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Roadster Shop Built 57 Chevy Convertible - Righteous Ragtop

Patrick Hill May 6, 2010

Everyone whose first car was a '55-57 Chevy, please raise your hand. One, two, ten, a thousand, uh, OK, we're gonna need more help counting here.

They were cheap, plentiful, easily made to go fast, and still looked cool in the golden age of muscle cars. For well under a grand a young car junkie could get his hands on a shoebox Chevy to terrorize his neighborhood and dragstrip with. Buy an old Tri-Five, stuff a later-model engine in it, and see how much trouble you could get in to. Fun times.

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Of course, some Tri-Fives are a little more extreme than others. The one you see here represents the far-end of the spectrum as far as 21st century custom touches go. Bill Perry's first car was a '57 two-door sedan he bought in high school. Youthful exuberance filled Bill's mind with grandiose plans for the car, but with youth usually comes dream-stifling financial limitations, and Bill was no exception. The only thing he managed to do was convert the car from a Powerglide to a three-speed stick. Even after it was long gone, that '57 and the promise it held still haunted Bill's dreams, until the miracle of the internet helped make a long lost dream into reality.

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Punch the fast forward button to 2007. Bill was surfing the web when he came across an article about The Roadster Shop's new Tri-Five chassis. Bill had just bought a '57 project car to restore, and quickly ordered one of the new rolling frames from Jeremy and Phil Gerber's automotive skunk works. One thing led to another, and soon Bill had sent his '57 to Illinois for the Gerbers to work their magic. But the car Bill had purchased proved to be in rougher shape than expected, and the required bodywork made everyone take a step back and re-evaluate what was going to be done.

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After doing the math, it was figured out that for almost the same price as the cost of all the necessary bodywork, Bill could get a brand new convertible '57 body from sheetmetal company Experi-Metal out of Sterling Heights, Michigan. Instead of repairing rusty 50-plus-year-old metal, Bill could literally have a brand new '57 ragtop stuffed with all the latest and greatest parts.

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With the new course set, work quickly began. Once the body arrived at Roadster Shop's headquarters, it was fitted to the new in-house chassis that featured complete Heidt's front suspension with QA1 adjustable shocks, and triangulated four-link rear suspension with QA1 adjustable coilovers, a 9-inch rear with limited slip-equipped 3.90 gears, and special through-the-frame splined sway bar. Stopping duties are handled by Wilwood brakes with 13-inch rotors up front and 11-inchers out back. The whole thing rolls on Intro Aurora wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport rubber.

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For motivation a GM Performance Parts 620hp 572 big-block backed by a Tremec TKO-600 five-speed/Centerforce clutch was installed. A Billet Specialties Tru-Trac serpentine system keeps all the accessories running on the 572, while Sanderson headers, Flowmaster muffles and Roadster Shop-built tubing handle exhaust disposal.

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With the mechanicals all squared away, the next step was making the car stand apart from its peers. One of the first choices made was to ditch using the standard Bel Air side trim normally on '57 convertibles in favor of 150-model side trim. The door handles were eliminated, and both front and rear bumpers were heavily modified to smooth out the bulkiness of the stock units, and the bottoms of the front fenders were cut off and welded into the stock rocker panels for an extended rocker panel and different look. The grille was custom made by Roadster Shop's fabrication experts with a honeycomb perforated aluminum design, and the turn signal lights moved from the stock location and hidden to clean up the car's face. All trim on the car was painted flat silver, and on the hood the stock bullets were removed.

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On the inside, the dash was shaved and smoothed with a custom gauge layout installed using Classic Instruments custom "Roadster Shop" gauges and Billet Specialties "Rail" steering wheel. A custom center console was also fabbed up along with a handmade shifter. Upholstery Unlimited and Roadster shop handled installing the Clarion sound system with MTX speakers, while Krist Kustom Sport front and rear buckets were installed and covered in leather with perforated cloth insets by Upholstery Unlimited. Daytona Weave black carpet keeps the floorboards covered.

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When the car was close to completion, Bill flew from his Scottsdale, Arizona, home to see how things were coming along. Here's what he had to say about the first time he laid eyes on his new '57:

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"The most memorable experience I had with the car was about two weeks before the car was finished. I had flown back to The Roadster Shop to look at the car and check it out. We thought it would be drivable by that time, but it wasn't quite ready. Through the whole process Phil would send pictures of the car showing the progress. When I finally saw the car for the first time I was amazed at the work the Roadster Shop had done. The pictures didn't do the car justice. The car was amazing. I wasn't able to drive the car, but I was able to start the engine and listen to all 622 hp rumble. I was in heaven. Now I am having the time of my life driving the car around Phoenix."

Chalk up another satisfied customer, and automotive work of art to The Roadster Shop. Now all we can do is wait to see what they'll come up with next!

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