Dennis DeVeau traces his obsession with cool vehicles back to early childhood, when he spent countless hours building models and playing with toy cars and anything at all with a motor in it. “Even back then,” he recalls, “when I was only 10 or 11 years old, I knew that one day I would build real versions of my favorite models.” His favorites included a T-bucket, a ’33 Ford sedan delivery, and at the very top of the list, an iconic ’57 Chevy.
The T-bucket came first, with DeVeau building an old-school hot rod from Ford’s ubiquitous Model T. The native New Yorker was 28 years old when he tackled the T-bucket build and what he lacked in experience he more than made up for in terms of energy, enthusiasm, and willingness to learn. “That was a great learning experience,” he points out, “and a lot of fun. It prepared me for the subsequent projects I would get involved with, and I loved every minute of it.”
After the T-bucket, DeVeau had the knowledge and confidence to tackle a more complex project. He bought a somewhat sad looking 1933 Ford sedan delivery and with a lot of time, patience, money, and help from friends he built a Pro Street show-stopper. In a harbinger of things to come, it featured a custom chassis, exquisite fit and finish, and a fuel-injected big-block Chevy powerplant.
DeVeau firmly believes in driving what he owns regardless of how nice or how radical it is. True to his convictions, he drove the ’33 Ford everywhere. All told, he clocked over 33,000 miles driving the custom sedan delivery to shows in Columbus, Indianapolis, Charlotte, and throughout New York state. “My ’33 Ford was pretty far out there, but it was still comfortable, and with Chevy power it was very reliable so I didn’t hesitate to get in it and drive 800 or 1,000 miles at a time.”
Though DeVeau loved the T-bucket and ’33 sedan delivery his dream car remained a full-bore Pro Street ’57 Chevrolet two-door hardtop. After going through all of the trials and tribulations of building the Fords he had a very good idea of how much expertise, time, and money it would take to transmit his vision for the ’57 into reality. By 2002, the second of his two daughters was finished with college and DeVeau was ready to take the plunge. Following a referral from a friend he bought a customized ’57 to serve as his starting point. “It already had a full chassis and the body was mounted on it and everything looked decent to the naked eye, but it had some major problems,” DeVeau tells us. “I brought the car to Tommy V at Super Pro Performance and he was able to accurately measure it, which revealed that the framerails were crooked. Of course, with crooked framerails that meant the rearend was also crooked. In fact, it meant the chassis was actually junk, so we had to either start from scratch or abandon the whole project.”
DeVeau decided to start from scratch, but initially only planned to build a mild street car, with a moderate big-block engine and automatic transmission. “My first thought was to build a ’57 that I could comfortably drive anywhere, something that was cool but that I could literally use every day. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to go beyond that. I already had a perfect driver with the ’33 sedan delivery that I drive all over the place, so I decided to go all out and build something that I had wanted for a long time, a really badass ’57.” With that goal in mind, DeVeau contracted with Super Pro Performance to build a new chassis using only the best parts. Tommy V sourced a new front subframe from Chassis Engineering. Two-inch drop spindles and tubular A-arms that were also made by Chassis Engineering went up front. Together, the custom subframe and drop spindles lower the front of the car a total of 8 inches from its stock height. Steering the front Weld Racing wheel mounted Goodyear 205/75x15 tires comes courtesy of a manual rack-and-pinion system.
To complement the new front chassis and suspension, Tommy V fabricated his own rear framerails using a fixture to ensure that they were straight as an arrow. He also fabricated a custom four-link rear suspension setup with a wishbone locator that lowered the car’s overall height in the rear a total of 7 inches. A custom-crafted Ford 9-inch rear axle assembly with 3.89:1 gears channels power to the drive wheels. To ensure durability, Tommy V used mega-duty Moser 40-spline axles. For the desired combination of reliability, comfort, and firm handling, QA1 springs and single-adjustable shocks were installed at all four corners. A Super Pro Performance custom-made 8.50-certified rollcage stiffens the entire chassis up while providing that added measure of safety necessary in a car with such tremendous performance.
