Creating a purpose-built car is satisfying on many levels because from the outset the vehicle is designed to be driven. Looking good while getting the job done makes it the best of both worlds. That’s the story behind this artfully crafted four-door Chevrolet Bel Air owned by Jeff and Jen Crumpler from Melbourne, Florida. Jeff is not only an avid automotive enthusiast; he also owns his own powdercoating business. That’s where his connection began with the talented team from StreetHeat in Melbourne, Florida.
For more than a decade the StreetHeat guys, Matt Verzi and Gavin Broome, have been building and shipping their custom vehicles to an active fan base, literally around the world. When Jeff contacted them a couple of years ago to create his unique ’58 GMC patina truck—boasting all the latest hardware underneath but sporting a Mother Nature-crafted paintjob—he knew they were the ones to build something for Jen. As a real estate professional and a mom, Jen’s vintage ride would be designed from the start as a rain or shine daily driver, transporting buyers to their new homes in style or taking the kids and their toys to the beach.
The StreetHeat team rose to the challenge, locating a ’58 Chevrolet Bel Air four-door. All original and sporting only 40,000 miles, the car was the perfect launch pad for the project. Although the original intention was not a frame-off restoration, the quality of the car and its projected use caused an early change in direction since the wish list included a full air-ride package, upgraded suspension, big wheels, big brakes, and, most important, an LS1 under the hood.
The transformation began in earnest with StreetHeat separating the body from the chassis and turning the ’rails over to Jeff and his team for the gloss-black finish to the chassis. Matt and Gavin began the suspension upgrades by replacing the tired originals with Performance Online tubular A-arms up front along with an 8.4-inch Impala rear, fitted with an Auburn posi and running 3.42 gears. Hotchkis sway bars stabilize front and rear.
In order to balance modern stopping power with the soon-to-be-installed, high-performance V-8, C5 Corvette brakes became part of the mix, employing 13-inch versions up front and 11-inch units in the rear. A computer-controlled, self-leveling, AccuAir VU4, e-Level air suspension gave the old Bowtie adjustable altitude. At the touch of a button, the Chevy rises and falls, thanks to Airmaxxx 2,400-psi bags on all four corners, the pair of Viair 400 compressors and reserve tank, as well as the valves and switches necessary to control the system, are all neatly arranged on a shelf in the trunk. The compact setup left plenty of room for beach chairs and boogie boards. The car became a roller thanks to Billet Specialties Vintec rims with spinner caps, 18x8.5 up front, 20x8.5 in the rear, all wrapped in Toyo Extensa rubber, 225/40ZR18s up front and 255/35ZR20s in the rear.
While everything was apart and access was easy, the original 348ci V-8 was pulled and a 2004 LS1 from a GTO was sourced from Modern Muscle in Moultrie, Georgia. The V-8 runs a stock LS1 intake with a custom cold-air kit and exposed coil packs that give it an edgy performance look. Ceramic-coated shorty headers and a custom StreetHeat exhaust with DynoMax mufflers create an exhaust note quiet enough around town with home buyers inside but guaranteed to impress when Jen airs it out on the way to the beach. Thanks to the custom tune from Hartline Performance in Melbourne, Florida, the Bel Air dialed in a reliable 325 hp. Since an automatic was also on the list, the 4L60E trans was fitted with a two-piece driveshaft that incorporates a slip yoke carrier to accommodate both the power of the engine and the ups and downs of the air-ride suspension.
Once the powertrain was complete, the body was next. Although the original sheetmetal was in fairly good shape, the paintjob had seen better days. The body went to Josh Huff of Huff N’ Paint Company in Melbourne, Florida. Josh returned the vintage sheetmetal to like new then painted the old Bowtie a classic combination of Colonial Yellow and Arctic White. All the original Chevrolet chrome was removed and once again, owner Jeff Crumpler took over, polishing the pieces to perfection.
The final step was the interior. Rob at Pete’s Upholstery in Melbourne, Florida, revamped everything inside, adding sound deadening for a library-quiet cab, then incorporating modern fabrics and materials. Both the front and rear bench seats were upholstered in black leather with microsuede inserts. The compact console holds a pair of cup holders along with the Accuair touch pad controller, permanently mounted in a custom bezel. While the dash itself is original, the instruments were replaced with a Dakota Digital VHX collection that includes a transmission shift indicator and matching clock on the passenger side.
Musical entertainment was also enhanced thanks to the modern Pioneer head unit that sends golden oldies through Focal 6.5-inch component sets in the kick panels along with 6x9 speakers in the package tray. Rounding out the frequencies with plenty of bass, a JL Audio 12-inch sub and amp were frenched into custom panels in the trunk. Bill Bethhauser and his team at Explicit Customs in Melbourne, Florida, did the super-sanitary installation, rounding the edges on all the panels and squeezing all the components in without encroaching on trunk space. For the final creature comfort option, Gavin adapted a Gen V Vintage Air unit to cope with Florida’s hot summer days.
Once the seven-month build was complete, Jen was thrilled to get behind the wheel of her classic, chauffeuring clients as part of her real estate business and taking the kids to the beach just for fun. The rejuvenated Chevy has the power and handling of a new ride while captivating clients with its nostalgic sheetmetal. With an indelible grin part of Jen’s daily commute, this purpose-built ride scores a hit on every level!
Photos by Joe Greeves