One of the best things about cars is they always have the ability to be changed, modified, and refined. If you build them right, making changes can be simple, while different builds may take a ton of effort to redirect from the original modifications. For Aaron Lobato, the changes to his car came after changes in his personal tastes and profession made it clear what the next incarnation would be.
The story of Aaron and his '53 Chevy 210 hardtop goes way back to the tender times when he was diligently combing the streets of his hometown looking for what would be his very first car. Aaron wanted something that would shake up the horsepower-hungry locals so it may seem that a '53 Chevy "barge" would have little chance of gaining his favor. But after Aaron's dad said, "We could fix up that car," the fate was sealed. Aaron's dad would play an inspirational role as the young rodder figured out for himself how to makes his dreams a reality. That reality ended up being heavily steeped in the "pro-street" arena and the '53 sported all the goods, like a built Chevy big-block and some 15xHUGE Mickey Thompson tires on a narrowed and tubbed rearend.
Aaron learned a wealth of information from his inaugural build and the '53 served him well for years until other projects came along. As the years passed, Aaron found himself drawn to the styles of the early '60s, more specifically to the work of paint legend Larry Watson.
Watson's personal rides and the cars he painted are known for a few key charteristics. In no specific order those characteristics include minimal (but highly effective) modifications, eye grabbing colors and patterns, timeless class, and an enduring charm. After building another '53 Chevy in a purely Watson-esque style, Aaron decided it was time to give his original '53 a new look based on that same theme.
The first matter of business would be removing the gigantic wheel tubs and narrowed rearend that had given the 210 its "pro-street" persona. The big-block power would remain, but little else.
Another element that definitely needed to be changed was the root beer brown paint still in place on the high school hot rod. To show off the skills he had gained since the first go round Aaron rolled the '53 into his US Kustoms shop in Albuquerque and got busy nosing, decking, and frenching the headlights, hood, doors, decklid, and taillights. Once everything was smooth, Aaron broke out the tape and spray gun to turn the variety of custom-mixed PPG hues into an awesome Watson-style freeway job. Shaved and filled one-piece bumpers and Radir ribbed five-spokes wrapped in era-correct early-'60s style rubber are the perfect finishing touch.
The final step in the transformation was stitching up some fresh silver vinyl into a period-perfect passenger compartment. Sitting behind the Mooneyes steering wheel the only tune necessary is the rumble of the owner-built big-block motoring down an open highway writing new chapters in the relationship between Aaron and his high school sweetheart.
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
1953 Chevy 210 hardtop
The 454 was filled with 10.5:1 slugs before being topped off with aluminum Edelbrock heads, intake, and 750-cfm carburetor. The alternator is tucked up close to the engine with a bracket from Bill's Hot Rod Company and a set of Sanderson coated headers route the spent gasses. Backing up the mighty mill is an owner-assembled Turbo 350 with a TCI torque converter all controlled by a B&M Prostick shifter.
Evolving from an '80s pro-street buildup, the original '53 chassis now sports a Heidt's Mustang II coilover IFS. More pieces from Heidt's include 11-inch front discs and rack-and-pinion steering. Bringing up the rear is a 3.73 Posi-equipped Ford 9-inch located by a TCI four-link setup and coilovers.
Wheels & Tires
This car is all about following a theme and Aaron put a great deal of thought into what would be the perfect set of wheels and tires to reflect his period build. The set he came up with completely nails the 1962 "street and strip" look he was after. A set of ribbed five-spoke Radirs (15x6 and 15x10) is wrapped with Lee narrow stripe 205/70R15 rubber in the front and a pair of serious piecrust Mickey Thompson whitewall slicks in the rear.
Body & Paint
While Aaron built the majority of the car, the part he can be most proud of is the stunning paint and bodywork. The mild custom actually has much more done to it than initially appears, but that's the way it's supposed to be. The frenched '54 headlight rings frame the nosed hood that's also been welded its entire length to make it a one-piece unit. The doors were shaved and fitted with solenoids and the '54 taillights were frenched into the quarter-panels. The trunk lid received an equal dose of smoothing as well. Once the body was properly massaged, the buildup of multiple custom-mixed PPG colors began. The final result is a freeway panel job of which the originator Larry Watson gave his full approval.
With the paint making the boldest statement, the interior was made to be a little more low-key with a traditional tuck 'n' roll insert job in silver vinyl by Jaz Auto Upholstery (Albuquerque, New Mexico). A strictly business cockpit uses an ididit column topped by a Mooneyes steering wheel and a set of Auto Meter gauges set into a Faria panel. A fresh loom from Painless keeps the sparking to a minimum.