Rod & Custom Feature Car
Aaron Grote
Cerro Gordo, ILlinois
Atomic Punk

Aaron matched a front stub from Mac's Ratz of Red Oak, Iowa, with 2x4-inch rectangular tube framerails built on a jig in his shop. Front suspension parts include a drilled, dropped, and chromed I-beam from Pete & Jake's, polished stainless hairpins, and sideways-mounted friction shocks, "just to be a little different." The chromed reversed Corvair steering box is from Flaming River. Wilwood front disc brakes feature Buick covers from O'Brien Truckers, the company's first set built for this application. At the other end, the 9-inch rearend from John's Industries in Caspian, Michigan, hangs on QA1 adjustable coilovers. John's also provided the Buick-style drums covering Ford brakes. The gas tank was a project in itself. Built by Joe Kern from Custom Fab in Seymour, Illinois, the 15-gallon tank is contoured to fit the body without interfering with the AC condenser.

True to the Roth tradition, Atomic Punk is packed with a worthy powerplant. The Hemi (keeping it all Mopar-it's a Savoy, remember?) is a '58 Chrysler 392, bored and balanced at Opel Engineering in Streamwood, Illinois, and reloaded with 10:1 Arias pistons. The stock chrome valve covers feature 426-style boots with clear red wires running from the MSD ignition. And although drivability wasn't the driving factor behind the intake setup-a Classic Speed Equipment 8x2 manifold with eight Holley 94s with scoops-Dick York, from Franklin, Indiana, set up the carbs and linkage to make it work. Aaron built the exhaust headers from 2-inch ribbed pipes with removable baffles. Dave Lamb at Midtown Transmission in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, built the TH400 with a 2,400 stall and shift kit, and connected to the Hemi by a Hot Heads adapter. Acme Decatur in Decatur, Illinois, built and balanced the custom driveshaft. The John's Industries 9-inch rear is stuffed with 3.70:1 gears and a new Posi unit.

Body & Paint
For the body, Aaron said, "I took the '59 Plymouth Savoy steel and cut all of the ugly off of it," leaving only the rear clip and the headlights. He narrowed the sheetmetal a couple of feet and scratch-built the firewall. A '54 Oldsmobile roof and some narrow-wall steel tubing formed the lower half of the body. Aaron's friend, Jim Rettick from Metal Ace English Wheels in Bloomington, Illinois, came to Aaron's shop to demonstrate an English wheel by building the cowl top. Aaron used an English wheel again and a plywood buck to build the steel grille shell ("it's not 'glass like everyone thinks," he told us). Installing 157 chrome drawer knobs into the grille opening was an eight-hour job. "They cost two bucks apiece and I had to drill every single hole to fit them into the perforated mesh," Aaron explained. He custom fabricated the steel headlight pods and installed '59 Plymouth headlight buckets and trim rings; taillights are from a '51 Ford. Aaron found a '59 Chevy truck hood in his shed, narrowed 12 inches out of each eyebrow, flipped it upside down and installed it as a rear pan. The decklid was also handformed on an English wheel.

With the Detroit Autorama coming up fast, Aaron delivered the body to Creative Customs in St. Louis, where Russ Weber blocked out and smoothed the sheetmetal, before Wild Bill Bierman, Bull, and Sparky applied the House of Kolor candy red and pearl white paint. Jason at Sure Shine Polishing in Decatur, Illinois, revived all the aluminum and stainless parts. Dave Shuten added the striping and graphics.

All Aaron would say about the origins of Atomic Punk's see-through lid is, "I managed to locate a bubble from a top secret black market army surplus dealer. I believe it was used in the Soviet space program somehow." He did tell us that it can be actuated by remote control or by switches hidden inside the body, and that figuring out how to make it happen required working around all the interior components. Once he came up with a practical design, Joe Kern at Custom Fab was able to machine the one-of-a-kind hinge mechanism.

To keep from getting cooked in there, Aaron stuffed a Vintage Air AC condenser under the back of the car (the only place left for it) and packed their smallest available evaporator unit under the dash. Air exits through the vents at the back of the car.

Wheels & Tires
For duplicating the appearance and personality of a Sixties-inspired show rod, Aaron made the right wheel and tire choice with a shiny set of Astro Supremes and some wide whites. These 15x8 and 15x6 five-spokes have 2 inches of backspacing. Radir cheater slicks are mandatory rear rubber on a car like this, matched with a set of 5.90x15 bias-ply skinnies from BFGoodrich.

Aaron integrated custom seats and door panels, built by Dave Martinez from Brownsburg, Indiana. Martinez also stitched up the pearl white vinyl pleated upholstery and came up with the red sparkle carpet. The aftermarket three-spoke steering wheel is finished in red flake to complement the carpet and body color. Those space-age gauge pods are actually pre-space-age taillights from a '36 Pontiac, modified by Aaron to house Classic Instruments gauges. The center console houses the B&M Unimatic shifter and hides the bubbletop actuator.

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