Note: This is a multi-part story on the 1952 Tobin BMW 328 Special. Click here to review all articles in this series.
In our never-ending search for this history of wonderful and interesting fiberglass sports cars, the path we follow is circuitous – at best. And the less predictable the experience and more surprises we get along the way – the better 🙂
That’s exactly what happened when we set out to research what we thought then was the “fiberglass bodied” BMW 328 Tobin Special. By the second article we had found out that the body was made from aluminum but had a great story in terms of early American bodied specials. What a great trip this has been so far!
And now we are onto the third article about this car – and a fourth one is in the planning. I hope you enjoy the road less traveled as much as I do.
Off we go….
Kelley DiGioia Finds Forgotten Fiberglass
As for “the next step in our story,” a maxim applies which is the following:
“I’d rather be lucky than good”
Fortune followed my (fiberglass) footsteps when I heard from one of the family members of the DiGioia family back in August of last year. If you recall, it was members of the “DiGioia family” were the ones who built the body for the Tobin BMW 328 Special back in the early ’50s.
Here’s the e-mail I received from Kelley DiGioia – grandson of one of the builders:
My name is Kelley DiGioia and my father is Christopher DiGioia. His father was Carmine (Carmen) DiGioia and his uncle, Carmine’s brother, was John DiGioia. I’m contacting you because I may have some information for you regarding the car in the article you wrote about EJ Tobin’s “BMW Special”
I received a letter from a great aunt (Carmine’s sister) that I recently connected with for the first time, and the letter mentioned a car my grandfather and great uncle John rebuilt years ago for EJ Tobin, and it made me start googling.
I always knew about my grandfather and cars, vague details here and there, and have always had this one article framed in one room of my house or another growing up, but it never read it thoroughly, it never really grabbed me because I’m not what you would call “a car person”.
I’m including this article for you to read, because I believe it may be the very car you’re inquiring about in this article. Your article was one of the first results that came up when I googled “EJ Tobin BMW” looking for further information, and after reading both the newspaper article I had about my grandfather and yours about the 328 fiberglass bodied special, I really do believe it’s the same car.
The cars look the same to me, and the article below states this car was entered in the Long Island Bridgehampton (“last Saturday” – but my article isn’t dated) – one of the photo captions in your article is of the BMW Special at the Bridgehampton.
If it’s not the same car, I apologize for wasting your time, but I’m hoping if it is, we can maybe work together to find out more information about it – I know it would mean a lot to my father and his side of the family if I found out anything more about the car or it’s whereabouts.
My aunt mentioned it may be in a museum in Germany, but I’ll tell you more about her letter if you think it is the same car. Like the article will tell you, my grandfather and great uncle rebuilt this car for EJ Tobin. If it is indeed the same car in the photos you included in your article, I don’t know what the original body was – fiberglass or what, but what they rebuilt it to was not fiberglass. The rebuilt chassis was tubular steel and then my great-uncle made a new shell of aluminum.
I’ve included a lot of information and I don’t know if any of it will help or interest you, but I hope to hear from you soon either way.
Thanks for your time,
Kelley…. Thanks for contacting me, and what a great newspaper article this is – with a photo of the car as well! And yes….it is the same car 🙂
Let’s extend what we know and share the article with you that Kelley sent to me.
White Custom Built Car By DiGioias Wins Plaudits At Long Island Races
(Newspaper Name, Year, And Date: Unknown)
The story goes that Wallingford just missed having the Henry Ford motor car company plant constructed here a few years ago. Well, now the void has been filled with the DiGioia brothers. Not in the Ford class by any stretch of the imagination, the DiGioias build cars such as the one shown above.
They will never be in assembly line production because every part and curve of the sleek bodies is all made by hand. The car itself is a BMW, vintage 1939, originally made in Germany. Mr. E. J. Tobin of Westchester, a nephew of Maurice J. Tobin, Secretary of Labor, brought the old chassis to the DiGioias garage on North Colony street, known as the Auto Center, in January of this year.
The car was completely stripped and the only parts of the old vehicle still in evidence are the wheels and the case of the motor. Carmen DiGioia, the motor expert, completely rebuilt the motor, polishing all the interior surfaces to a bright finish. John DiGioia, the body expert, framed a new chassis from tubular steel and made the shell out of aluminum. Louis DiGioia, the third member of the company, assisted both boys and also acts as public relations man for the local concern.
The Tobin BMW entered the Bridgehampton, Long Island, road race last Saturday. This race is to sports car lovers the Indianapolis of their class. The car itself was completed last Wednesday and with Mr. Tobin driving was pacing well in the race. Unfortunately motor trouble developed, nevertheless it was generally conceded by race officials that the freshman car might possibly have finished first.
In spite of losing the race the DiGioia built car was definitely the hit of the Saturday affair. Sports car enthusiasts and experts in the field crowded about the Wallingford product admiring its beautiful lines. The white and blue BMW was described by television star Dave Garroway as a “beautiful sight to behold.”
Until Garroway met the DiGioias he was convinced that the car was built in Europe. This car is not the first that the DeGioias have to their credit, but it is considered one of the classiest. Carmen DiGioia stated, “If you have a foreign car of the BMW size and want to have a little improvement made on it, we can do it for a mere $4500.”
Additional Comments From Kelley DiGioia:
After reviewing the article, Kelley shared the following note with me:
Funny enough, not sure if I mentioned this to you, but in this photo that you originally posted in the first article about the car: the man all the way to the right, leaning up against the tree (standing behind the man in the light colored shirt), is my grandfather Carmine!
Thanks so much to Kelley DiGioia for tracking us down and helping document the car with additional information. As much as we love fiberglass here, we appreciate hand-crafted design and little known stories even more – thanks to Kelley for making this possible 🙂
And….for you sports and race car aficionados out there….wait ‘till I show you what Kelley shared with me for our Forgotten Fiberglass audience in a future story. You will hardly believe your eyes…
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…
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