A lot of musicians get their start singing cover songs-tunes written by others that are often already part of the public consciousness. To be taken seriously as artists, however, most know they must learn to channel their own emotions into original material.
Now, we're not saying Dave Shuten hasn't paid his dues as a hands-on hot rodder. On the contrary, the clone he built of Ed Roth's Mysterion two years ago (see Rod & Custom, January 2006) was an incredible feat of craftsmanship. A faithful recreation down to the smallest details, the Mysterion clone was an amazing tribute to Big Daddy, yet it was still a copy. After showing and enjoying it for a year, Dave was ready to create an original piece of bubbletopped automotive expression.
"'Normal' stuff just wasn't fun after the Mysterion," Dave says. "I was infected with the '60s show rod sickness, so I decided to build my own-with a lot of influence from Roth, Starbird, Casper, and Woods."
Dave set to work in his home shop building a simple foundation for his creation: a 2x4- and 2x6-inch rectangular tube frame with a 99-inch wheelbase. He designed it around a '57-vintage 354ci Chrysler Hemi and a GM TH350 transmission, and suspended a '57 Chevy rearend and highly modified tube axle using cup-mounted coil springs and hairpin radius rods. Dragster-style rack-and-pinion steering was employed, and Dave built his own tie rod extensions and steering arms to connect it to the Ford spindles.
"Once the chassis was a roller, it was time to make the body," Dave says. "I stacked up some milk crates, plywood, and cardboard and began the messy job of mixing vermiculite and plaster in the old Roth fashion and glopping it onto the base. After mixing more than 1,000 pounds of plaster, cheese grating it into shape using brake line, chicken wire, foam-anything I had laying around-I had sculpted the buck for the body."
Designing the body was a bit of a free-form process, but Dave says he had enough foresight to send photos of the plaster buck and other key elements (chassis, engine, wheels, and tires) to artist Jimmy Smith, who sketched concept art based on the rough shape. The final design incorporated skinny front fenders and canted quad headlamps flanking an abbreviated grille shell. "The front upper spring mount took forever to come up with," Dave notes, "but it's the right thing-becoming the grille insert." Additional lighting would come from '64 Galaxie backup lamps (with custom blue lenses) mounted in the cowl, while the rocket-inspired rear was based around eight '59 Cadillac taillight lenses book-ending '57 Lincoln Premier decklid trim. Somewhere along the line, the project was bestowed with the name Astrosled.