The cry from the astounded onlooker rang loud and clear through the quiet streets of Morrison. "Oh my gawd!" came the ecstatic exclamation as Brett Hunter and I rolled his right-hand-drive '57 speedster down the small town's only avenue, having just finished our photo shoot. Tourists exiting the Morrison Caf had a few moments to wonder what unearthly beast might be approaching. The angry burble emanating from the 3.5-inch exhaust shook the windows of the various shops a few blocks away, barely silenced by the Shorty race mufflers that lead to the NASCAR-style side-exit exhaust.
A few days earlier, Brett and, his father, Billy's long, lean Bow-Tied machine turned heads like a nekked lady at the Good Guys' car show, earning best something or other. Seeing a pristine hot rod at a car show is one thing-you go there, expecting to see over the top stuff. On top of that, you become fairly desensitized after seeing hundreds of these cars. But, when you're walking out of a restaurant on a Monday night onto the only avenue of a sleepy little mountain town and a slammed, two-tone, fire-breathing hellion approaches like some sort of rebellious younger sibling of Christine's, it's all you can do to keep from crying out. As if the oversized B.A.D. billet wheels (19x8 fore and 20x12 aft) and squashed stance weren't enough, the 420 Megablower popping out of the hood like some sort of metallic rhinoceros horn is enough to make even the most levelheaded take the Lord's name in vain.
The second comment following the "Oh my gawd!" was, "They're doin' a video!," or something to that effect. Your favorite reporter had been crouched in the back with the tripod in the front in an attempt to get some stellar last minute shots. As Brett and I passed his new fan club, I looked at him and saw the look of pride and satisfaction on his face. Brett has spent plenty of man-hours turning this Chevy from dilapidated post-car to splendid speedster. "This makes it all worthwhile doesn't it?" I asked. He just nodded as we drove through the edge of town, a trail of dust and bewilderment the only thing in our wake.
While the short adventure of our photo shoot ended soon thereafter, the journey to sublime right-handed speedsterdom (and the pages of Super Chevy) started long before. A year and a half ago to be exact, when Brett and his Dad found a clapped out '57 from a man in a little town near theirs and purchased it for $500. "It was in pretty bad shape," said Brett. "Plus the floors were very rusty."
At the time, the Chevy had a running 350 from a '70s pickup in the engine bay. "A few months later we sold the motor back to the guy we bought the car from for $400," Brett said. "So we started out with $100 invested."
As you can tell from the shots, a little more than a hundo would go into this build.
After getting the car home, the first thing the father and son team did was cut that pesky roof off before capping all the window slots with metal, including the back glass. While the majority of the body was true enough, the floor had to go. "We jacked up the car, dropped the frame, and started cutting," said Brett. "We cut from the top of the cowl, down the firewall, down the rockers, and clear to the back by the trunk."
After that, the fellas used 2x4-inch, boxed-tubing to reinforce the frame. After sand blasting that, they welded it together for even more rigidity. When reinstalling the frame, they decided to drop the body by two inches. As you can see from the shots, this allows for a stance like a bum on Bourbon Street-absolutely hammered!
Brett and his dad hand-built the floor with 16- and 18-gauge steel. The parts that would be stressed used the thicker 16-gauge (just in case someone tapped their feet or tried to jump in the car Dukes of Hazzard-style).
While down by the floor, heads and shoulders together in the bliss that is father and son bonding, they decided to mini-tub the car to allow them to use the aforementioned 20x12 wheels. As if this wasn't enough custom chassis work (remember we haven't even gotten to the actual body), the Hunter duo decided to weld the floor to the chassis, in essence making it a unibody. Normally, the front of '57 frames are open around the suspension, but Brett, being slightly obsessed about chassis mods that no one ever sees but himself and ants, decided to box it in and strengthen and smooth it over. Of course, the entire underside of the car has been Bondo'd and painted to match the top. In fact during our photo shoot, trying to attach a magnetic rig, we couldn't find enough metal, which explains why there's only one rear shot taken from this special camera tool. Brett, next time could you be just a little less fastidious with your "smoothing"?
In order to get better weight transfer from the placement of the motor, they recessed the firewall six inches. Then they started on the radiator support. This had to be custom built by Brett as the stock set-up would surely scrape up rocks with the 2-inch body drop.
"I also welded the radiator support to the inner fenders," said Brett. Did we mention that they also had been "smoothed"?
Before we get to the body mods that are actually visible, we have to mention two more relatively invisible ones. Brett didn't want seat bolts showing from the bottom, so Brett took 1/2-inch boxed-tubing and welded it into the floor where the bolts would normally go. On top of that (or on bottom as the case may be), Brett "Bottom-Massager" Hunter as he will be known, installed the suspension: Air Ride Technologies new Strong Arm tubular front A-arms with shockwaves. The new 4-bar suspension from the same company for the rear was supposed to be bolted in, but Brett opted to weld it because as he says, "We wanted the bottom to be as clean as possible." While Brett's attention to detail may seem borderline-O.C.D., his work will be eternally appreciated when he drives over workers in manholes or by ants.
Which brings us to the motor-sort of. At this stage, Brett and Co. took a mock-up of the fire-breathing, 509-blown, big-block Chevy. With an 8:1 compression ratio and a 420 Megablower running 6 pounds of boost, this bad Bow Tie puts out 890 hp and 900 lbs-ft of torque. A SuperChiller intercooler helps to keep charge temps down as power is transferred to the narrowed 9-inch rear end and the Moser 31-spline axles before twisting the Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires on the tarmac. Of course, when all this needs to be kept in check, the disc brakes can reign it all in.
These days, many bodies are shaven-strippers, cyclists, swimmers and, of course, hot rods. This '57 Chevy is no exception to the search for sleekness with shaved doors, handles, emblems, and latches in the door hinge on the suicide doors to start it off.
Brett then chopped out the old dash, replacing it with 18-gauge steel and recessed Auto Meter gauges which happen to reside on the wrong, I mean right, side. Like a man on the beach in a wrap, it seems sarong, but it feels so right. Look at the way the B&M shifter sidles into the door card while the other door's handle is an identical shifter that, for those who want to commit to it, will open the suicide door. Last but not least, the '57s windshield has been chopped 4.5 inches to complete that speedster look. It looks like the air grabber may be higher than the windshield.
With looks that kill and a motor and stance to match, its no wonder this '57 has them stopping dead in their tracks.