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1941 Chevy Coupe - Cool Cruiser

A '41 That's Built to Run

Tom Lutz May 1, 1999

We all build performance machines for different reasons, whether it's a link to our past, a chance to relive a teenage dream or just the appreciation of days gone by. Every person has a reason that's as different as his or her car. For Prince Herzog of Huntington Beach, California, his reasons for building this 1941 Chevy Coupe are a combination of all of the above, and a few others of his own.

Since he was of driving age, he has been tinkering with cars and trucks of most every vintage, from '37 Fords to full-size Chevy "Sport trucks." His '41 was built to be a reliable runner that he and his wife can hop into and hit the road to a car show or take on an out-of-town, two-day mini-vacation (What most of us call Saturday and Sunday).

After making the initial vehicle purchase, the car was dropped off at Pro Design in Santa Ana, California, where owner Mike Filion and his team of craftsmen, each skilled in their own area of expertise, got busy on the transformation. The first step was, of course, to fully disassemble the vehicle down to a rolling chassis before setting it up on the frame table. Brandon Smith (the chassis guy) stripped the frame down until the two bare framerails remained, grafted a Heidt's Mustang II front crossmember, then added chromed, tubular upper and lower control arms with coil-over shocks and Wilwood disc brakes. Out back, the chassis was fitted with a four-link and Panhard rod, while a narrowed nine-inch rearend stuffed with 4.11 gears and Wilwood disc brakes delivers the power to the wheels. Speaking of wheels, 17 x 8 Budnik Mag-nums run up front, while monster 18 x 10s fill the rear wheelwells. The billet rollers are wrapped in 255/40R17 and 285/35R18 Continental AquaContact rubber bands.

For motivation, Engine Supply, also in Santa Ana, went through the 1994 Corvette LT1 motor to freshen it up, since Prince had plans to put some serious miles on this car. The 4L80E transmission was also gone through and cleaned up before being mated to the LT1. The engine/tranny combo was dropped back between the nearly completed framerails for a trial fit. Tom Dawson (the header guy) built the custom headers that snake around the steering column on the driver's side and between the framerails before the frame was once again torn back down and powdercoated by Olympic Powdercoating. Olympic applied the ceramic coating to the headers, as well.

While the chassis was being built, the Pro Design guys got busy on the body. The stock steel hood center was welded up and the front and rear fenders were narrowed one inch on both sides and welded to the body to tighten up the profile of the car. A custom rear roll pan was also built to fit the narrowed profile. The bumpers were pulled in, then sectioned to wrap around the body for a tighter fit. To maintain a smooth appearance, the filler panels between the bumper and body were shortened up and recontoured to fit the shape of the "new" bumpers. As a finishing touch before going to chrome, the bumper bolt holes were welded up and smoothed out. The keylocks were shaved and all the corners of the doors were rounded off. The body was then put back onto the frame to double check all the clearances and gaps before Michael Bernardo's Body and Paint, in Garden Grove, California, laid down the flawless PPG Isuzu Chariot Red Pearl paint.

On the interior of the coupe, Pro Design reworked the stock dash to accommodate the Dakota Digital gauges and Vintage Air A/C controls. The tach and speedo are behind the two center openings and the remainder of the gauges stretch out behind a piece of flush-mounted smoked Plexiglas. To pull this modification off, the stock chrome pieces on the dash had to be meticulously re-made to fit the new shape of the dash. Prince, who owns a company building flight simulation models, used a CNC router to carve the center console out of a solid block of foam before laminating it in fiberglass. Dave Preciado (the electrical guy at Pro Design) wired the entire car using a Wire Works 18-circuit panel and a Street & Performance LT1 harness for the fuel injection and transmission controls. Dave also installed the Clarion stereo system with Soundstream amplifiers and speakers through the interior. A Clarion six-disc CD changer in the trunk also provides additional listening enjoyment for Prince on those weekend get aways.

Bill's Custom Upholstery in Brea, California, handled the '41's upholstery needs. The floor was covered in tan Mercedes wool carpet, while the door panels, 1993 Camaro power seats, and center console were covered in a matching tan leather and tweed. Bill also trimmed the trunk, using more wool carpet, tan leather, and tweed. To finish off the interior, Bill wrapped the Budnik Apex steering wheel in the same tan leather that covers the rest of the car.

With about a year of build time, Prince was more than anxious to get his car out on the open road and start driving it as Jason Green (Pro Design's re-assembly guy) was ironing out the final bugs before the car hit the pavement. Now that the car is finished, the guys at Pro Design are having a hard time getting a hold of him to answer some questions about his stretched, chopped, and turbocharged '37 Ford coupe they're building for him. And he's threatening to drive it just as much as his '41!

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