If you live in a town with two barbers, you go to the one with the worse haircut, because it's probably the other barber who did the job. The logic that applies to barbershops doesn't apply to hot rod shops. In the town of Elverson, Pennsylvania, Parke Bishop Jr., the owner of the BareBones Restyling street rod shop, knows that his personal ride has to be absolutely great, since it's a reflection of his abilities as a builder.
And one place you really want that reflection to shine clearly is at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, the humongous annual convention for the entire automotive aftermarket industry. There's no room for "the same old thing" at SEMA, so when Parke built this '53 Chevy 150 sedan for the show, he spared no amount of imagination or craftsmanship.
The concept for the Chevy, you could say, is a 21st century spin on a traditional custom. Squint and it looks retro; focus and it looks contemporary. The most challenging part of the build-up, he told us, "was not to overkill the car with modifications that would detract from the factory lines on the car."
Parke found the car, eager to be rebuilt, in a back-alley garage less than 10 miles from the BareBones shop. The body was straight and solid, except for where water had come in through a broken rear window, rotting the floorpans. There is an impressive amount of work in the car, but behind it all are familiar components, such as relatively stock '53 Chevy body lines, factory framerails with a Mustang II style front suspension, and--to our surprise--a late Sixties-era inline-six Chevy engine with Hilborn stacks and an Offy valve cover. Behind the six-banger resides a 700-R4 transmission and Currie 9-inch rearend. Every element, familiar or otherwise, has been modified to fit Parke's overall concept. During the two-year build, he was helped by Will Wynn, Larry Peppmier, Derek White, and Mike Markowski. "The car was one of the easier builds we have ever done," he claims. "Everything just fell together all the way to the end."
The "end" is where the story gets a little dramatic, and where everything that "fell together" started to fall apart--not with Parke's Chevy, but with the opportunity for him to showcase his talent in front of the entire hot rod industry at the SEMA Show.
Just a few days before the event, with the car freshly finished, he got a phone call. Bad news. The electronics company that had promised him a parking spot in its exhibitor booth was pulling out of the show. The next 24 hours, he told us, were the most stressful he has ever endured, most of them spent on the telephone in an effort to find a way to exhibit the car. "I had phones in both hands," he says. Before it was too late, his friend Dave Tucci from Tucci Engineering, arranged to have the Chevy displayed in a heavily-trafficked area outside the main exhibit hall, where a lot of people saw it.
A lot of people have seen it since then, too. Parke has driven his BareBones '53 to local shows and cruise nights in eastern Pennsylvania. He says he's planning a few long runs this year, to let even more people see the kind of work his shop can do.