to become handcrafted, coachbuilt creations.

Nowhere is this level of craftsmanship more apparent than in the competition for the top two indoor car show awards-the Don Ridler Memorial Award at the Detroit Autorama, and the America's Most Beautiful Roadster award at the Grand National Roadster Show. These honors are given to the owners of the finest vehicles, but are actually earned by the talented craftsmen who design and build the cars. Only a few names repeatedly come up in build credits for Ridler and AMBR winners; Marcel DeLey's has probably been the most frequent in the past decade.

Marcel works out of his Custom Metal Shaping business in Corona, California, with his two sons, Marc and Luc. They specialize in scratch-building fenders, hoods, and entire bodies, and then turn their raw-metal creations over to the build teams that finish them. To date, the DeLeys have built three Ridler winners (2002, 2003, and Ken Reister's 2005 winner, Impression), six AMBR winners (1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2006), plus many other well-known vehicles.

For all the high-profile cars they build, the DeLeys themselves are pretty low profile. This might be the first time you've read about them, as some builders like to keep their "ace-in-the-hole" craftsmen a secret. When we visited the shop recently, Marcel was starting on a small project: recreating a bumper from a rare vintage car. We're not going to tell you what the bumper is for until the end of this story because, quite frankly, it doesn't matter. What does matter is the process, and we thought some of you budding fabricators would like to see how it was done. Maybe you can even give it the ol' college try and use similar techniques to build a custom bumper-or grille, or whatever-on one of your next projects. Follow along and see how a master does it.