The Shark Shop’s Original 1938 Graham Coupe

Nothing represents the Art Deco period in automobiles like the 1938 Graham “Sharknose” sedan. By this time the Art Deco designs were focused on sleek lines with less ornamental. Graham’s Spirit in Motion captured that philosophy like no other form from that era.

Absolutely everything on this car has been modified, remade, or created for the car but for 2 pieces: the headlight glass on each side                – Mike Markin

Unfortunately Graham-Paige Motors were destined for a rough road ahead. Less than 10 years later the company transferred all of their automotive assets to Kaiser-Fraiser. Graham-Paige was done as automakers.

The 1938 Graham Model 97 was controversial when released. It was different with the protruding nose, grill slats that slanted backwards, chrome strips that began at the nose and continued back to the rear of the car, incorporating the door handles.

The design was vastly contrasting to anything else at the time. After the company’s demise during the rebound period of the post war, the Grahams began to get the appreciation from car enthusiasts that was overdue.

This is how the project began.

Markin’s Shark

“I have always had an affinity for pre-war fat fender cars. So, when I decided to build a custom street rod, it came natural to choose one from the mid to late thirties,” said car owner and builder Mike Markin. “In my mind that was the start of the creative stage of the automotive industry.  In my desire to find the “right” car for the project I wanted to focus on a unique American car built with art deco styling.” Markin found the right car in the 1938 Graham Model 97.

Graham-Paige never manufactured a Model 97 coupe in 1938 but if they had, it probably would have looked something like Markin finished with.

“There were many manufacturers building art deco styled cars from which to choose,” said Markin. The Lincoln Zephyrs, Chrysler Air Flows, and the Cord were some of my favorites.” He acknowledges that the Ford’s, especially the deuces, and to some extent the Chevys also played a part in Deco auto design. “But in my search for something truly unique and oozing with art deco styling, I found the 1938 Graham Model 97 to be to focus of my project.”

The Objective

When the Model 97 was released, it was only available in a four-door sedan. A two-door coupe was planned but never actually produced. Markin believes that a Model 97 coupe would have been overwhelmingly popular with hot rodders. He decided to make the coupe that the company did not. “I wanted to keep some of unique stock designs, most notably the front window point, fender lines, headlights and the tail lights,” he said. “Since there was no coupe to work with, I decided to design and craft one from a 4 door sedan.”

Many enthusiasts would balk at taking an rare car and modifying it, but Markin labored to maintain the distinct lines and curves that made the Sharknose the unique creation that it was. The result is simply … breathtaking. We wish that Graham had produced this coupe in 1938. It would have changed the styling game for decades.


“Absolutely everything on this car has been modified, remade, or created for the car but for 2 pieces – the headlight glass on each side,” added Markin. The roofline was shortened by 26 inches which altered the fade-away into more of a coupe-style rear roofline, integrating frenched taillights into the fade-away. The bustle trunk was completely eliminated. Both rear doors were eliminated and the front doors were stretched by four-inches and converted into suicide opening. The iconic hood was pancaked two-inches, and restyled removing the top two grille bars. New trim that blends a continuous flow with the hood, grille, and belt line was handmade and added. Frenched headlights and bezels were redesigned and added to the fenders.

The original grille and pan were scrapped in favor of a custom fabricated piece.

The original grille and pan were completely restyled to more accurately follow the natural lines of the car. Both fender openings were scalloped and the fender bottoms were shortened by two-inches. The body was channeled four-inches with the original running boards removed.

The doors were then rolled under so they flowed into the rockers. New quarter panels were fabricated, along with the fabricated fade-away with 3D printed taillight that is designed to match the trim and car. A rear roll pan was fabricated with integrated exhaust ports. PPG Bordeaux Reserve paint was the chosen hue.

The exterior is highlighted with a set of one-off wheels with Markin’s shark logo from EVOD Industries. Inside the car is a redefined custom art deco interior with custom steering wheel, dash and Classic Instrument gauges with Shark logos. The dash is from a 1937 Lincoln Zephyr that has been massaged and custom fit. Garrett leather surrounds the driver and passenger.

Inside the engine compartment.

The engine bay is completely restyled in art deco with a polished Dart 540ci big-block Chevy. A 700R4 transmission hangs behind the massive engine. The engine is topped with an Atomic EFI from MSD with a custom air cleaner. A custom Heart Throb Exhaust system completes the deal.  Hidden wiring techniques were utilized throughout, and all of this sits on a handmade Art Morrison Chassis with Jaguar suspension.

Goodguys PPG Nationals

We spotted Markin’s amazing creation at the Goodguys 20th PPG Nationals at Columbus as a finalist in the Street Rod of the Year competition. After talking with Markin, we decided that this Graham set out to define a real goal; design and manufacture a coupe that was representative of the sedan model for the Graham’s 1938 model year. With over 200 body modifications to complete that dream, we feel that Markin’s Shark completed the vision, and in our eyes, this was an award-winning car build.

The full build sheet for Markin’s Shark can be viewed by clicking here.

It is hard to believe that this one-of-a-kind custom started out this way.

Shark’s Awards And Honors:

Detroit Autorama – February 28, 2016

  • Pirelli Great 8 Finalist

Chicago World of Wheels – March 6, 2016 :

  • Select 6 Finalist
  • Top 20 Award
  • 2016 Championship Auto Show Cup
  • Outstanding Custom Rod
  • First Place – Radical Custom Rod Coupe

Cleveland I-X Piston Power Autorama – March 20, 2016:

  • 2016 Summit Gold Cup
  • Best Rod
  • First Place – Radical Custom Rod  Coupe

17th Annual PPG Syracuse Nationals  – July 15 -17, 2016

  • Winfield  Select 6 Finalist

Cincinnati Cavalcade of Customs – January 6 – 8, 2017

  • 2017 Squires Cup
  • Best Rod
  • First Place – Radical Custom Rod Coupe

Kansas City World of Wheels – February 10 – 12, 2017

  • 2017 Rod-Tiques Cup
  • Best Rod
  • First Place – Radical Custom Rod Coupe

Darryl Starbird’s 53rd Annual Rod and Custom Show – February 17 – 19th 2017

  • Go for the Gold Winner

ISCA Championship Finals – March 4, 2017:

  • ISCA Grand Champion
  • ISCA International Rod Class Champion

Minneapolis World of Wheels – March 17 – 19, 2017

  • Best Rod
  • First Place – Radical Custom Rod Coupe

Winnipeg Piston Rings World of Wheels – March 24 – 26, 2017

  • 2017 Maple Leaf Cup
  • Best Rod
  • First Place – Radical Custom Rod Coupe

Summit Racing Atlanta Motor Speedway – April 22 & 23, 2017

  • Show Stopper Award (Non-Competition Event)

Columbus 20th Good Guys Nationals – July 8, 2017

  • Street Rod of the Year Finalist

About the author

Bobby Kimbrough

Bobby grew up in the heart of Illinois, becoming an avid dirt track race fan which has developed into a life long passion. Taking a break from the Midwest dirt tracks to fight evil doers in the world, he completed a full 21 year career in the Marine Corps.
Read My Articles

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