If Chuck Williams was trying to follow the crowd, he built the wrong custom. When I ran across his '53 Dodge Meadowbrook Suburban at the Nashville Nationals last June, it was situated far away from the high-profile parking area. The wagon caught my attention partly because I couldn't remember ever seeing one before, and partly because a friend had just led me all the way across the Titan Stadium grounds to show it to me.
Later on, a Google image search turned up only about half a dozen different '53 Dodge station wagons. Not all of them were finished and only one of them, this one, was modified.
Chuck has owned a few Ford and Chevy rods and customs, but he told us that his father always had Dodge pickups when Chuck was growing up, and that he himself owns three Dodge trucks now, so there's definitely something in the family tree that is rooted in Dodges. In the summer of 2003, he was hunting around on eBay and happened to run across this one. The fact that it was located fairly nearby, was a two-door wagon, and was a Dodge got him interested enough to call the seller. The condition of the car, low mileage, local history, ability to move under its own power, and the $1,500 price tag got him interested enough to haul it home.
One of the first things he did was contact Art Morrison Enterprises to order a custom chassis built around their Air Spring frame which uses an adjustable Air Ride Technologies system. When the chassis got to Chuck in Arkansas, he added temporary body mounts, dropped the wagon body on the 'rails, and hauled the car all the way back to Washington.
"You might be wondering why I traveled from Arkansas to Washington to have the work done," Chuck said. "I had lived in Washington from the late Seventies until I retired in 2000. My first street rod, a '34 Ford three-window coupe, was built in Seattle. A few years later, I got into drag racing. That's when I met Tim Levin from Marysville, who built and fabricated my 2000 Dodge Dakota Pro Stock race truck, which also has an Art Morrison chassis. So, when I started this project, Tim and Art were the first two people I contacted."
In Marysville, Tim located the body on the new chassis and replaced the temporary body mounts with permanent parts-and built a new firewall, floor, and wheel tubs. The tubs and massive rear tires reflect a drag racing influence that continues under the hood; the Mopar Performance Hemi was machined and assembled by Matt Hensley in Knoxville, Tennessee. Chuck balanced that influence with the overall contemporary custom flavor of the wagon. Neither of those two styles prevents the Dodge from being what Chuck always intended it to be: a driver. In addition to local shows, he's taken it to regional and national events. Wherever he shows it, it's gotta be the only '53 Dodge wagon around. And wherever he drives it, he's sure not following the crowd.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1953 Dodge Meadowbrook Suburban
Owner contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org
The chassis is mostly Washington state grown, starting with the Art Morrison Air Spring Plus front and rear suspension to drop the Dodge. The front framerails were modified to make way for the Ron Davis aluminum radiator and beefed up with a Panhard bar and anti-roll bar-with additional frame mods and mounts completed at Tim Levin Fabrications in Marysville, Washington. The rear includes an Art Morrison four-bar setup, along with a 9-inch Ford housing with 3.55:1 gears and limited slip, with a Strange S-series center section and 31-spline axles, and a Panhard bar. The Air Spring system is set up with an Air Ride Technologies springs and compressor system. Gabriel gas shocks and Wilwood Pro Series brakes are all around. Brakes feature a Hydratech Hydroboost booster. The power steering rack is from AGR Performance.
Even better than a Chevy in a Chevy or a Ford in a Ford is a Hemi in something actually produced by Chrysler. Dodge introduced the Hemi in 1953, but this one is a new 426 from Mopar Performance, bored, stroked, blueprinted, and balanced by Matt Hensley at Hensley Performance. It's packed with Ross pistons and Manley aluminum rods, plus a Crane Cams PowerMax hydraulic camshaft. The heads, crinkle-finish valve covers, and intake manifold are from Mopar Performance; a pair of Edelbrock Performance Series 600-cfm carbs is topped by a Billet Specialties air cleaner. Tim Levin built the headers, connecting to a custom exhaust system fabricated by Danny Liles at Mid-South Parts and Service in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and running into Flowmaster Outlaw round-case race mufflers. The Chrysler 727 transmission, assembled by Roger Williamson in McCrory, Arkansas, is equipped with Kevlar bands and a trans cooler, plus a PTI 2600-stall converter. The ididit column shifter runs a Lokar cable shift. Hughey Machine Shop in Jonesboro built the custom driveshaft.
Body & Paint
To enhance the stance of the low-sitting wagon, Chuck elongated the looks of the body by eliminating the vent windows and side-window pillars, along with every piece of hardware and trim from the hood, rear, and sides, and filling seams wherever possible, including the tailgate. The new side glass was cut and installed by Raburn's Mobile Glass in Jonesboro. The bumpers and grille were kept chromed, redone by Dan's Polishing in Adamsville, Tennessee. Chuck looked all over for that stock grille, finally finding what he needed at Collectors Auto Supply in Oroville, Washington. Autonik headlights incorporate LED turn signals; taillights are LED '39 Ford-style lights from Technostalgia. Final bodywork was completed at Roger's Rod & Custom in Jonesboro, where John Sutton shot the Rudder Red paint from DuPont Hot Hues.
Wheels & Tires
The big 'n' little tire and wheel combination adds to the street/strip character of the wagon, with 29x15.5x15 Hoosier Pro-Street Radials rolling on 15x15 Weld Pro Star rims with 4.5-inch backspacing. Riken Raptors, measuring 235/45ZR17, are mounted on 17x7 Crown Jewel five-spokes from Boyd Coddington Wheels.
The interior was finished with a lot of contemporary elements. Anthony and Angela Fry at Fry's Upholstery in Swifton, Arkansas, dressed up the Jeep Grand Cherokee power seats, custom center console, and door panels in buckskin-colored vinyl with ostrich-print inserts. The console holds the controls for the Air Ride system, power windows and doors, and Vintage Air air conditioning. The A/C vents are from Phipps, as are the front and rear dome lights. The dash was modified for a set of Odyssey Series I gauges from Dakota Digital. The Flaming River steering wheel is mounted on an ididit tilt column. Fry's installed the JVC DVD-CD-MP3 system and the Juliano's seat belts. Behind the seats, wheel tubs were built to accommodate the rear tires.