The title of this story represents just how far the bridge from the early days of kustom cars spans to contemporary times. While The Sneaky Tiki harkens back to the late 1950s when Americans were deeply intrigued by Polynesian culture, this title actually has much more modern origins. The title for this story comes from the car owner's e-mail address. Today it's almost inconceivable to think about building a car without traveling along the information highway at some point. Whether it be locating cars and parts, finding ideas or talented craftsmen, or just hanging out with buddies in the "virtual garage" discussing projects, the computer has firmly worked its way into today's rodding world in one way or another.
Like many young custom car fans, Justin Umbs inherited his passion for personalized transportation from his father, and the latest result of that well-worn tradition is one very fine 1953 Chevrolet hardtop. Finding time for his own projects between his full-time gig as the general manager of an automobile dealership can sometimes be a problem. Justin had recently completed a '52 Ford custom and sold it when he found a car (on the Internet) that he could not live without.
The car was a '53 Chevy originally built by Roy Kucia Jr. of the Choppers of Cleveland Car Club. A gentleman had purchased the car from Roy and, due to some health issues, regrettably had to sell the car. Justin liked what he saw and investigated further. The man told him the car could stand up to the most severe scrutiny and that's exactly what Justin wanted to hear. He purchased the Chevy and had it transported from New York across the country to his home in Arizona. Once there, he got a better opportunity to become acquainted with the work performed by Roy Kucia Jr. and was quite pleased with what he found.
Roy began the transformation of the original '53 chassis with the installation of a Mustang II-style IFS with tubular A-arms, disc brakes, and a GM power steering box. In the rear, a GM 10-bolt is suspended from the chassis with a four-link kit with plenty of travel room provided by a 5-inch C-notch. Control of the stance front and rear is handled by an airbag system from Air Ride Technologies. Power comes from a healthy 350ci Chevy small-block backed by a 700-R4 and topped with an Edelbrock manifold and a trio of Rochester two-barrel carburetors, flanked on both sides by a pair of matching finned Edelbrock valve covers. Exhaust exits through a pair of Sanderson headers feeding into a Stainless Works "smooth tube" set of pipes.
On the outside, Roy went all out with the custom tricks, starting up front with frenched headlights flanking the nosed hood. Moving back, the door handles were shaved, antennas frenched, and Hollywood skirts were added to accentuate the Chevy's curvy profile. In the rear, the decklid was cleaned off and a pair of original Lee Church custom glass lenses was frenched into each custom-formed taillight opening. Once the bodywork was squared away, Roy broke out the paint gun and sprayed the custom-mixed PPG metallic burgundy and then laid out and sprayed the gold Larry Watson-style scallops.
Working his way inside, talented builder Roy Kucia Jr. once again takes the credit for the period-perfect white roll 'n' pleat interior stitch job. Modern concessions for comfort and pleasurable cruising include a Vintage Air Gen II A/C unit along with an array of speakers and subwoofers carefully hidden throughout the car playing tunes from the Alpine head unit and amps.
Since taking over ownership Justin has continued to refine what he describes as a car that was already a "Perfect 10," while at the same time driving it to as many events as possible. While some things like the Internet get more modern every day, cruising in a finely hand-crafted custom mode of transportation will forever be timeless.
Justin UmbsChandler, Arizona1953 Chevrolet Bel Air
ChassisThe chassis of Justin's '53 Chevy has been stripped, painted, and completely detailed, and features a Mustang II IFS kit with tubular A-arms and power disc brakes, GM power steering up front, and a four-link rear suspension with a 5-inch C-notch in back. The road-going or show-stopping stance comes from Air Ride Technologies' four-corner airbags with an onboard compressor and separate switch controls. Fuel is supplied by a new unit from Tanks and feeds the engine with a Holley pump.
DrivetrainPowering the classic cruiser is a fresh 350ci/700-R4 combo and a GM 10-bolt equipped with an Eaton 3.56:1 posi gear set and Moser axles. Sitting on top of the engine is an Edelbrock Tri-power intake mated to a set of Rochester carburetors. Additional highlights include a pair of Edelbrock finned valve covers, Sanderson finned exhaust manifolds, brackets and pulleys from Zoops, Lokar cables, and an MSD ignition system.
Wheels & TiresRolling stock was kept simple and in the style of the car with a set of 15x7 steel wheels mounted in 215/70R15 BFGoodrich radial wide whites from Coker Tire. Finishing off the classic combo is a set of '57 Cadillac full-wheel covers.
Body & PaintThe body of this Bel Air is a testament to styling and a pure honor to the work of builder Roy Kucia Jr. The body features many custom tricks, such as frenched headlights and antenna, shaved door handles and side emblems, nosing and decking, Hollywood fender skirts, and a set of Lee Church glass taillight lenses frenched into the quarter-panels. The Larry Watson-style burgundy and gold paint job was also the handiwork of multi-talented Roy.
InteriorThe inside of the Chevy was all done period correct with white pleats on the seats, door panels, and headliner with burgundy carpet by Roy Kucia Jr. The dash was left stock with the addition of a custom insert filled with VDO gauges. Tunes are supplied by an Alpine system and the passengers stay comfortable with a Vintage Air Gen II unit. Additional amenities include a Painless wiring kit, which incorporates power windows, keyless entr,y and remote door openers.