Tommy V knew the car would be a heavyweight so he was careful to spec out a brake setup from Wilwood that could haul it down in a hurry. Up front, four-piston calipers clamp down on 11.5-inch rotors and in the back similarly sized four-piston calipers put the squeeze on 11-inch rotors. The car’s dual-reservoir master cylinder was also made by Wilwood.
For motive power, DeVeau turned to McBetts Racing Engines in Holbrook, New York. McBetts has been in business for nearly 40 years and is widely known and respected for its circle track, drag racing, road racing, and high-performance street engine builds. McBetts’ Chris Opitz started with a fully CNC machined Brodix 8B 1000 aluminum block. Into that he installed a forged Crower crankshaft, billet steel connecting rods, and forged JE aluminum pistons. The 4.500-inch bore and 4.375-inch stroke yield a massive displacement of 557 cubic inches. Brodix BB-2 Xtra aluminum heads worked over by McBetts with a full CNC port to maximize airflow work with the JE pistons to give a boost-friendly 8.5:1 compression ratio. The bottom of the big-inch engine is capped with an 8-quart Moroso oil pan. Lubrication chores are ably handled by a Melling oil pump.
Engine builder Opitz assembled the Brodix heads with Manley intake and exhaust valves and a 1.7:1 ratio Crower stainless steel shaft rocker arm setup anchored by ARP studs. Valve actuation comes courtesy of a solid roller camshaft from Comp Cams. With 277/292-degrees duration, 0.800/0.800-inches of lift, and 114-degrees lobe separation angle it yields big power and a really nasty idle. A Hilborn 3-Hole Big & Ugly Hat Style Injector setup sits atop the Littlefield 10-71 blower, which is set up to provide 9 psi of boost. The fuel-injection system is fed by a Weldon pump that’s plumbed from the Tommy V fabricated 25-gallon aluminum gas tank to 120 lb/hr Bosch fuel injectors. The compressed mixture is lit up by an MSD 7AL-3 ignition box, and all of the electronics are controlled by a BigStuff3 computer that was tuned to the car’s specifics by ECU whiz Glenn Hunter.
The combination of 1,300 horsepower and 943 lb-ft of torque, a chassis design that very effectively puts all of that grunt down, and giant Hoosier 33x22.5x15 rear rubber on 15x15-inch Weld Racing wheels, places incredible levels of stress on the car’s drivetrain. To withstand the brutality DeVeau went with a built-up Lenco five-speed, McLeod dual-disk clutch, and 4-inch chromoly driveshaft.
As with its chassis, the car’s body was something of a mess when DeVeau bought it. Tommy V maximized panel fit while building up the chassis and then all of the finish bodywork was handled by DeVeau and his highly skilled friend Victor Leal. Besides ensuring that the vintage Chevy’s body was super straight, DeVeau wanted a few custom touches so he enlisted master metalsmiths Bob Toby and Whitey to shave the rain gutters and door handles, and add a functional rear wing. Toby and Whitey also put a lot of time and effort into fabricating various sheetmetal parts, including the front inner wheelhousings and center console. When it came time for paint, DeVeau chose a custom Cromax Pro candy apple blue color over a ChromaBase, both of which were sourced from Axalta Coating Systems. Victor Leal sprayed the base and topcoats while Don “Figgie” Figgliozzi masterfully airbrushed the car’s quarter-panel trim, body badges, and other details.
The high quality of fit and finish found on the body was also baked into the car’s interior. Lang’s Custom Auto and Trim in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, used various materials, including a lot of high-quality leather, to make the interior trim pieces. DeVeau chose to use a Moroso steering column instead of the stock Chevy unit and a Racepak Ultradash Extreme Atomic EFI Dash in place of the factory instrumentation. Tommy V and electronics wiz Larry “Googleman” Feynman took care of the car’s wiring and electronics. The genesis for this incredible car, which took a total of 10 years to complete, can be traced back half a century. As a young lad with an unstoppable curiosity for all things mechanical and a passionate love for cool cars, DeVeau dreamed of one day building real versions of his favorite models. After gaining 20 years of car building experience, and with the invaluable help of his small army of super-talented friends, DeVeau’s vision for the perfect badass ’57 Chevy was finally brought to fruition.