When some people retire, they have to search for a hobby to keep them busy. Ray Simpson is not one of those people. Through the years he has refined his customizing and rod building skills waiting for the day when he could retire from the restaurant business and cook something up in his three-car garage. Ray also has the vision to see what others may not, so when this '48 Chevy basket case came up for sale, Ray could see the possibilities. The previous owner, Dave Barns, chopped the top but then lost interest in the car. Ray liked what he saw and bought it.
Once in Ray's garage, a plan was set to start by getting the coupe on a solid foundation. Barns had already discarded the stock '48 chassis and rolled a '76 Monte Carlo chassis under the coupe to take its place. It was now Ray's job to get it sitting right and the fit to the coupe's body. A lot of time was spent shimming and aligning the two mismatched pieces until the body's gaps were perfect.
During this process Ray was also working on getting the sheetmetal into shape and started by filling what he smilingly refers to as "several hundred holes." Once the cross-ventilation problem was solved, he continued the process of smoothing the body of factory hiccups in order to let the original lines of the car show through. One original line he didn't want to retain was the hood line, so he whacked a 4-inch pie-cut out of it to give it a lower profile to match the chopped top. The new rear roll pan blends into the fat Chevy fenders for a smooth, bumper-less look in the rear. Simpson created a new front bumper from sheet steel and painted it to match the body.
When the body was finally ready, Ray sprayed the PPG deep metallic purple. Although he prefers to do most of the work himself, Ray knows when to farm out some of the work to a professional. He sent the coupe to B.J. Byrd for an interior that would give the Chevy a modern feel.
At this point the coupe was done, or so he thought. After cruising the Chevy for two years, Ray ran into airbrush artist Ray "Solo" Fuentes, owner of Art by Solo in Claremont, Florida. After a few discussions about ways to add a little more punch to the coupe, Ray turned it over to Solo to do what he does best. When he got it back, the coupe was two-toned with a cream top (separated with Solo's trademark woodgrain trim stripes) and had a subtle Cobalt Blue ghost flame job.
Now that the coupe is done, what does the future hold? "I am looking for a new challenge," Ray says, smiling.
Ray Simpson1948 Chevrolet coupeClermont, Florida
ChassisThe '48 Chevy chassis gave way for a '76 Monte Carlo chassis upgraded with Fatman tubular control arms, cut stock coils, and 2-inch dropped spindles using the stock 11-inch disc brakes. The Monte's coil springs and trailing arms were retained in the rear to support the 10-bolt rearend.
DrivetrainJim Russell rebuilt a small-block 355-cid V-8 and then mated it to a 700-R4 transmission rebuilt by Fourth Gear in Apopka, Florida. The engine runs 9.5:1 compression, a Pete Jackson gear drive, an Edelbrock 600 carburetor on a Performer Air Gap intake, MSD ignition, and ceramic-coated, 2-inch Hedman headers that feed into twin Smitty mufflers. A Walker radiator, Perma-Cool oil cooler, and Flex-a-lite fan keep temperatures on the 270hp motor in the green.
Wheels & TiresSome 15x7 American Racing Torq-Thrust IIs wrapped in Firestone rubber (215/65s front and 225/70s rear) provide an almost classic look.
Body & PaintThe most noticeable changes to the body are the 4-inch chop and equally pie-cut hood. The re-chromed grille is stock and is accented by a new steel front bumper painted to match the body. The new steel rear roll pan blends in perfectly with the Chevy's fenders. Stock taillights remain, augmented by a new center brake light, but all other emblems, door handles, and side view mirrors were eliminated. Custom wood grain paint separates the two colors. The unusual woodgrain separation stripe is a trademark of the painter, Ray "Solo" Fuentes of Art By Solo.
InteriorB.J. Byrd from Minneola, Florida, covered the Mazda buckets, cut-down Monte Carlo rear seat, custom console, and door panels with shades of purple and cream vinyl and accented it with light brown wool carpeting. Faria Performance Instruments white-faced gauges add sparkle to the custom dash. The custom stereo, LeCarra wheel-topped tilt column, and Vintage Air A/C make the car an enjoyable highway cruiser. The trunk now holds the relocated battery and hidden gas filler pipe. All the modules for the electric doors, tool storage, rear mounted battery, and more are located behind the upholstered panels in the trunk.