It would be fair to say that Richard Zocchi is a powerhouse of custom car building. His quiver of original customs is as unique and diverse as it is colorful and stylish. Having turned out six show-winning rides in the last four years, Richard has been able to evolve a collection of custom cars rivaled by few.
It's not as if he buys other people's customs-Richard simply gets an idea and goes at it! Over the years he has built dozens of top customs, including replicas of his own early cars. His latest is this delightful and subtle '57 Ford Fairlane. It features all the classic Zocchi touches, and its finish is like a polished stone in a fine Rodeo Drive jewelry store
"I picked the Fairlane for this project when I figured out how gracious it would look with a just the right custom touches," Richard says. "The grille was an easy one, as were the headlights and the taillights-they were just beggin' to be frenched. But it was the roof that got me! I knew if we chopped the roof lightly, it would sit down just right and we would get an ever-so-nice new roofline."
Over the years, Richard has forged a great relationship with Marcos Garcia (the painter) and John Aiello (the bodyman) at Lucky 7 Customs in Antioch, California. This time around John also oversaw the installation of the Air Lift air spring system on the Ford's suspension. The car's previous owner had yanked the Y-block in favor of a 351 Cleveland/C4 combo, so Richard just had to add dress-up items to complete the mechanical side of things.
Both Richard and John agreed that the top chop had to be done with restraint and refinement. To this end, John brought the lid down 3 inches, a feat that involved leaning the rear glass forward, sinking it down into the trunk panel, and pushing it up into the roof slightly. He also shaved and lowered the driprail. The whole effect is neat as a pin.
Another of Richard's classic tricks is to lower the wheel openings and rockers. He had John lower the tops of the wheel openings 3/4 inch and add a similar amount of sheetmetal to the rocker line and quarter-panels, visually lowering the car further. John also shaved the emblems and handles, using Unkl Al's electric remotes for door/window/trunk operations.
The front end still looks like a Ford, despite the frenched headlights, hooded bumper, and new aluminum grin from Glory Grills. Likewise, the rump's exaggerated design still retains some original cues. The shaved bumper is frenched, similar to the front, with an extended pan, the fuel filler is now in the trunk, and the license is recessed into the body above the bumper. The fins and taillights are what are really cool, though. John frenched the lights 3 inches and molded the housings for a truly integrated look. The tunneled lenses are finished with perforated chrome inserts and large bullets.
John's sheetmetal handiwork is covered with a glorious coat of PPG custom-mix teal shot by Marcos. The paintjob is classic '50s, with fades and fogging giving the car texture and depth along the body lines and trim. Even the side trim is customized, with filled keyholes and new gold anodized inserts finishing off the Ford's sides in fine style.
Like many Zocchi customs, this one wears Bob Divine threads. The late-model buckets, custom door panels, full-length center console, and other surfaces are covered with white Naugahyde and button-tufted teal UltraSuede in a pattern that looks rather Ford corporate. Creature comforts include a Pioneer stereo, A/C, and Grant wheel.
Rolling on Diamondback Classic whitewalls wrapped around '56 Lincoln hubcaps with bullet centers, Zocchi's '57 takes on a distinctive, classic custom air. Whether you're a Ford fan or not, it's hard to deny the elegant design and craftsmanship. When you see it cruising, you'll surely wish that you were the one behind the wheel.
Richard ZocchiWalnut Creek, California'57 Ford Fairlane
Drivetrain: A previous owner had tossed the old Y-block motor, installing a newer Ford 351 Cleveland V-8 and C4 automatic in its place. All Richard needed to do was add some polished accessories to make it presentable and reliable.
Chassis: With the stock IFS and rearend in good working order, there was little need to totally revamp the Ford's underpinnings. The most significant change was the addition of Air Lift air springs, which allow the slick custom to cuddle down right next to the pavement. The pump and tank are mounted in the trunk.
Wheels & Tires: Richard is a traditionalist, so billet wheels are not his trip. Instead, he used steel 15-inch wheels and classic smoothie '56 Lincoln Premier hubcaps that he re-chromed and modified with center bullets. The wheels were wrapped with P195/75R15 Diamondback Classic whitewalls.
Body & Paint: Hmm, where do we start? John Aiello of Lucky 7 Customs (Antioch, CA) began by lowering the lid 3 inches, leaning the rear glass forward, and shaving the driprails while he was at it. Moving up front, he frenched and tunneled the headlights, adding custom-made trim rings. He also frenched the shaved bumper by extending the pan out over its top. Glory Grills built the custom grille using 3/8-inch round aluminum bars. Around back, John hid the fuel filler in the trunk, recessed the license plate, and extended the pan over the shaved bumper. The taillights were frenched and tunneled, with perforated chrome inserts and bullets dressing up the lenses. Lucky 7's Marcos Garcia shot the custom-mixed PPG paint, fading it around the body lines and the edges of the modified (deleted key hole, custom insert) side trim.
Interior: Tuck 'n' roll guru Bob Divine (Martinez, CA) stitched the white Naugahyde and teal UltraSuede upholstery, covering a pair of modified junkyard bucket seats, a full-length center console, and many other custom panels, including a pleated overhead console. Darker green carpet finishes off the floor. The dash remains mostly stock, though the interior now sports air conditioning, Pioneer tunes, and a Grant wheel atop the stock steering column.