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1951 Chevrolet Convertible - Deluxe in Disguise

Buzzy Bondurant Did Something Radically Different To This '51 Convertible That Had Been In The Family For Over 30 Years.

By Thomas J. Lyman

In the world of super Chevys, we come across some real wild stuff, some dare-to-be-different people who either: a) have way too much time on their hands and come up with insane car/motor combinations, or b) are always thinking of ways to make something better, something that breaks the mold of conventional car thinking with a dichotomy of new and old parts. More and more, as older cars continue to age, they keep showing up on the radar, and usually surface at the many muscle car-related events that pepper the country.

Like a debutante at her first ball, Bondurant brought his 1951 Chevrolet Convertible Deluxe out to the Super Chevy Show at Virginia Motorsports Park last June, and showed off his latest creation to the legions of Bow Tie fanatics. This is truly one of those "wolf-in-sheep's-clothing" cars, a vehicle that looks just about completely stock on the outside, but once the plugs start firing, the motor displays a true growl, and anyone with a first-grade knowledge of the automotive aftermarket will hear that this car packs something special under the hood.

Furthermore, when trying to "class" a car (whether it be a muscle car, a g-machine, or a hot rod), this '51 really doesn't fit into any subgenre of the Chevy marque. It's just one of those oddball creations that can't be accurately classified. However, one thing is for sure: it fits under the "vintage" banner.

The car has actually been in Buzzy's family for years-32 to be precise-as Bondurant bought this car back in 1975 for $1,000 in Salisbury, North Carolina. The car was driven for a couple years after the purchase, and was then shelved, so to speak, and garaged up until two years ago, when Buzzy decided that something needed to be done to it, something radically different.

The overall idea, as Buzzy brainstormed with some friends, was to put some late-model power into the '51, something that would give the car simple driving characteristics, coupled with the "shock and awe" factor of a wild engine decision.

Bondurant settled on a 2003 LS6 motor, borrowed from a wrecked ZO6 Corvette found somewhere in the back hills of North Carolina. At first glance, one might think that the motor would easily fit under the hood of such a large automobile. However, upon closer inspection, the LS6 is actually quite snug under the bonnet, and has also been adorned with a few chrome touches, including a "wall of steel" that covers most of the firewall north of the motor. The LS6 is mated to a 4L60E, and everything runs back to a 9-inch rearend prepared by Heidt's Hot Rod Shop, with a 3.55 gear and Posi-traction.

The car rides on an Air Ride Technologies setup, which gives the car a more aggressive rake when Buzzy decides to drop the air (the controls also have a unique home, but we'll get to that later). Bondurant also added improved Heidt's spindles to the front suspension, also helping the '51 ride a little better. The Deluxe rolls on completely refurbished stock steel wheels, with Diamond Back white wall rubber, which gives the car a nostalgic look, while taking little away from the car in terms of drivability.

The exterior is dressed in PPG Midnight Blue, meticulously applied by Rod Crafters in Welcome, North Carolina. The company also helped retain the exterior trim pieces, making the car look almost period correct to all but the most trained eye.

All bets are off on the interior though, as Bondurant wanted to update the Spartan insides the '51 originally came with. Most of the interior pieces came from a late-'90s Cadillac Eldorado, all the way up to the shifter console, which is one of the immediate telling signs of a custom job. The seats are 12-way adjustable and heated, and wrapped in Bone White leather. The carpet also received a revitalization-in the lovely matching Midnight Blue-and was installed by Ray Hester in Lexington, North Carolina.

As for the dash, some Dolphin gauges were added, and the center-mounted glovebox native to the '51 now houses the important Air Ride Technologies controls, as well as the remote to the awesome Sony stereo system, with a slew of 7-inch speakers throughout the cabin. The convertible top has also been automated, and can raise and lower in literally seconds (that has to be an improvement over stock-those tops look like they could have taken decades to drop back in the '50s).

For now, Buzzy is content driving the car around his North Carolina home, and plans on taking the car out to a few more car shows in the immediate future.

"It's been real cool, just at the Super Chevy Show, to watch people step up and have no idea what the car is," Bondurant told us, after we had been one of said people who didn't have a clue.

"There's absolutely nothing I would have done different-I mean, it looks stock and has late-model running gear, what more can I ask for?"

Our vote is for some nitrous, with a switch in the glovebox.

By Thomas J. Lyman
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