Even with the scoop, a conventional...
Even with the scoop, a conventional air filter for the Olds isn't in the cards due to limited clearance. Heavy pitting on the later rocker covers meant that JF replaced them with these earlier covers, painted in lieu of plated as the ones Jay used. Beyond that, though, the 303-inch Kettering mill is largely the way it was when Jay sold the car.
It was when Jeff had the Astra at Russ Freund's Spokane shop, Extreme Customs, that JF Launier first saw the car. "I wanted it, but I couldn't pay a lot of bucks," he admitted. Recalling that Barry Blomme, one of his customers at his Osoyoos, BC shop, JF Customs, was looking for an early Corvette, JF rolled the dice so to speak.
"So I said to Barry, 'do you really want a Corvette or do you want something more exciting?'" he started. "'I found this old custom, and I really like it; it's more futuristic than the 'Vette and it's ahead of its time,' I told him." One look, according to JF, and Barry was sold. Over the next few weeks, they worked up an arrangement whereupon Barry would buy the car and JF would restore it.
While the extent of damage that the Astra endured prevents us from giving a step-by-step account, we can say that the JF Kustoms crew, including Jerry Billups and Sean Calverly, stripped the car bare and restored it rotisserie-style.
The body is freaking amazing," JF observed. "It's built like an aircraft; the aluminum panels are [countersunk] and screwed or riveted to the steel. Some are bent over the steel. The doors are basically steel boxes that the aluminum skin is wrapped around. The quarter panels are aluminum skin that is screwed to the steel structure-the door opening. It's nothing we could take apart. It's like the panels were run through the English wheel, screwed in place, and then stitch-welded together. The hood is made of maybe 16 pieces of aluminum-seamless, gas-welded aluminum."
Part of the car's restyle...
Part of the car's restyle included a hood spear bordered by aluminum trim and a name, the Astra Coupe. Due to computer controlled machinery we take such details for granted nowadays, but the level of precision, sophistication, and detail is incredible even by today's standards.
The things that made the Astra the masterpiece it is were intact, but components like the lacy steel floor panels required outright replacement. The aluminum skin was largely straight, but the passenger door had suffered a hard hit at one point in its life. Neglect, not wear, required that JF strip, repair, and refinish every part of the car. While obsolescence required JF to make some concessions (urethane paint mixed to resemble the car's last paint job in lieu of lacquer to reflect Jay's darker blue, for example), he said he tried to remain as faithful to the car's original construction as possible.
Most remarkably, the timeline to finish the car to a level of detail probably higher than it ever enjoyed was a mind-boggling 10 months. As though inspired by fate, his goal was the West Coast Customs' annual (and last) event in Paso Robles, California-the location where it crossed paths with its own history.
According to John Everett, Jay's brother, "My girlfriend [now his wife] and I were talking that day about what we were going to do." On a whim, they decided to drop by the show, "We had no idea the car was there," he admitted. "I'm really not a custom guy, but I rounded the corner and saw it."
Somewhat taken aback by this apparition, John called Jay's older daughter Kim Everett-Enriquez, who happens to live in nearby Cayucos. "I couldn't believe it," she said, reeling. "I just burst out, 'that's my dad's car!'"
When Chevrolet introduced...
When Chevrolet introduced press-flap door handles on its Corvette in '68, Jay probably wasn't impressed; after all, he'd done it 15 years prior on his own car. Furthermore, while GM sullied up the 'Vette's door skin with the lock barrels, Jay put these up, out of sight, next to the handle.
Without a doubt, Jay Everett's Astra is one of the underappreciated icons of its time. Whereas custom cars defined the era, the Astra was far beyond custom in the sense that it wasn't a manipulation of an existing design-or someone else's dream, as Ed Roth would say. It was, on the other hand, a unique expression of its owner, who merely used a few parts from production cars.
The Astra is also important for what it represents to the design world. Whether or not he sold it to start his business, Jay embarked upon a career as a prototype and model-maker for some of the most influential designers of the 20th Century. He made fiberglass World's Fair exhibits and furniture prototypes for Charles and Ray Eames and Polaroid camera bodies for Henry Dreyfuss and Associates. Next time you hoist a Michelob, toast Jay; he prototyped the iconic curvy bottle for designer Gerome Gould.
The car also represents Jay's earliest expressions as an advanced thinker. The IBM exhibit his shop created for the '64 World's Fair in New York employed animatronics reportedly more sophisticated than those in Disney's Lincoln Speaks, an exhibit that debuted at that same year and fair. It's only if you understand that Disney is considered the inventor of animatronics because of its display at that same World's Fair that you realize how advanced Jay really was.
Sadly, Jay Everett died in 1996, more than a decade before we rediscovered how innovative he really was. In a sense, that car that became the Astra was his first of a long and illustrious line of progressive designs.
Upon relocating the radiator...
Upon relocating the radiator up front, Jay created this new tail treatment from aluminum sheet stock. The vertical 'fins' intersect 14-gauge horizontal sheets. On the outboard side of the fins were acrylic taillights; on the inboard side, white acrylic to resemble reverse lights. Originally Jay painted the aluminum backing sheet black to make the aluminum stand out but JF left it bare.
In building his Astra Coupe,...
In building his Astra Coupe, Jay Everett experimented with numerous media, including steel (frame), aluminum (body), stainless (trim), brass (badge), acrylic (taillights), and wood (dash). But the extent to which he was willing to go to make his parts is still impressive. For example, he had his own hood scoop cast. Incidentally, this scoop's appearance suggests the car's first engine, for without its carburetor clearance neither the speculated Caddy nor the car's present Olds would have fit.Whether or not criticism by Detroit designers in Ocee Ritch's September '55 Motor Trend article precipitated it, the Astra Coupe's headlight treatment transformed the car. We don't know exactly who made the nerf bars in the coves, but covered sockets shown in the May '56 Rod & Custom photos indicate that Jay was anticipating them.
The seats in the Astra aren't...
The seats in the Astra aren't buckets the way we know them; they're hand-made tubular affairs with bases that look more like the Eiffel Tower than anything out of a production car. Webbing stretched between the tubes and under the foam makes the seats compliant. Note that the doors swing suicide.
During its transformation...
During its transformation to the Astra Coupe, Jay's car got this hand-made banjo-type wheel. Ostensibly this is the point where the column lost its shifter and acquired the large-diameter mast jacket. The gauges also migrated from the dash itself into the amoeba-shaped aluminum cluster around that jacket. Due to a pressing timeline, JF outfitted the car with latter-day Stewart Warner instruments; however, he was wise enough to keep the originals for future restoration.That's no ordinary floor shifter. It's the upper mast jacket of a manual-shift steering column, but it's been spun around and laid on its side. The shifter's little sister (on the left) is the lever that engages the pawl for the planetary-type overdrive in the Lincoln trans below. Like the fuel filler, the handles were machined from aluminum extrusions-or as Lil' John would say, billet.