Boyce ripped the hell out of that car! That guy's a wild man!"
John Boyce doesn't seem like a wild man when you meet him. He seems like a mellow guy, easygoing and not too excitable. His jet-black '38 Chevy coupe-elegantly designed and extensively modified-is as profoundly tasteful and perfectly put together as the mega-dollar show rods you're used to seeing up on stanchions and surrounded by velvet ropes.
But that's not where you're likely to see this coupe. In fact, if you were at Rod & Custom's Americruise event, you probably watched the pristine Chevy screaming through the cones of the handling course competition-with owner John at the wheel. And you might have been the excited spectator who later made that comment.
John's Chevy (his first bona fide hot rod) got our attention back in 2006, when it earned the Street Rod of the Year award from Goodguys. That's when we learned the car's nickname, Elegant Aggression. The elegance was easy to see, but it would be a full year before we understood the second half of the nickname.
Dale Boesch from Boesch Hot Rod Concepts in Humphrey, Nebraska, designed and built the coupe (he also built last year's Custom of the Year winner), which you could say is the fifth-generation Corvette that Chevy would've built had Chevy been building fifth-generation Corvettes 70 years ago. The blown LS1 has a C5 six-speed behind it and 4.10 gears spinning the rear axle. Look underneath and you'll find a Mike Adams C5 chassis with a Firestone IntelliRide air suspension system using Air Ride Technologies airbags.
There's a lot more to the drivetrain and suspension than we've just mentioned, and anyone familiar with fat-fendered Chevys knows that every piece of the handformed all-steel body has also been extensively reworked.
The hood was built using the upper portion of a '41 Plymouth, with side panels extended back and dressed up with '37 Chevy hood inserts, which cause people to identify the coupe as a '37. The front fenders were just as elaborately formed-and even the headlights were handbuilt using '41 Packard housings and '38 Chevy rings with Harley-Davidson V-Rod lamps.
The inside of the car is worthy of the rest of the coupe, created by Tracy Weaver at the Recovery Room in Plattsmouth, Nebraska. It's a contemporary tribute to the interior design of a '60s show rod.
For all the brilliant mods on the car, it's the simple stuff-the horn, air conditioning, radio, and wipers-that John likes to point out. Why? Because those are the things that make this award-winner a real car.
Of course, none of this explains why John Boyce is a wild man or why his elegant coupe would ever be considered aggressive. To understand that, you would have had to have been at Americruise, where John cruised his high-dollar, award-winning coupe over to the Rod of the Year competition and really got on it, tossing it around on the acceleration, braking, and handling courses like he was driving a hot rod!
John & Elaine Boyce, Omaha, Nebraska, '38 Chevy coupe
The C5 suspension is part of a Mike Adams chassis built around a 1 1/2-inch tube frame. Dual tubes run the length of the car, which has been stretched 3 inches. The design changed as the car evolved, and a Firestone IntelliRide electronic ride height system controls Air Ride Technologies airbags. A custom 3/4-inch rear antisway bar stiffens the rear, and four-corner discs handle the stopping.
The Magnuson supercharged Corvette LS1 gets fuel from a 20-gallon tank feeding a 2 1/2-gallon cell. Locating the pump in the small tank keeps it submerged when John goes "wild man." An air-to-water intercooler is located behind the front wheels. A custom radiator from Steve Long also keeps engine temperature low. John controls the C5 six-speed with a Hurst-handled B&M short-throw stick, backed up with 4.10:1 gears.
The narrow sidewalls have been polished smooth on the low-profile rubber, which measures 225/40R18 in front and 315/35R20 in the rear. The rims are 18x8 and 20x12 Intros, but you won't find these custom one-offs in the catalog; only on John's coupe.
The entire body was reshaped. Above the beltline, the top was wedge-chopped an inch at the rear and 2 1/2 in front, and the whole piece moved back 3 inches. The trunk door was shortened the same amount. The windshield was leaned back and the B-pillars and rear window tilted forward. The top was pancaked above the driprails, which were replaced with a quarter-inch rounded flare. In keeping with the redrawn lines-which make the coupe look like it's going 200 mph while standing still, according to John-the Grill Art grille was slanted 8 inches; the sheetmetal around the grille was wedge-sectioned 2 1/2 inches. The curvy side mirrors and taillights are also one-off handbuilt pieces. Even the rear fenders-widened an inch, raised on the body 3/4-inch, and cut and bobbed 2 inches, contribute to what John refers to as "very definite European lines." The reshaped doors were created from two-door sedan doors, which are about 5 inches longer that stock coupe doors.
The coupe went to the Recovery Room for a complete interior redo, where Tracy Weaver modified the Flo-Fit seats, separated by a Boesch-built console. The "cigar-colored" solid and perforated leather upholstery is set off by stainless steel inserts and aluminum accents. The high-end aircraft carpet resembles the short-loop material from the '60s. The steering wheel is from a '57 Cadillac, with Jerry Conwell's engraving on the horn ring (he did the hubcaps too). Parts from a '60 Chevy were borrowed to create the unique floating dash, fitted with Classic Instruments custom gauges-including a speedometer that winds all the way up to 200 mph. We'll have to ask John about that.