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.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Parke Bishop Jr.
1953 Chevy 150 Sedan
Owner contact info: email@example.com
Some new round-tube crossmembers and a transmission mount reinforce the stock GM framerails. The front of the car rides on a Heidt's Mustang II-style stainless IFS with polished tubular arms--and 2-inch dropped spindles for the slight rake. An anti-roll bar, air bags, and Pete & Jake's shocks complete the front suspension. The rear features a Currie 9-inch limited slip rearend with 3.42:1 gears, a triangulated four-bar, and ShockWaves from Air Ride Technologies. Parke added Baer disc brakes all around--13-inchers in front and 12s in back. A round Moon style aluminum fuel tank is tucked behind the rear seat.
A six-pack of Hilborn motorcycle throttle bodies on stainless tube manifolds and a custom-fit Offenhauser 230 valve cover give an old-time look to the '69 Chevy 250 inline-six engine, even though it's a Hilborn electronic fuel-injection system. S&S Machine in Pottstown did the machining, with assembly by Ted "Squeak" Slaybaugh. The exhaust manifold is custom built from 1 7/8-inch primaries feeding into a 2-inch main rail, then split to dual 2-inch pipes with Pypes mufflers. The 700-R4 automatic and 2,500-stall converter were built by Coan.
Wheels & Tires
The Colorado Custom Sugar City 18x8 and 17x7 wheels add an edge to the look of the '53. The Z-rated Toyo T1R radials are 255/40ZR18s and 225/45ZR17s.
Body & Paint
Lots of bodywork was done to the 150 sedan sheetmetal, much of it by Will Wynn at BareBones Restyling. The hood probably received more attention that any other piece. The center seam was filled and the hood was pancaked and piecut to lower it an inch at the nose, which was shrunk in the center and leaned rearward. The front fenders were reshaped for the Mercedes 300 series headlights, tilted to roll with the body lines. The taillights use LEDs with vacuum-formed lenses in 1953 bezels. The turn-signals from a late-model Volvo were mounted in the rockers. No need to change the good-looking '53 grille much; this one was just tucked in 1 inches. The bumpers are stock but lowered an inch in the front and -inch in back. Derek White at Street Visions in Elverson laid down the two-tone paint, using DuPont Hot Hues colors: Sinful Cinnamon and Ginger Bronze. The body is chrome-free; all exterior brightwork is a brushed nickel finish, done at Advanced Plating in Nashville.
Seating is provided by front buckets from a 2000 Saturn and rear seats from a 2000 Chrysler LHS, covered in beige and black leather and vinyl by RP Interiors in Horseheads, New York. The textured black inserts have a carbon fiber appearance and the design seems influenced by the two-tone upholstery on '57 Bel Airs. An aluminum center console houses the Gennie shifter with a SoCal bullet knob. The pedals are from Clayton Machine Works, and the Budnik Four-Thirty model steering wheel is mounted on a Flaming River stainless column. The dash was painted in a non-gloss coat of the body color and the factory instrument panel was modified for the Mooneyes gauges. The original rearview mirror was flipped and installed on the dash. The finned radio delete plate is hinged to allow access to the Air Ride switches and gauges. The glovebox door conceals the custom panels for the Hot Rod Air controls and stereo. The Kenwood sound system with Vibe amplifiers and speakers was installed by Kenny Heller at Dynamic Autosports.